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How do I Care for Sensitive Skin?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 21, 2024
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If you have sensitive skin, it may be prone to itching, redness, dryness, or breakouts when using products that are too harsh. For that reason, the most important way to care for your skin is to choose products designed for your skin type. If your skin is extremely sensitive, or seems to be having frequent allergic reactions, you may need to visit a dermatologist for an allergy test to determine exactly what is causing the problems. This isn't required for most people, however.

To care for sensitive skin on the face, it is important to wash it twice a day. Choose a cleanser that is soap-free and mild, without additions like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, which can be irritating and drying. Some cleansers are designed to calm skin, and may include ingredients such as feverfew or chamomile. Avoid cleansers that contain fragrance, and try to choose a product with as few ingredients as possible. Liquid cleansers are generally a good choice.

Next, it is important to moisturize the skin. Again, many moisturizers are specifically designed for skin that is sensitive and are marked as such. In general, it is a good idea to choose a moisturizer that is non-comedogenic, fragrance free, and hypoallergenic. Avoid oil-based products. You may want to test a moisturizer in a small area before spreading it all over your face and causing a potential reaction. Apply a small amount every day for a few days either on the jawline or behind the ear, and wait to see if any adverse reaction occurs.

The same rules apply for makeup: it should be oil free and non-comedogenic, as well as fragrance free. Experts recommend using powder foundation instead of liquid, and choosing pencil eyeliner instead of liquid. It may be necessary to test makeup as well. In general, it is best to avoid using waterproof makeup that needs to be removed with makeup remover, because the makeup remover can irritate the skin.

Many moisturizers contain sunscreen, but if yours doesn't, it is important to apply one every day. It may be best to choose one that uses zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, because these sit on top of the skin and reflect the sun, rather than soaking in. Though it may take some trial and error to find products to successfully care for sensitive skin, it will be worth it when your skin is soft, smooth, and even-toned.

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Discussion Comments

By seHiro — On Aug 04, 2011

@Calvin77 - Aloe vera is a great natural moisturizer! Another one of the best natural treatments for sensitive skin is coconut oil. I know everybody says to avoid using anything oily if you have sensitive skin, but coconut oil won't clog your pores like harsher synthetic oil products. It's mild, natural, and scientifically proven to make skin more supple and youthful.

It also helps your skin to heal faster, so if you have any blemishes, they'll go away faster when you use coconut oil! To moisturize with coconut oil, just melt a small amount on your hands (a half teaspoon works best for me). Coconut oil has a low melting temperature -- it will turn to liquid.

Smooth it gently over your face and massage in, and you're done! Coconut oil absorbs in five minutes and leaves no greasy residue. I use it daily and my skin is never dry or rough -- it's awesome!

By zeak4hands — On Aug 03, 2011

@minthbear19 - Making your own lotions can really help with sensitive skin care. I make a lot of mine too. There are so many weird ingredients in brand name products – you really don't know what you're washing your skin with.

Exercise is also important to your skin. When you sweat, it cleans the irritants out of your skin pours. It will keep your face from getting dry and it will wash out the oils that gather bacteria.

A half hour jog in the morning and then a shower can really help your skin keep itself healthy. If you have severely sensitive skin, you should see your doctor.

By minthybear19 — On Aug 02, 2011

@croydon - I have pretty sensitive skin myself. Most brand name moisturizers make my skin really itchy and red. Beer does the same thing, so I've been avoiding it. I suspect that I have a allergy of some kind but I haven't got it checked out yet.

I make my own skin care products, that way I can know exactly what's in them. I use mango oil, avocado and honey for the most part. For face masks, which I do every week, I add oatmeal to the mix. It keeps my skin from getting red.

There are some recipes for lotion for sensitive skin around online -- you should make your own!

By Calvin77 — On Aug 01, 2011

@w00dchuck41 - I agree that allergies cause sensitive skin. I have both wheat and dairy allergies. If I eat even a small amount of either -- my skin gets very sensitive and I get rashes. I also have acne break outs on my neck and shoulders.

@croydon - Using soap is a good idea, just make sure that it has moisturizers in it. I know that a lot of "Dove" bath products have aloe vera in them -- which is a great moisturizer.

I'm not sure why you're using sunscreen as much as possible, since it has tons of chemicals in it. I guess if you burn easily, it's a good idea.

By w00dchuck41 — On Aug 01, 2011

@croydon - Skin sensitivity can also be caused by your diet. If you have allergies, they can make your skin very sensitive -- even to soap. You might want to visit a doctor and have allergy testing done.

Running the shower on your face for a few minutes is perfectly fine -- as long as you moisturize your skin afterward. The hot water washes off the natural oil on your skin and can actually cause your skin to over compensate and become oily.

Try natural moisturizers like coconut or mango oil. They are both inexpensive and gentle on your skin.

By pleonasm — On Aug 01, 2011

@croydon - That might work for people who have the kind of skin that breaks out all the time.

But, those of us with dry skin really need the moisturizer every day. If I don't rub it into certain spots on my face, it looks awful.

And if I miss a couple of days it starts getting red and itchy.

I just try to use the most gentle cleanser I can find, with a witch hazel toner, and quite a thick cream afterwards.

And that's while I'm living in a seaside town. When I was in a much drier state for a while, I just carried my moisturizer around in my bag with me and applied a little bit every few hours.

I know it seems over the top, but my skin is really that sensitive.

And I guess I'm really that vain that I don't want people to notice!

By croydon — On Jul 31, 2011

See, while I appreciate that some people will do better with a regime like this, I've found that the best way to avoid breakouts is to use as little product as possible on my skin.

I basically just wash it with a very gentle, natural soap in the shower and leave it there. Occasionally I will use a beeswax cleanser and a mud pack, along with a very light moisturizer. But only once a week or so.

Anything more than that and I have regular breakouts and red skin. I think my skin just likes to keep to its own pH levels and whatever else.

Oh, I also let hot water run on it for a while in the shower. That also seems to help, as does going for a run.

Other than that and using sunscreen as much as possible, I just let my skin do its own thing.

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