sensitive skin tips skincare

Sensitive skin is a drama queen.

It’s always throwing tantrums for the most random things. But it never tells you what the heck is wrong with it. Once it decides it doesn’t like something, there’s no reasoning with it. Argh!

Dealing with a drama queen is never fun. But when you start listening to it carefully and understand what pushes its button, you can heal your relationship and become BFFs for life.

Here’s how how to care for and soothe sensitive skin:

Sensitive Skin Tip #1: Choose Products With Short Ingredient Lists

The shorter the ingredient list, the better.  The less stuff a cream contains, the less likely something in there will bother your skin.

Plus, a short ingredient list is much easier to decipher, so you won’t get a massive headache.

Related: How To Read An Ingredient List (Even If You Hate Science)

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Sensitive Skin Tip #2: Stay Away From Fragrance – It’s The Most Irritating Ingredient In Skincare!

Slathering on a cream that smells of roses and raspberries is so much better than using one that smells of, well… you know that faint chemical odour fragrance-free creams have.

But that’s NOT what your skin likes. Dare to put it in touch with fragrance and it’ll repay you with a rash.

Here’s a little secret: fragrances are made up of 100 or more ingredients. Some of them are famous for causing allergies (yes, citronellol and linalool, I’m looking at you).

If you spot anything you like with the words “perfume” and “fragrance” while out skincare shopping, put it back on the shelf. Unless you want your skin to throw another tantrum, that is.

Related: Why You Should Avoid Scented Skincare Products

Sensitive Skin Tip #3: Don’t Use Essential Oils – Their Fragrance Is Irritating Too

Wait, isn’t anything natural supposed to be good for your skin? Not really.

You know those chemicals you hate so much? Essential oils are made up of hundreds of chemicals. And some of them can be irritating or cause allergies, too. 

Take chamomile, for example. Bisabobol is the chemical that makes chamomile so soothing. But chamomile also contains allergens (about 7%).

So, use the bisabobol and ditch the oil. These days, it’s so easy to extract the goodies from these plants and just put those in cosmetics. That way, you get all the benefits without the side effects.

P.S. It’s not always easy to spot essential oils on the label. Look out for anything that says “leaf oil”, such as thyme leaf oil (“leaf extract” is ok).

Related: Is Chamomile Good Or Bad For Skin?

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Sensitive Skin Tip #4: Stay Clear Of All The Other Irritating Stuff Too

Fragrance and essential oils are the worst culprits (that’s why they deserved their own sections), but there’s plenty of other stuff lurking in your lotions and potions that could irritate your skin:

  • Alcohol Denat (or Alcohol SD)
  • Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Apricot kernels
  • Colourants
  • Dyes
  • Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives
  • Glycolic acid (may be too harsh for sensitive skin)
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone
  • Methylisothiazolinone
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Vitamin A (may be too harsh for sensitive skin)
  • Vitamin C (may be too harsh for sensitive skin)

Afraid you won’t remember them all? I’ve got you covered. Click on the image below to subscribe to my newsletter and receive the “Irritating Ingredients Cheat Sheet” with the most irritating ingredients lurking in your cosmetics:

P.S. This doesn’t mean these ingredients are the devil incarnate and should be avoided at all costs. Most skin types can use them safely. It’s only sensitive skin that has to beware of them.

Related: Can You Use A Vitamin C Serum If You Have Sensitive Skin?

Sensitive Skin Tip #5: Ditch The Bar Soap (And Anything That Foams)

The “glue” that holds bar soaps together are in an alkaline base. That’s scientific jargon for high pH.

When the ph’s too high, your skin’s protective barrier gets damaged. Moisture gets out and bacteria and other nasty stuff get in. Result? Dry, irritated skin.

Foaming cleansers are better, but they too tend to be harsh for anyone who doesn’t have oily skin. They usually remove too much sebum (the skin’s natural moisturizer), leaving skin dry and prone to irritations.

The solution? Opt for cream, balm or oil-based cleansers instead. If you don’t need to remove your makeup, you can get away with a micellar water too.

Best Picks:

Related: How To Choose The Right Cleanser For Your Skin Type

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Sensitive Skin Tip #6: Use Skincare Products Loaded With Anti-Inflammatory Ingredients

Ok, now that you know what to avoid, it’s time to focus on what you can use (finally!).

Opt for products that have plenty of anti-inflammatory ingredients. The best ones are:

Best Picks:

  • Aveeno Eczema Therapy Moisturizing Cream ($13.49): available at Ulta and Walmart
  • Niod Modulating Glucosides ($21.00): available at Harrods
  • Paula’s Choice Calm Redness Relief Repairing Serum ($34.00): available at Paula’s Choice

Related: 9 Ingredients To Soothe Irritated And Sensitive Skin

Sensitive Skin Tip #7: Do A Patch Test Before Trying A New Skincare Product

I know, who does those? They sound so lame. But if your skin’s sensitive, they can be a lifesaver.

I mean, if something goes wrong and you end up covered in hives, wouldn’t you rather the damage be limited to a small area, like a wrist, than you whole face? 

Thought so. Do the patch test.

P.S. Some ingredients don’t bother your skin immediately. You can use something safely for years and then one day, completely out of the blue, develop an allergy to it. Patch tests ain’t a one-time thing. Do them regularly.

Related: How To Do A Patch Test

skinsense by abi cleeve

Sensitive Skin Tip #8: Introduce One New Skincare Product At A Time Into Your Skincare Routine

The reason is simple. As tempting as it is to use all your new goodies at the same time, how do you know which one is to blame for that ugly rash?

Use them one at a time. And I don’t mean one a day. One a month, more like. Yep, that’s how long you should wait before introducing ONE new skincare product into your routine.

I know, bummer. But that’s what the drama queen needs.

Related: The Right Way To Introduce New Skincare Products Into Your Skincare Routine

Sensitive Skin Tip #9: Don’t Munch On Inflammatory Foods

Are you doing everything right and still your skin keeps throwing tantrums? Maybe your skincare ain’t the problem. Maybe it’s your diet you have to change.

Lots of the foods we love (cake, anyone?) can trigger inflammation in the body. And that shows up on your skin in the form of redness, rashes, hives… It ain’t pretty.

The worst culprits?:

  • Alcohol
  • Dairy
  • Spicy foods
  • Sugar

I’m not saying you should eliminate them from your diet completely (although, sometimes, you just may have to, sorry!), but cut them back as much as you can and see how your skin reacts. Chances are, your skin will decide to behave nicely for once!

The Bottom Line

Sensitive skin is an intense and demanding drama queen. But by avoiding its triggers and focusing on creating a soothing and relaxing atmosphere, you can calm it down and enjoy a loving and beautiful relationship.