I get asked so many questions on how to create an effective facial skin care routine. Individuals with sensitive skin are often challenged by constant battles with itchiness, redness, dryness, and reactions to different chemicals. The myriad of products out on the market adds more confusion and finding a routine can seem daunting. But fear not! With the right information, you can have healthy and glowing skin for years to come—and your regimen can be simple. First, you’ve got to know the basics. The foundation of any skin care routine can be broken down into four main steps:
1. Find your cleanser. Cleansers should properly remove oil, dirt, bacteria, and makeup, yet still be mild enough to keep your natural skin barrier intact. Today, a variety of cleansers exist on the market. In general, cleansers can be broken down into two categories: bar soaps and liquid cleansers. For individuals with sensitive skin, I recommend staying away from bar soaps, which can be harsh on skin, and instead sticking to cleansing creams, lotions, or oils that are specially formulated for sensitive skin. Avoid liquid cleansers with suds, as they can be extra harsh and irritate your skin.
2. Treat with serums. Serums are like liquid gold. Containing high concentrations of skin-boosting ingredients like antioxidants, vitamins, and peptides, these products should be applied after cleansing but before moisturizing so your clean skin can absorb the benefits. Because they’re concentrated, serums can be quite potent and contain different ingredients depending on what skin issue you’re trying to improve. However, they are great to use on a regular basis even if you don’t have any specific skin concerns. Serums containing vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide are beneficial for any skin type, and can particularly help people with sensitive skin. Long-term use helps to prevent and reverse signs of aging, while also keeping your skin hydrated and healthy. However, beware of serums containing alpha-hydroxy acids or retinol. These are often more drying and irritating, and may not be suited for daily use, especially if you have sensitive skin.
3. Repair the skin barrier. Moisturizers are essential for anyone with sensitive skin. Their purpose is to hydrate skin and prevent water loss, which is more commonly seen in people with sensitive skin. Many different types exist on the market. I recommend sticking to thicker creams—avoid lotions—as they are more effective at hydrating skin. Look for brands that are specially formulated to be free of fragrances and preservatives like formaldehyde. Also look for products that are non-comedogenic, as these will not clog pores.
4. Don’t forget to protect. Sunscreen is a must, and finding the right one can be tricky for sensitive skin. Often, certain ingredients will cause a burning sensation or other reaction. When my patients ask what sunscreens I recommend, I tell them to find one they like enough that they remember to wear it daily. However, try to avoid chemical sunscreen, which uses specific ingredients to absorb UV rays, because those ingredients can irritate sensitive skin and aren’t the most effective option. Look for sunscreens containing only zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, known as physical or mineral sunscreens. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide create a physical barrier on the skin, preventing the sun’s rays from getting through, and they can be a lot easier to tolerate. They should be broad spectrum with SPF 30 or higher, and non-comedogenic. Wear sunscreen every single day, regardless of rain or shine, because UV rays will come through clouds and windows and damage skin no matter what the weather’s like.
Order Matters Skin care products should always be applied from thinnest consistency to thickest, in order to increase efficacy and absorption on skin. Sunscreen should be the last product applied to your face before makeup in the morning, and moisturizers should be the last product applied at bedtime
For people with sensitive skin, look for products marketed towards sensitive skin–it’s usually emphasized right on the label–because they tend to be fragrance- and preservative-free. If you are worried about reacting to a certain product, consider applying a small amount to your inner arm for a few days. This can help you determine if your skin will react when it’s applied to your entire face.
By following these easy and simple steps, anyone with sensitive skin can create a regimen that is effective and doable.