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The Dos and Don’ts of Treating Sensitive Skin

For those of that know the struggles of caring for sensitive skin (flakiness, red patches, and breakouts to name just a few!) it can take a while to figure out what won’t irritate your face. To help, we consulted dematologists Dr. Bassam Damaj and Dr. Rachel Nazarian. Follow their expert tips on what to use and what to avoid and your complexion will be clear, calm, and collected in no time.


DO: Keep Skin Hydrated

The key to protecting sensitive skin, says Dr. Damaj, is maintaining the stratum corneum, the outer layer of the skin “equivalent to a brick wall” that keeps the dermis and epidermis safe and moisturised. To keep this layer intact, use a non-drying cleanser like the Rosehip oil-infused This Works clean skin gentle cleanser followed by REN’s Evercalm™ Global Protection Day Cream. Formulated specifically for delicate complexions, this cream hydrates with Arctic cranberry seed and seaweed extracts and reduces inflammation and redness with its global protection complex.


You may be wary of the chemicals in SPF, but “not wearing sunblock can cause certain inflammatory skin conditions, like rosacea, to flare, causing redness and burning,” says Dr. Nazarian. To protect your skin from sun-related irritation, opt for sunscreen that contains a physical blocker like zinc oxide, which sits on top of skin and deflects light — we love ORIGINS Ginzing SPF40 Energy-Boosting Tinted Moisturizer for this reason. And avoid chemical blockers like oxybenzone and avobenzone that absorb into the skin and can cause irritation.

DO: Treat Acne with Care

Typical over-the-counter breakout treatments include ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid that can be notoriously irritating. Dr. Nazarian recommends sticking to prescription lotions or creams with calming ingredients like sodium sulfacetamide which decrease irritation sensitivity. If all else fails, talk to your dermatologist about oral medications that can help you avoid topical irritants altogether.

DON’T: Believe the Hype

Just because a product is labeled “safe for sensitive skin” doesn’t mean it is. Check the label, avoiding irritants like alcohol, peppermint, menthol, and fragrance, and seek out skin-saving essences instead: aloe vera, chamomile, liquorice extract, feverfew, and oatmeal have all been proven to calm inflamed and itchy skin. Keep these ingredients in mind while purchasing make-up, too. Marsk uses all-natural mineral blends in everything from their eyeshadows to their bronzers so you can rest assured that your skin will be kept happy.

DO: Toss Your Scrubs

Add physical scrubs (think: salt and sugar) and mechanical brushes to your “nope” list — these products have the potential to “brush away skin oils and cause further irritation,” says Dr. Nazarian. To gently get rid of flakes and roughness, reach for a mild product like Pixi Glow Tonic, which gently exfoliates with glycolic acid while keeping skin hydrated and soothed with aloe, ginseng, and other botanicals.

– Natalie Higdon