Sometimes even a “sensitive skin” label isn’t enough to save you from redness and irritation.
If a product’s too strong, your skin can break out or dry up. Too ineffective, and the breakouts you do get never seem to go away.
Then there’s the laundry list of ingredients that bug your delicate system: fragrances, chemicals, and the elements all have it out for you. It doesn’t seem fair.
If this sounds oh-so-familiar, then we’ve got your back.
Here’s the ultimate guide to calming sensitive skin with natural anti-inflammatories and soothing ingredients that won’t put your skin through the wringer:
Just because you have sensitive skin, doesn’t mean you stop reacting to every-day irritants like dirt, oil, and makeup. If only that were true!
In fact, explains dermatologist Marianna Blyumin-Karasik at Women’s Health, sensitive skin often reacts that much more severely.
"Women with sensitive skin have hyperactive immune systems that read certain products or weather conditions as enemies and fight them off as foreign objects," said Blyumin-Karasik.
"This reaction often leads to skin redness, itching, stinging, burning, and peeling."
And while it might feel like you’re fighting your own immune system, there are ways to outsmart those oh-so-sensitive internal triggers.
According to dermatologist Jeannie Downie, those with sensitive skin should avoid mysterious ingredients lumped in under the term “fragrance” - not to mention known triggers like alcohol or variations on Vitamin C that contain the word acid.
Your best bet? Find a product that lists very few, recognizable ingredients, suggest Downie. "Fewer ingredients mean fewer chances to react to something," Downie told Fitness.
Unless you already know the ingredients that make your skin bug out, it’s better to play on the safe side. Get smart about reading labels and keep an eye out for natural workarounds to chemical promises.
Fixes as simple as switching to mineral-based powder foundations with healing zinc can help you avoid the chemical irritants in some major brands, without sacrificing quality or coverage, suggests makeup artist Louise Dartford.
"Mineral makeup is a brilliant option for sensitive skin. It is often synthetic preservatives and fillers in makeup that can cause skin reactions or sensitivities; by choosing natural and organic makeup brands you may be already eliminating many of these ingredients,” Dartford told Get the Gloss.
There are plenty of natural workarounds for cleansers that won’t leave you at the mercy of an ambiguous safety label, too.
“'Dermatologically tested' only means that the product has been tested on human skin,” explains pharmacist and skincare expert Pedro Catala.
“The product is normally placed on the back of the volunteer and left there for 48 hours covered with a patch, hence the name 'patch test.’”
Since not all sensitive skin reacts the same way to irritants, even labels that are meant to save you major grief can turn out to be a major bummer instead.
Like the rest of us, you need to zap oil on your T-zone while locking moisture everywhere else - without fearing an imminent breakout or allergic reaction.
Products that include natural anti-inflammatories - like chamomile and aloe - or natural humectants - like hyaluronic acid - are your best bet for a healthy, balanced complexion that nixes oil while helping you prevent dry skin.
In the long term, seek out antioxidant treatments that help improve your skin’s barrier function. That means helping your skin keep all the bad stuff - the stuff you’re allergic to - out, a task sensitive skin is notoriously bad at.
"Niacinamide is a great ingredient to try – it boosts ceramide production, thereby improving lipid barrier function,” dermatologist Sam Bunting explained to Get the Gloss.
“By pre-treating with this first, I can often get patients to tolerate more potent ‘actives’ like retinoids.”
It might be a long journey to nail down a skincare routine that doesn’t make you want to run screaming for the hills - but we can help you get there.
How to Handle a Breakout
What do you do when your spidey sense picks up on a potential breakout, but you know a regular zit-zapping product will turn your face redder than a tomato?
“If you do have sensitive skin, you will want to avoid products that contain salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, as both of these ingredients can seriously inflame skin,” write the experts at Total Beauty.
Natural ingredients like aloe, chamomile, and calendula can help soothe and minimize redness without irritating your delicate system, while masks that contain clay can draw impurities from the skin without added chemicals.
When celeb makeup artist Kayleen McAdams feels a breakout coming on, she turns to the cleansing power of clay.
"If I’m getting a deep pimple, I’ll put [a clay] mask on to absorb the oils. Sometimes I’ll use the mask all over my face and sometimes I’ll just put it on a blemish overnight," McAdams, who has incredibly finicky skin, told New York Magazine.
Check out her sensitive skin strategies for more suggestions on how to handle dryness, irritation, and breakouts.
How to Weather the Elements
Like any well-informed beauty maven, you know you’re supposed to layer on sunscreen before your moisturizer. But what kind of sunscreen can you turn to if major brands make your sensitive skin crawl?
Look for sunscreens with ingredients known as “physical blocks,” like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, suggests Annet King, who serves as director of global education for The International Dermal Institute.
"Even the tiniest amount of daylight exposes your skin to sensitizing UV rays," King told Women’s Health. Physical blocks prevent this exposure from happening in the first place.
And when the weather finally turns cold and the leaves start falling, that chill in the air can really throw your skin for a loop.
Look for cleansers, serums, and moisturizers with natural humectants, whether hyaluronic acid or glycerin, which will help you keep moisture where you need it most.
And if that doesn’t do it, try moisturizers that contain natural oils - like rose, avocado, and coconut - to soothe and hydrate weather-worn skin.
Your New Fab Five
Establishing a skin care routine that won’t leave you broken out in hives is no easy task, but we have five products specially designed to calm sensitive skin - for real.
They’ll fit like a charm into your daily routine, helping you soothe irritating redness into submission and delivering moisture right where you need it most.
For cleansing: Our Organic Rosewater Cleansing Foam is delicate enough to soothe sensitive skin while still washing away all traces of impurities, even makeup. Brightening botanical extracts gently even tone, fortify skin’s natural protective barrier, and calm redness with the anti-inflammatory power of licorice root.
For breakouts: Stop breakouts in their tracks with our Eucalyptus Seafoam Facial Cleanser, which combines the power of French green sea clay with nourishing rosehip and coconut oils and Vitamins C and E.
For super hydrated, nourished skin: Reach for our Organic Rosewater Emulsion Tonique to restore moisture after cleansing. This creamy, soothing elixir deeply hydrates and nourishes. Calming rose essential oil works to reduce redness in the skin, while nourishing plant oils help to improve elasticity and tone.
For brighter, younger-looking skin: Sensitive skin is easily irritated by most anti-aging products, but our Organic Rosewater Calming Serum delivers antioxidants to brighten skin without harsh chemicals. Comfrey extract helps to encourage healthy cell turnover while calming skin with anti-inflammatory properties. Use after the Rosewater Emulsion Tonique and before the Rosewater Nourishing Moisturizer to ensure maximum benefits.
For daily moisture: Formulated with restorative sea buckthorn and borage oil, our Organic Rosewater Nourishing Moisturizer helps calm skin prone to redness and sensitivity. Antioxidants like Goji Berry, CoQ10, and Alpha-Lipoic Acid help strengthen skin’s natural protective barrier against environmental stressors and pollutants while calming botanicals soothe for softer, more supple skin.
With 100% Pure, you never have to wade through an unfamiliar list of potential skin irritants - every ingredient we use is natural and organic, chosen to soothe, nourish, and hydrate even the most sensitive skin.
But enough about us - we want to hear from you!
What are your go-to products for super-sensitive skin? Tell us what works best for you in the comments below:
Image Credit: @ck_frias, @omandthecity