Sensitive skin will experience itching, burning, and redness. People with sensitive skin may suffer from rosacea, psoriasis, or eczema. Individuals with this skin type can react to ingredients in their skin care products or sudden changes in climate or stress levels.
When treating sensitive skin, you need to simplify. You will often have to eliminate products rather than add them. Caring for sensitive skin means removing common irritants and being diligent about reading ingredients lists.
If you simplify and get back to a fundamental, organic, non-toxic routine, you will find that sensitive skin is manageable. Products that calm and soothe the skin will be best.
Disclosure: There are some affiliate links below and we may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post, but these are all products we highly recommend. We won't put anything on this page that we haven't verified and/or personally used.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make with sensitive skin is to skip the patch test when you incorporate a new product into your routine. To perform a patch test, apply a small amount of product to your neck or wrist and wait 24 hours to see if there is a reaction. If there isn’t any redness or itching, it’s OK to use on your face or body.
Ingredients to Avoid
- Alcohol - too drying for sensitive skin types and can lead to irritation.
- Synthetic Fragrance - fragrances in lotions and creams can react with your skin, causing inflammation and weakening the inner layers of skin.
- Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate - foaming agents that irritate the skin.
- Physical Exfoliates - like ground up walnut shells or apricot kernels.
- Chemical Sunscreens - avobenzone, octinoxate, and oxybenzone are a few examples of chemical sunscreens. Use physical sunscreens such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide instead. Formulas meant for children work well.
- AHA Acids - have a low pH and will irritate the skin.
- Retinol - an anti-aging ingredient. It is too harsh for sensitive skin.
- Parabens - preservatives that can permeate the skin and accumulate.
- Common Toxic Ingredients - see a list here.
Ingredients that are Good for Sensitive Skin
- Green and white tea extract
- Cucumber seed oil
- Borage seed oil
- Evening Primrose oil
- Panthenol - Vitamin B5
- Shea butter
One of the best brands of organic skin care for sensitive skin is Pai Skincare. They specialize in creating non-toxic skin care products that reduce redness and irritation.
Caring for Sensitive Skin
Cleansing is necessary because it removes dirt and oil buildup on the skin, but it should not be done more than twice a day. You may even want to limit your morning routine to simply washing with lukewarm water and applying moisturizer.
Sensitive skin types should avoid any highly fragranced soaps or soaps with strong detergents. Gentle, limited ingredient liquid, gel, cream, or oil cleansers are the best way to go. Look for soothing ingredients such as chamomile.
Avoid washing your face with hot water, as it will irritate your skin. When you are done washing, gently pat your skin dry, don't rub.
Sensitive skin types can benefit from a toner any time of day, especially after a freshly cleansed face. Toners can deliver hydration and skin repairing nutrients deep into the tissues, helping restore the skin. A soothing toner will leave sensitive skin feeling clean and refreshed without the use of aggressive cleansers and can help counteract the irritation that can occur after washing your face.
Sensitive skin should avoid alcohol, fragrance, and alpha-hydroxy acids in their toners. Discontinue use if you notice additional redness.
Serums will absorb into the deep layers of the skin, bringing active, healing nutrients with it. The word serum is often used to describe a water-based or oil-based product that is concentrated in active ingredients. Here we are talking about water-based serums (we will talk about oil-based serums down below).
Wait for 10 - 15 minutes after washing your face to apply your water-based serum. Allowing your skin to dry completely will slow down penetration and reduce potential irritation.
A moisturizer will hydrate the skin and keep it plump and moist. It will also help keep your skin barrier intact.
When moisturizing sensitive skin, you want a moisturizer that is free of fragrances (look for fragrance-free products rather than unscented) and irritating preservatives including parabens, imidazolidinyl urea, Quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, phenoxyethanol, methylchloroisothiazolinone, and formaldehyde.
If you try a new moisturizer and it irritates your skin, pay close attention to the items near the top of the list. Ingredients are listed in order of volume, from largest to smallest.
Oils provide nourishment, hydration, protection, and repair. They are packed with youth-enhancing antioxidants and skin-renewing compounds. Facial oil blends are sometimes labeled as serums, because they are concentrated in skin nourishing compounds.
Use your facial oil on its own before applying your moisturizer and after your serum, or add a couple drops of oil to your moisturizer.
Best Oils for Sensitive Skin
Sunscreen is an important part of every skin care routine. The sun damages our skin leading to redness, irritation and wrinkle formation. Sensitive skin types should avoid chemical sun blockers such as oxybenzone and instead opt for physical sun blockers such as zinc oxide or titanium oxide.
Just as with other products, your sunscreen should be free of fragrances, harsh preservatives, and alcohol.
Use a mask once - twice a week to clear congestion and oil buildup. Sensitive skin needs a nourishing and calming mask that will draw out impurities without aggravating the skin.
A homemade mask using yogurt, avocado, and honey is excellent for sensitive skin. The Lactic acid in yogurt gently digests dead skin cells, avocado provides lipids and hydration, and honey fights bacteria.
Exfoliation removes dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, revealing the fresh, young-looking skin underneath. Exfoliation can be accomplished using chemicals such as acids, or by using physical exfoliates such as bits of walnut shells, oats, or apricot kernels.
People with sensitive skin usually cannot tolerate exfoliating more than twice a week. Start slow and work your way up, use your exfoliation product once a week and gradually increase its use. It is important to avoid products that are too strong, chemical exfoliates such as glycolic acid are too harsh for sensitive skin. Lactic acid is a more gentle option.
Look for products that use amino fruit acids or pumpkin enzymes. These are much more gentle and still offer good exfoliation.
Try making an at-home scrub using oats, honey, and banana.
You want to fight the signs of aging without causing irritated flare-ups. Read Our Anti-Aging Routine for Sensitive Skin.
I recommend using a natural retinol alternative - Kypris Beauty Midnight Catalyst - to stimulate exfoliation and cell renewal. An exfoliating enzyme mask used once to twice a week will help keep dead skin cells from building up - try May Lindstrom's Honey Mud.
Avoid bismuth oxychloride, talc, and mica. Look for non-greasy and non-comedogenic formulas rich in moisturizers and antioxidants. Light textures are best, ones that allow the skin to breathe. Opt for products that provide protection from sun and pollution.
We will list our favorite makeup brands for sensitive skin in the box below, as well as where to get them.
- Best Organic Primers : Prep Your Skin for Beauty
- How To Determine Your Skin Tone & Choose a Foundation
- The Best Natural Makeup List : 16 of Our Top Favorites
- Vapour Organic Beauty Reviews
Sensitive skin can be managed and cared for with the right selection of products. Remember to patch test any new products you add to your routine. Find a routine you like and stick to it, consistency helps your skin stay in balance, and you will see how products effect your skin over time. Focus on building skin barrier function to reduce sensitivity and incorporate anti-inflammatory ingredients to help soothe your skin.
I hope that this page is a valuable resource to you and that it helps you find relevant articles and products for your skin type. Bookmark it so that you can come back to it again and again.
You can read more sensitive skin articles here.
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To Beautiful Skin,
The TBOSC Team