I Have the World's Most Sensitive Skin — Here's How I Deal With It

I’m an incredibly sensitive person. Everything makes me cry (Pampers commercials, dog rescue Instagram accounts, Rupi Kaur prose, you name it), and my PMS is serious proof that I’m in touch with my emotions (it’s not for the faint of heart), so it honestly shouldn’t have surprised me when I developed the world’s most sensitive skin. 

My skin’s sensitivities only really started to pop up in my mid-20s. Now, fragrance stings my skin, I have to worry about certain ingredients causing dermatitis, and my eczema has returned with vengeance. Before that, my face was something of a guinea pig for any new moisturizer, serum, face peel, mask, or weird beauty treatment. It was a beauty editor’s dream. So you get why learning how to take care of it would present some challenges. I had to significantly narrow down my routine, toss products that I used to turn to for a glowing, dewy, clear complexion, and identify ingredients that were triggers for redness and bumps. After nearly a year of trial and plenty of error, I’ve finally figured out how to deal with my reactionary face. Below, I’ve broken down the rules I follow religiously. 

Cleansing With Waters

I have sensitive skin that also veers dry, so finding a product that effectively cleansed my skin without stripping it and leaving it feeling tight and tingly was be no means easy. After some chats with my dermatologists, I ditched all the AHA-infused cleansing gels in my collection and started using micellar water. They’re known for being very gentle, as the bubbles encapsulate the dirt, makeup, and excess oil and sweep it off your face without drying it out. Most people use them as a first step in a double cleanse, but because I don’t wear a ton of makeup, I cleanse it with exclusively. I saturate two cotton pads with Garnier SKINACTIVE Micellar Cleansing Water All-in-1 Makeup Remover & Cleanser, Simple Micellar Cleansing Water, or Bioderma Sensibio H2O and gently run them over the surface of my skin. I’m always shocked at how much junk is on the pad when I’m done. 

RELATED: Editor-Tested: 7 Moisturizers for Those Sensitive Skin Days

Heavy-Duty Moisturizing 

A partial culprit behind my newly developed sensitive skin was the fact that I had compromised my skin’s barrier function, or the outer layer of the skin that helps to maintain moisture and keep out irritants. I was told by my doctors that amping up on moisturizing would help my skin heal. I turned to rich, heavy moisturizers that provided a larger dose of hydration to my dry skin and started to apply twice a day instead of just at night. I look for ingredients like soothing mineral water, shea butter, squalane, and glycerin. Some of my favorites? Avene’s Skin Recovery Cream, Dr. Barbara Sturm Face Cream, and La -Roche Posay Toleriane Ultra.

Absolutely NO Fragrance

I’m a fragrance addict. I have about 16 bottles on the top of my dresser as we speak, and I lived for a face cream that smelled like an English garden. Now, fragrance in facial skincare is my worst nightmare. I experience painful burning and stinging seconds after I apply anything on my skin that’s made with fragrance. It’s the first thing I look for when I glance over the ingredients list. If it’s made with fragrance/parfum (as it’s commonly listed), it gets a pass from me. 

Some products are given a fragrance naturally, meaning they utilize essential oils for the sweet smell. Many essential oils are irritating, so I also try to avoid things with heavy doses of citrus and lavender. 

RELATED: The Best Serums for Sensitive Skin

Multi-Masking Is Key

I experience acne on certain parts of my face and more dryness on others. Masks are key here because they allow me to treat and cater specific areas with different treatments. On my chin or my nose (two places I experience pimples and clogged pores), I’ll apply the Goop Exfoliating Instant Facial, while on my cheeks (a place I experience redness and dryness), I’ll use the Avene Soothing Moisture Mask. 

Prescriptions Saved My Life

The best money I ever spent was having a dermatologist diagnose my skincare issues and prescribing me medication, rather than doing it myself and potentially making the situation worse. (FYI: I actually did that. I thought my eczema was really acne and irritated it even further.)

With that being said, my routine isn’t for everyone. If you’ve tried and tried and tried again and still don’t know how to live with your skin sensitives, call up your derm for some answers. No shocker here: I cried happy tears when a rosacea Rx made what I believed was a forever-flush go away. 

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