The top dermatologist, who specialises in a variety of different skin conditions including acne, cites pollution, stress and changes in temperature as just some of the sensitive skin triggers that can result in red, itchy, sore, flaky skin. If you identify with these symptoms, you’ve no doubt swapped out certain products for those which are marketed at reactive skin types, including paraben- and fragrance-free creams, shower gels and other skincare essentials. You’ve probably also been swayed by the 'hypoallergenic' label, which indicates said product is less likely to cause an allergic reaction. But if Dr Mahto's latest Instagram post is anything to go by, you could have been misled.
"Beware of marketing terms on products such as 'hypoallergenic'," Dr Mahto wrote on Instagram. Calling out the word, she continued: "The term is pretty meaningless and is there to imply to you, as the consumer, that a product will cause fewer allergic reactions than a counterpart without the label."
But this is where it gets really interesting. "There is no legal definition of the word and no minimum gold standard or test that a product has to pass to have this label," wrote Dr Mahto. "It is there simply to mislead you about product suitability and safety, I’m afraid. Products which carry the label can still contain irritants which may aggravate sensitive skin."
Those irritants can include fragrances, essential oils, dyes and other ingredients. Her advice? To conduct a good old-fashioned patch test before you incorporate a new product into your skincare, body care or makeup routine. "Apply a small amount of product (e.g. cream or serum) to clean upper, inner forearm skin and leave it for 24 hours (i.e. don’t wash the area)," Dr Mahto expanded. "If no irritation or redness occurs during this time it should be safe to use the product in the future. This is a very crude version of the allergy testing dermatologists carry out in clinic, i.e. patch testing."
Luckily for those with sensitive skin, Dr Mahto went on to share her product recommendations. Also R29-approved, CeraVe's Hydrating Cleanser, £9, La Roche-Posay's Toleriane Ultra-Fluid Sensitive Skin, £17.50, and NeoStrata's Redness Neutralizing Serum, £34, made the cut. The dermatologist also made a case for including sun protection (a must for everyone) and touted Jan Marini Physical Protectant, £53, and SkinCeuticals Mineral UV Defense SPF 50, £37, as two of her favourites. She also recommended steering clear of mechanical exfoliators, such as scrubs and cleansing brushes, as well as ingredients like retinoids and AHAs. If skin sensitivity persists, visit your GP or a qualified dermatologist to discuss the next steps.
Dr Mahto signed off, "Sensitive skin is a very personal phenomenon and what works for one person may not work for the next," so be sure to conduct that patch test for best results.