Have sensitive skin? Taking care of it can be a real pain – in fact, it often feels more like navigating a minefield than anything else. Even products clearly labeled for sensitive skin aren’t guaranteed to work well for you. If you’re particularly sensitive, they may cause problems, too.
From breakouts to itchiness and so much more, we want to help you look and feel your best. Even if you technically qualify for the lead role in “The Princess and the Pea” because you’re so sensitive.
Find your way to calmer, clearer, healthier skin with these tips.
DRINK YOUR WATER!
Yes, that’s in all caps – it’s really that important.
Internal hydration directly correlates to how well our bodies work, and that includes skin health and maintenance. If you’re walking around like a chronically dehydrated noodle, your skin is either going to feel rough, dry, and itchy, or it’s going to overproduce oil in order to compensate.
And that’s a one-way trip to sensitive city.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s no one magic amount of water to drink for optimal health. A good rule of thumb is that you should never find yourself very thirsty; if you do, you’re already dehydrated!
Your goal should be to sip on water all throughout the day. For most people, this will mean drinking around 8 8-ounce glasses of water per day. If you exercise or are highly active, you may need more. Don’t sweat the exact numbers, just get to sippin’!
Hate plain water? Herbal teas, low-sugar juices, and sparkling water also work, too. Just be sure to avoid caffeine and alcohol as both speed dehydration.
Sensitive skin is usually more fragile than normal or even combination skin. Harsh treatments, like exfoliation, microdermabrasion, and even scrubbing with a washcloth can lead to microtears and scrapes. This produces redness and causes blood vessels under the skin to become more visible.
Ultimately, you need to be gentle with how you handle your skin. Don’t pick, prod, or pull (hey, pimple poppers…we see you!). And never use harsh products to try and force your skin to improve – they’ll almost always have the opposite effect.
ALWAYS SKIN TEST PRODUCTS
Truth be told, sensitive skin care is often trial and error – especially if you have allergies to ingredients to boot. There’s really no way to know for sure if a product will work for you when it contains ingredients you aren’t familiar with. But you can avoid most problems by skin testing new products for at least 48 hours prior to using them.
Take a small dollop of the product and apply it to the inside of your elbow where the skin is softest. Leave the product on, and wait about 24 hours without washing that specific spot. If you don’t experience any redness or irritation, test again on a small inconspicuous spot on your neck just behind the ear.
Still good? Proceed to using the product normally, but watch closely for symptoms like redness and irritation to crop up. Usually, this will happen within the first few uses, but it is possible to experience new symptoms at any time.
BE CAUTIOUS OF “HYPOALLERGENIC” PRODUCTS
There’s a common tendency to assume anything hypoallergenic is also safe for sensitive skin. But it’s important to recognize that “hypoallergenic” just means “less likely to trigger allergies.” There’s no guarantee you won’t personally react to an ingredient within the product, nor is there even proof they’re good for sensitive skin.
That said, the fact that sensitive skin is often caused by undiagnosed allergies is worth considering. Some hypoallergenics may help you reduce redness; this is especially true for milder cleansing products like Cetaphil.
Just be sure to test them as thoroughly as you would any other product.
KISS (KEEP IT SUPER SIMPLE)
The more ingredients in a product, the more likely you are to have a reaction to it. It’s also much harder to use process of elimination to identify the problem ingredient if you’re working with a long list of substances. It’s safer to use KISS, and by that we mean choose limited-ingredient products whenever you can.
Just how many is “too many?” There’s no perfect answer, here, but most dermatologists (and in fact, the American Academy of Dermatology) recommend sticking with formulas that contain 10 or fewer ingredients. Formulas with fewer ingredients still might be better still.
Clogged pores, surface dirt, and environmental toxins can make sensitive skin even more sensitive. This leads many people to erroneously believe more washing (or even exfoliating) will help reduce reactions over time.
The truth is that too much washing, or even washing with the wrong products, can actually make your skin worse. Stick to a twice-daily skin cleansing session, and use the gentlest, mildest products you can find that don’t make you react. There’s no reason to wash more often than this unless you have a specific concern (makeup melting off in the heat, for example).
Once you’ve washed, use a soft microfiber towel to gently blot your skin dry. Don’t scrub, rub, or roughly dry your face with thicker towels, as you risk tiny tears and excessive dryness.
MOISTURIZE, BUT DON’T GO OVERBOARD
Sensitive skin does have a tendency to dry up at the slightest exposure to the environment. That’s why so many sufferers rush for the ultra-heavy creams…only to find themselves right back at the spa after they end up with a breakout.
It can be really hard to find the right balance, but it’s important – sensitive skin craves the right kind of moisture, and without it, you’ll be at a permanent disadvantage. Skip anything extremely heavy with petroleum jelly, thick oils, or serums. Instead, try light gel moisturizers instead – just be sure they don’t contain any alcohol.
As for how often you should moisturize? Apply once in the morning before you put on your makeup and once again just before you hit the sack. That’s it!