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Paired Back Skincare for Sensitive Skin
Introduction to sensitive skin
According to research, as much as 70% of women and 60% of men have sensitive skin. If you’re among them, here are the ingredients to avoid and the products to stock up on.
What do you mean by sensitive skin?
Unlike oily skin and combination skin, sensitive skin is a skin condition rather than a skin type. No matter what skin type you have, you can experience sensitivity. You can also treat it with the right skincare and by avoiding certain triggers.
UV rays, allergens and pollutants are among the daily threats your skin is exposed to, and can trigger signs of sensitivity. Hormonal changes, harsh weather and even taking a shower with too-hot water can also inflame skin and encourage flushing, itchiness, discomfort and breakouts.
Sensitive skincare essentials
Your skin barrier, the outermost protective layer of your skin, is your first line of defence from environmental aggressors. It not only helps to keep bad stuff out (like pollution and UV damage) but keeps the good stuff your skin needs to be happy and healthy in – moisture, we’re looking at you. To keep it functioning at its best and to keep sensitivity to a minimum, follow a skincare routine designed to strengthen your skin barrier.
• Gentle cleanser
Cleansing your face daily is key to keeping the surface clear of dirt, debris, bacteria and impurities that can clog pores. It can also help to improve the efficacy of your skincare products, enabling them to penetrate deeper into your skin. You can damage your skin barrier through excessive cleansing, over-washing or using products that are too harsh for your skin though. To clear your skin’s surface of unwanted debris without stripping the skin of natural oils and moisture, choose a gentle, pH-neutral cleanser.
Toners can help to catch any debris your cleanser may have missed while also helping to maintain your skin’s natural balance. Look for gentle, alcohol-free formulas with soothing and hydrating ingredients to help keep sensitive skin soft and comfortable.
• Eye cream
As the skin around the eyes is thinner than the rest of your face, it can need a little extra love. As it can also be delicate and sensitive, regardless of your skin type, you’ll want to look for natural and nourishing ingredients.
Packed with active ingredients and lightweight enough to penetrate deep into your skin, serums are the potent formulas your skincare routine needs to target specific skin concerns. In the case of sensitive skin, strengthening your skin barrier and keeping your skin hydrated want to be your top priorities. Look for ingredients that draw and seal in moisture such as Glycerin and Hyaluronic acid. Niacinamide also helps to strengthen your skin’s natural barrier and target redness and inflammation that can be caused by sensitivity.
A happy skin barrier is a hydrated one. Moisturising daily helps to strengthen your skin barrier, and help sensitive skin look and feel soft and comfortable. Look for formulas designed to provide lasting hydration to soothe sore skin for longer. Layer on rich, nourishing creams at night to reduce overnight moisture loss and to make the most of your skin’s natural overnight recovery mode when it gets to work repairing and renewing itself.
As your skin barrier function can degenerate because of UV exposure from the sun, a daily layer of high-factor, broad-spectrum SPF should be the last step of any skincare routine. It defeats the purpose of looking for ingredients to strengthen your skin barrier if you don’t protect it in the first place.
What ingredients to avoid when you have sensitive skin
• Benzoyl peroxide
An antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, benzoyl peroxide is an effective topical acne treatment. It helps to kill bacteria, reduce skin inflammation and clear pores of sebum and dead skin cells that can encourage breakouts. As benzoyl peroxide can dry out sensitive skin though, salicylic acid can provide the same results with less irritation.
• Witch hazel
If your skin is naturally oily and you have enlarged pores, witch hazel may have been recommended as a possible solution. It is rich in tannins, which are a natural astringent, which means it helps to remove excess oil from your pores and tighten them. Unfortunately, tannins can also have a drying and sensitising effect, making sensitive skin more susceptible to stressors.
• Glycolic acid
An alpha-hydroxy acid (you may know them as AHAs), glycolic acid is a chemical exfoliant that’s derived from sugar cane, which can penetrate deep into your skin to remove dead skin cells and unclog pores. Like most things, it’s not for everyone though. It can irritate those with dry, reactive skin, especially during the winter months when your skin can be chapped and drier.
