Caring for sensitive skin can feel like walking on a tightrope. All it takes is using one wrong product, and you can end up with red, blotchy, irritated skin. However, there are steps that you can take to achieve a clear, flawless complexion, even if you have sensitive skin.
Most importantly, make sure that you’re using anti-aging skin care products that are specifically tailored to treat sensitive skin—it’s a unique skin type that deserves special attention. If the product causes any irritation, stop using it immediately. Don’t hesitate to consult with an esthetician or dermatologist to find out what products would be best suited to sensitive skin.
When you’re buying anti-aging skin care products, you may gloss over the ingredients. But when you have sensitive skin, you should pay close attention to what’s in the formula, since there are many ingredients that can irritate sensitive skin.
If you have sensitive skin, here are some important points to remember when looking for skin care products.
Fragrances: If you have sensitive skin, avoid using any products that contain fragrances. When you’re shopping for anti-aging skin care products, keep an eye out for products that are labeled “fragrance-free” and “without perfume,” and make them part of your regular skin care routine. Keep in mind that “unscented” is different—even if a product is labeled “unscented,” it may still have fragrances to cover the smell of chemicals.
Parabens: These are the most common type of preservatives you’ll find in anti-aging skin care products, and include quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, phenoxyethanol, methylchloroisothiazolinone, and formaldehyde. Parabens may not elicit a reaction from people with normal skin, but if you have sensitive skin, it can definitely cause irritation.
pH levels: If you have sensitive skin, soaps with high pH levels can also cause irritation. Again, take your time when searching for a product that’s ideally suited to your skin type. Cosmetic manufacturers aren’t required to list pH information on the labels, so the best way to test how a new skin care product will react with your sensitive skin is to use it on a small area and wait for 24 hours before applying it all over. If you’re really concerned about your sensitive skin, you can purchase pH test strips.
Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and Beta hydroxy acid (BHA): AHA does have anti-aging powers, but it can also cause irritation, more so for people with sensitive skin. AHA has also been shown to increase the skin’s sensitivity to UV rays. In cosmetic products, the most common AHAs used are glycolic acid and lactic acid.
BHA is also effective for anti-aging and is said to be less irritating than AHA, but it can still cause irritation for sensitive skin. The most commonly used BHA in skin care products is salicylic acid.
Alcohol: You’d be surprised how many anti-aging skin care products contain alcohol, which is often listed as ethanol. Alcohol helps other ingredients penetrate the skin better, but it does so by breaking down its natural barrier. This can be a problem if you have sensitive skin—you’ll be making it worse because your skin will be even less equipped to protect itself.
What Else Might be Causing Your Sensitive Skin
Even if you take all of these precautions and still suffer from sensitive skin, it may be the result of a skin condition, like rosacea or eczema. See your doctor or dermatologist, who can suggest or prescribe a topical cream or oral antibiotic.
Believe it or not, your diet can even have an effect on your skin’s sensitivity. You may have heard about the importance of having B-complex vitamins in your diet, and there’s a reason why: without them, your skin can become dry, flaky, and extra sensitive to cleansers. That’s why you should eat plenty of whole grains, rice, oatmeal, sunflower seeds, fish, and eggs.
“20 Common Questions About Sensitive Skin,” WebMD web site; https://www.webmd.com/beauty/sensitive-skin-20-questions, last accessed July 9, 2013.
“Alcohol in Skin Care: The Facts,” Paula’s Choice web site; https://www.paulaschoice.com/expert-advice/skin-care-basics/_/alcohol-in-skin-care-the-facts, last accessed July 9, 2013.
“Alpha Hydroxy Acids in Cosmetics,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration web site; https://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductandIngredientSafety/SelectedCosmeticIngredients/ucm107940.htm, last accessed July 9, 2013.
“Beta Hydroxy Acids in Cosmetics,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration web site; https://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductandIngredientSafety/SelectedCosmeticIngredients/ucm107943.htm, last accessed July 9, 2013.
“How Sensitive Skin Works,” Discovery Health web site; https://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/information/skin-types/sensitive-skin.htm, last accessed July 9, 2013.
“Skin Reactions to Beauty Products,” WebMD web site; https://www.webmd.com/allergies/relief-for-allergies-8/skin-reactions/, last accessed July 9, 2013.