For someone with sensitive skin, the relatively straightforward task of shopping for makeup and skincare becomes a frustrating, sometimes painful, often fruitless quest that demands a whole lot of time and money.
The wrong product or wrong ingredient can result in tightness, redness and generally unhappy skin, which isn’t anybody’s idea of a good time.
Debbie Dickson, Director of Education for Danné-Montague King (DMK), says understanding the underlying cause of sensitive skin can be helpful for knowing what will and won’t irritate it.
“Skin itself isn’t actually ‘sensitive’. When it becomes really red and inflamed, it’s actually become reactive because things are out of balance,” she explains.
“You’ve got to look at why that skin is presenting symptoms of being sensitive, and if you treat the ‘why’ then you can get to the core of the problem. If you only calm the skin down and don’t look at why it needed that, you’re going to be calming it down of the rest of your life. ”
Dickson says one of the most common underlying causes of reactivity is transepidermal water loss, where the skin is unable to retain water. “Imagine if there was a fire raging in the skin; you’d need a lot of water to put that fire out and then hold water in there to stop it from reigniting,” she explains.
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If you want to ensure the products you buy won’t further upset your skin, here are Dickson’s recommendations for the ingredients to try and those to steer clear of.
Ingredients to avoid
Dickson says you’ll want to steer clear of any ingredients that will further provoke your skin by stripping or drying it.
“Any of your astringents, your strong alcohol, your benzoyl peroxides; any ingredient that is going to further strip water out of the skin is going to make it more reactive or sensitive,” she explains. These tend to be common in toners.
Dickson also recommends avoiding abrasive products, such as grainy scrubs, as these could serve to irritate or inflame skin that’s already highly responsive.
“The other thing I would advise is to avoid using any AHAs, because they pull water,” she adds. “So if there already isn’t enough water in the skin because it’s become reactive, you wouldn’t want to use something that’s going to further draw any water out.”