How to take care of sensitive skin: 10 Derm-approved tips

Heather Campbell
 min read

How to take care of sensitive skin? is a common question as more and more people have sensitive skin.

How to take care of sensitive skin: 10 Derm-approved tipsThis may be due to internal factors such as a genetic predisposition (usually in fair-skinned people) or significant psychological stress.

But the causes can also be external with the skin becoming more sensitive with time. A harsh and aggressive environment can be the cause like:

  • the use of irritating cosmetics not adapted to the skin type, contributing to its sensitivity;
  • lots of sunshine; or
  • frequent contact with limescale (tap water).

What is sensitive skin and how can I care for it? Discover it in detail below.

How to take care of sensitive skin: Introduction

Sensitive skin has a deficient skin barrier that is much more porous than normal. Imagine sensitive skin as a sieve that allows molecules to penetrate deep into the skin, which are usually stopped by an intact skin barrier.

Since we are exposed to potentially irritating or even allergenic molecules on a daily basis, this creates so many opportunities for sensitive skin to react.

In addition to these chemical aggressions, fragile skins are affected by other factors such as cold, pollution, hard water, peeling, sun rays, too frequent exfoliation, etc.

These different aggressions that sensitive skin has to endure usually result in an immediate reaction: heating, tingling, redness and itching occur, sometimes even causing blisters and burns.

Suppose the reaction is related to high exposure to a molecule and does not recur on subsequent exposure to a lower dose. In that case, it is a simple irritant reaction.

If, on the other hand, the reaction occurs again when the skin is in contact, even at a very low dose, with the substance that caused the first irritation, the skin is considered to have been sensitized and we can then speak of an allergy.

Does sensitive skin always mean dry skin?

If the origin of your sensitive skin is internal (hereditary factor), then there is a greater chance that you have dry skin.

From a genetic point of view, sensitive and dry skin also rhymes with light phototype skin.

Suppose the origin of your sensitive skin comes from your environment or the too irritating cosmetics you have used.

In that case, you may very well have a combination or oily skin type, which has been stripped off following the frequent use of unsuitable cosmetics.

Does having sensitive skin mean you are allergic?

Sensitive skin is skin that is easily irritated. Irritation depends on how often and how much sensitive skin is exposed.

The more frequent the contact with irritating substances such as sulfates, which are widely used in shower gels, shampoos and other cleansing gels, the more it will react with redness, itching and dryness of the skin.

On the other hand, we say that skin is allergic when, at the simple contact, whatever the concentration of the product or the molecule, the skin reacts in an extremely strong way (redness, swelling, pimples, severe itching).

An allergist should be consulted to find the molecules involved in this case.

Discover the 10 commandments to take care of fragile skin below.

10 Derm-approved tips to take care of sensitive skin

Choose a moisturizer adapted to sensitive skin

A moisturizer for sensitive skins must be rich in vegetable oils.

On the other hand, creams containing retinol or fruit acids should be avoided, as they are extremely irritating.

Your ideal moisturizer for sensitive skin should contain three active ingredients:

Active repairing agents

A moisturizing cream for sensitive skin must also contain active repairing ingredients such as avocado oil or macadamia oil, which are rich in essential fatty acids.

Avocado oil has a regenerating action. It participates in the synthesis of collagen and elastin of the skin in addition to nourishing and protecting dry and sensitive skin.

Try to find a moisturizer that has a few dozen organic active ingredients. This is perfect for sensitive and irritated skin that experiences regular discomfort.

Nourishing active ingredients

A moisturizer for sensitive skin should also contain nourishing ingredients such as cocoa butter and unrefined natural shea butter, perfect for very dry areas.

They nourish and protect the epidermis against external aggressions.

Anti-inflammatory active ingredients

A moisturizing cream for sensitive skin must contain anti-inflammatory active ingredients such as pumpkin seed oil, rich in essential fatty acids and recognized anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties.

It will help reduce redness and calm irritation.

Other plants are also known for their anti-inflammatory properties such as Poppy (Papaver Rhoeas), Calendula (Calendula Officinalis), Marshmallow (Althaea Officinalis), Blue Immortelle (Limonium Narbonense) and Brunella (Prunella Vulgaris).

Avoid irritating and corrosive products

Sensitive skin should be treated and cleansed with gentle products on the body, face, and hair.

In other words, you should avoid all products containing sulfated agents, and avoid Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (this surfactant also serves as a foaming agent and is irritating, in addition to altering the hydrolipidic film, our skin’s protective layer).

Also avoid Methylisothiazolinone and Phenoxyethanol, two cosmetic preservatives suspected of disrupting hormone production and causing severe skin irritation.

Related post: How hormones affect your skin before, during & after your period

Remember to check that your hair color does not contain PPD or resorcinol.

