As a longtime esthetician, I’ve heard of every skin concern imaginable. But, one I hear often is from clients complaining about their sensitive skin. While there are many accepted definitions of sensitive skin, I consider it to be dry, red, easily irritated, flaky, and prone to rashes. And, because it can be tricky to keep sensitive skin looking its best, ahead, I'm sharing some of my tried-and-true advice for keeping a delicate visage calm.
First, you must understand why your skin is dry, red, and sensitive. Your skin has a moisture barrier made of natural lipids that keep moisture in the skin and irritants out. When this barrier is damaged — due to age, heat, hormones, or genetics — it creates tiny, invisible cracks in the skin that allow moisture to escape. Not only does this cause dry, flaky skin, but it allows irritants to enter more easily, making even the best sensitive skin products to cause a stinging, irritating sensation. All the moisturizer in the world won’t fix dry, flaky, sensitive skin until the skin’s protective barrier is repaired.
Avoid washing skin with anything that leaves it feeling tight. Look at your cleansers and make sure to avoid sodium laureth sulfate or ammonium laureth sulfate as these surfactants only further damage the skins barrier. After cleansing, always use a toner to give your skin extra hydration, but make sure it’s alcohol-free.
Use a vitamin C or an antioxidant serum daily. Along with having superior preventative wrinkle benefits, they can have excellent anti-redness properties. But, be sure to pay attention to how a formula makes your skin feel when it's applied: Some vitamin C serums can be too acidic for already sensitized skin and further exacerbate irritation. One of my favorite forms of vitamin C to use for sensitive skin is magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, because it doesn’t sting or irritate when applied, yet gives your skin the antioxidant protection it needs. If you've used a vitamin C product before and it made your skin dry and irritated, then you simply need to switch to a better, less acidic formula.
Wear a broad spectrum sunscreen every day. UV rays from daylight cause inflammation in the skin, which only makes sensitive skin more sensitive. Apply a generous coat to the face and neck every day under makeup. It’s best to choose formulas that are chemical-free and all-mineral based like those with zinc oxide. These are most compatible with easily-irritated skin types.
Use a moisturizer with lipid-rich oils to reinforce skin’s natural barriers. This is one of the most important elements in treating dry, red skin. Regular moisturizers will hydrate but not necessarily fix a damaged barrier if they don’t contain special repairing ingredients, like linoleic acid, jojoba oil, phospholipids, borage oil, grapeseed oil and rose hips seed oil. You want to use a product that is formulated to repair the skin’s protective barrier deep down where damage begins and these types of ingredients will do just that.
Lastly, be sure to use products exclusively formulated for the unique needs of your skin. From the very start of my career, I learned that every skin is unique and a one-size-fits-all approach is not effective to achieve healthy, balanced and beautiful skin. And, classifying skin into the standard dry, normal and oily skin types is just so limiting. Look for products designed specifically for sensitive skin. Experiencing dry, red, flaky skin can be painful, inconvenient and simply frustrating. Rest assured, if you follow the above tips and are diligent about caring for sensitive skin, you can keep skin looking healthy and radiant.
Have any questions for me about your skin? Ask me in the comments section below and I will personally respond!