9 Expert Tips for Sensitive Skin

9 Expert Tips for Sensitive Skin

Have sensitive skin? Use these tips to keep your look fresh without sacrificing comfort.


By: Anne Fritz

It’s easy to know if you have oily, dry skin or combo skin, but how about sensitive skin? Though the hallmarks of sensitive skin are persistent dryness, flakiness and redness, sensitive skin is more than a list of symptoms.

“Sensitive skin is when irritation occurs, no matter what types of products you are using, such as moisturizer, sunblock, makeup, etc.,” says New York-based cosmetic dermatologic surgeon, Dr. Howard Sobel.

While sensitive skin is fairly common, people tend to be overly cautious about labeling their skin as sensitive.

“About 10 percent of my patients actually have sensitive skin, and 25 percent of my patients think they have sensitive skin,” Sobel says.

So what causes sensitive skin?

“It can be attributed to many different factors including genetics, preservatives, chemicals, fragrances, UV rays, wind exposure and extreme warm or cold temperatures,” he says.

While that list is daunting, there are ways you can improve your skin’s health and keep it calm and soothed.

1. Moisturize
Moisturizing is the most important step to keeping your skin healthy.

“It is vital to keep skin hydrated,” says Sobel, who advises applying moisturizer to damp skin for better absorption. Make sure your morning moisturizer contains SPF to protect skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

2. Avoid Hot Water
“Keep those showers and baths lukewarm and short,” Sobel cautions. “Extreme temperature and/or bathing for too long breaks down the lipid barriers in your skin, which can lead to increased irritation.”

Always apply moisturizer immediately after a shower to keep skin hydrated.

3. Watch Extreme Temperatures
Weather on either end of the spectrum, cold or hot, can irritate sensitive skin.

“Skin becomes dry in the winter, due to a lack of humidity, which makes skin irritated and redness can occur,” Sobel says. “On a hot summer day when the sun is at its strongest, damage from UV rays will dry out skin. The radiation causes a faster break down of collagen and elastin fibers.”

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This not only aggravates sensitive skin, it can also lead to signs of premature aging including wrinkles and sagging skin.

4. Be Careful When Exfoliating
Take it easy on the face when using scrubs.

“Excessive and/or aggressive exfoliation can lead to extreme skin irritation, because you may remove too many skin cells,” Sobel warns.

If you do chose to exfoliate, opt for a facial scrub with small, even sized grains versus one with hard edges like nutshells, and apply in a small circular motion.

5. Know Your Ingredients
The most common skincare ingredients harmful to those with sensitive skin include retinoids and hydroxy acids.

“These abrasive ingredients are meant to help remove dead skin cells but can be too strong for those with sensitive skin,” Sobel says. Also avoid any products with added fragrance, another common irritant.

6. Use Soothing Ingredients
Products containing petrolatum, mineral oil, linoleic acid, ceramides and glycerin are the gentlest on sensitive skin, increasing hydration and reducing irritation and redness.

7. Don’t Smoke
“If you smoke, stop, and avoid second-hand smoke,” he says.

These habits dehydrate skin and cause irritation.

8. Consider Your Cosmetics
Use oil-free, hypoallergenic makeup that is free of fragrance, dye, detergents and latex.

9. Get Your H2O
Drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day to keep skin hydrated.

It may seem like a lot of effort to take care of sensitive skin, but take comfort in knowing you can manage the situation.

“You cannot grow out of having sensitive skin,” Sobel says. “But you take steps to minimize skin sensitivity.”



Annie freelance writes and copywrites for websites, magazines and well-known brands, including Sephora, Sister to Sister, Life & Beauty Weekly and EverydayHealth.com. She has frequently appeared on television as a style expert and is available for television appearances. You can find her at The Jet Set Girls.

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