It can be extremely difficult to feel healthy and comfortable when your skin is constantly irritated. Broadly speaking, sensitive skin is where you develop irritation (such as stinging, burning or redness) in reaction to certain substances or environmental factors. (1) But there are some simple steps that you can take to help.
The best kind of facial cleanser is one that maintains your skin’s natural moisture, doing its job to remove dirt, makeup and excess oil, while not drying out the skin. Look for a soap-free, fragrance-free, gentle cleanser like Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser. And be sure not to over-wash, as this can lead to dryness and irritation. Cleansing your face once in the morning and once in the evening should be enough.
As well as helping your skin to feel good, moisturizers can improve hydration, reduce irritation and help restore the skin’s outermost layer. Look for a gentle moisturizer that’s specifically formulated for sensitive skin and that doesn’t contain unnecessary (and potentially irritating) extra ingredients such as colors and fragrances. A good idea may be to look for a formula that offers additional skin protection in the form of ceramides, an ingredient that works to replenish the skin’s lipids while strengthening the skin’s natural barrier.
Sensitive skin, by definition, is the negative reaction of skin to certain triggers. Sometimes the best way to cope with this is to avoid these triggers altogether. Pay attention to what might be causing your sensitive skin to flare up: is it that new perfume, certain fabrics that you wear, or too much time in the sun? Other causes might be makeup, air conditioning or central heating. Being aware of what causes your specific sensitive skin flare-ups lets you plan appropriately.
Use of facial sunscreen has been shown to actively help sensitive skin. (2) Choose a moisturizer with SPF to reduce the likelihood of acute UV exposure which could affect your skin’s overall health (even when you’re indoors). When you’re out in the sun, it’s a good idea to use a specific sunscreen (and not just a moisturizer with SPF), and be sure to wear a hat and sunglasses.
Regular exfoliation helps to deep clean skin, removing irritants, impurities and pollutants so it’s good practice. Plus exfoliation has the added benefit of removing dead skin cells and promoting skin renewal. But not all facial scrubs are the same. When looking for an exfoliating product, be sure to use one that’s specifically designed for sensitive skin. It can tempting to try that nifty new face scrubbing gadget or gritty “pore cleaning” mask, but these can be quite harsh, so your best bet is to avoid them.
Whatever products you use, it’s important to carve out a regular skincare routine that works for you, your lifestyle and your sensitive skin.
Misery L, et al. Acta Derm Venereol 2016 Mar 4 [Epub ahead of print].
Del Rosso JQ, et al. Cutis 2013;92:234–240 ; Schaller M, et al. Br J Dermatol 2016 Nov 12 [Epub ahead of print].