Also beware of costume jewelry made with highly allergenic nickel.

Cleanse your face with a cold-process soap

If you use soap to wash yourself, it is better to use a cold-process soap for a more delicate cleaning. The advantage of cold-process soap is that it is not heated during manufacturing.

This allows it to retain all the benefits of the vegetable oils and butters that make it up. In addition, this manufacturing process guarantees the presence of glycerin, a powerful natural moisturizing agent (emollient).

If you don’t usually use soap, note that the pH of cold-process soap is slightly alkaline and may not be perfectly tolerated by the most sensitive skin.

The fact that you have to rinse the soap with water that is often hard can also contribute to the discomfort of sensitive skin. If this is your case, prefer to cleanse with oils or cleansing milks.

To recognize a quality soap, its first ingredient must not be “Sodium tallowate” (ingredient of animal origin that shows it is an industrial soap) and not be “Sodium palmate” (low-cost palm oil derivative).

A good soap is based on a quality vegetable oil, such as olive oil. The first ingredient of an olive oil soap is “Sodium olivate”.

Warning: Also avoid any soap containing triclosan (an endocrine disruptor) or Lanolin which can be allergenic.

Rinse your face with floral water

To remove all traces of limescale after cleansing your face, rinse with floral water. It is perfect for calming irritations and tightness.

Then dry your face by gently dabbing with a towel.

Apply vegetable butters in case of intense dryness

What distinguishes sensitive skin from normal skin is its almost non-existent skin barrier.

The role of vegetable oils and butters is to soothe these little sensations of tingling and tightness and reconstitute this protective barrier for the skin.

Prefer them both (oils and butters) organic and check that your shea butter is unrefined so that it has kept all its properties.

Remember that refined shea butter loses 55 to 75% of its natural benefits!

Refined shea butter is much whiter than natural unrefined shea butter, which has a pale yellow color.

Avoid excessive hygiene

Excessive hygiene further irritates the skin.

The more you clean, scrub and scrape your skin, the more fragile it becomes.

A morning and evening cleaning is perfectly sufficient.

Use washable wipes instead of disposable cotton pads

Cotton is one of the most water-intensive crops.

In addition to being environmentally friendly, washable makeup remover wipes are more economical and healthy for your skin because they do not contain pesticide residues or chlorine (used to bleach cotton).

Unlike disposable cotton that strips the skin like a rasp, washable cloth wipes are reusable and gentle on all skin types.

Avoid exfoliating cleansers

Exfoliating products made of polyethylene beads in conventional cosmetics should be avoided.

Organic and natural exfoliants are made of sugar/salt grains or fruit stones in organic cosmetics. Still, it is recommended to use them sparingly if you have normal skin and totally avoid them if you have sensitive skin.

Don’t grate your sensitive skin with exfoliating products. If your skin is fragile, you must take care of it gently.

Our recommendation for exfoliating sensitive skin is no more than once or twice a year and not much more for other skin types.

The mention “dermatologically tested” is not an absolute guarantee

Widely used in cosmetics marketing, the words “dermatologically tested” or “hypoallergenic” do not mean that you will definitely not have a reaction when using the product.

They simply indicate that the risk is minimized because the product has been evaluated for tolerance before being put on the market.

These statements require the product to be tested on paid human volunteers and fortunately no longer require animal testing.

Remove makeup with vegetable oil

Do you have sensitive skin? Don’t try to complicate your life! What could be simpler and gentler for the skin than removing makeup with vegetable oils?

A vegetable oil is more than enough, preferably organic and cold-pressed.

The following vegetable oils are ideal for sensitive and irritated skin:

  • Evening primrose oil
  • Sweet almond oil (Prunus Dulcis)
  • Pumpkin seed oil
  • Avocado oil (Persea Gratissima)
  • Apricot oil (Prunus Armeniaca)

If you choose a commercial makeup remover oil, ensure it does not contain mineral, esterified or hydrogenated oils that do not have any essential fatty acids for dry skin.

Be careful, you should also avoid ethoxylated surfactants such as sorbeth-30 tetraoleate.

How to take care of sensitive skin: Conclusion

In essence, sensitive skin has a deficient skin barrier that allows more molecules to penetrate into the skin than normal. This creates more chances for the skin to react to potentially harmful or allergenic molecules in our environment.

While sensitive skin is easily irritated, you’re only considered to have an allergic reaction if your skin repeatedly reacts strongly to any concentration, no matter how little, of a product or molecule.

To finish off, we’ve presented 10 helpful tips to better take care of your sensitive skin, ranging from washing habits and frequency to what ingredients to look out for in skincare products.

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About Heather Campbell

As a dietitian, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More