• Synthetic fragrances
Unfortunately, for some with sensitive skin, both natural and synthetic fragrances can cause irritant contact dermatitis. Synthetic fragrances, in particular, can cause irritation and be extremely drying, which can also weaken your skin barrier function. When choosing products with fragrance, it’s best to avoid too many scented products at once if you have sensitive skin. Apply a small test amount to the skin on your arm or wrist before applying to your face to see if your skin reacts, too.
• Hydroxy acids
Chemical exfoliants such as alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids can help to clear your skin’s surface and pores of dead skin cells and decrease oil production. While they are better for those with sensitive skin than physical exfoliation and scrubbing, which can irritate skin and strip the surface of essential moisture, you’ll need to gradually incorporate them into your routine and find the right ones for you to reduce irritation.
Alcohol, which can be found in synthetic fragrances and some skincare, can also dry out your skin, stripping it of natural moisture, and disrupting your skin’s barrier.
Lancôme products that are suitable for sensitive skin
Specially formulated for dry and sensitive skin, the Galatée Comfort facial cleansing milk is enriched with honey, almond extract and milk proteins. Apply its gentle, comforting formula morning and night to clear skin of makeup and impurities, and leave it feeling smooth, refreshed and hydrated. Apply from the centre of the face outwards and finish with the T-zone and under the chin.
Lancôme’s moisturising toner, the Tonique Comfort is enriched with almond extract and honey to leave skin clean, soft and comfortable. It’s as effective at removing makeup and impurities from the skin’s surface as it is at hydrating and soothing dry skin. Apply with a cotton pad to cleansed skin in the morning and night.
Complete your facial cleansing ritual with Lancôme’s refreshing alcohol-free Tonique Douceur facial toner. It’s enriched with plant extracts and nourishing glycerin to provide softening hydration and clear skin of impurities. Sweep over the face with a cotton ball morning and night to help gently tone and refine skin texture.
Advanced Génifique Sensitive Serum
Advanced Génifique Sensitive Serum is enriched with seven pre and probiotics, ferulic acid, vitamin E and hyaluronic acid to help hydrate and soothe sensitive skin, and protect it from external aggressors. Its lightweight formula instantly melts into the skin to get to work straightaway. For best results, also apply a layer before bed to replenish and maintain the skin barrier and support your skin’s overnight recovery process while you sleep.
How to get started on a skincare routine for sensitive skin?
When finding the right sensitive skincare routine for you, start simple and slowly. If your skin has an allergic reaction, stop using the product right away. Once you’ve found the basics that work for you without irritating your skin, you can add extra steps to target additional concerns such as dehydration and breakouts.
Can sensitive skin use hyaluronic acid?
As hyaluronic acid is naturally present in our bodies, it’s not only suitable for sensitive skin, it’s recommended. If you’re still concerned about causing irritation, choose a low-molecular weight hyaluronic acid – the smaller the size, the easier it is to penetrate into the skin.
What skincare products do I need for sensitive skin?
Sunscreen is non-negotiable, as is a gentle cleanser to keep your skin clear of damaging impurities, and a nourishing moisturiser to soothe and hydrate. Once you’ve mastered the essential steps – clean, nourish and protect – you can incorporate a chemical exfoliant and hydrating serum gradually too.
Is it okay to use sensitive skin products even though you don’t have sensitive skin?
As sensitivity isn’t a skin type but a concern, everyone can use products designed for sensitive skin. If you’re not sure what your skin type is, products designed for sensitive skin are the best place to start as they will be less likely to irritate and encourage a negative reaction.
What is the best skincare regimen for dry, sensitive skin?
Consistency is key. Once you’ve found the right products for your skin, make sure you use them regularly. Applying your preferred skincare every morning and night will help to maintain and strengthen your skin barrier function and keep your skin happy and healthy.