Cleansing is the first and most essential step in any skin care routine, but if your skin is on the sensitive side, then you know that choosing the right face wash can be tricky. If you have sensitive or highly reactive skin—easily irritated by chemicals and fragrances, or prone to redness, rashes and irritation—it’s important to steer clear of harsh ingredients and opt for gentler products and methods.
What Is Sensitive Skin?
“Sensitive skin is defined as the occurrence of unpleasant sensations (burning, itching and redness) when the skin is exposed to something that generally should not cause such sensations,” says Dr. Viseslav Tonkovic-Capin, a dermatologist in Kansas City.
While sensitive skin can often react to certain ingredients in beauty products, environmental factors, stress levels, lifestyle habits and dietary changes are also known to trigger irritation. “The reaction is genetically programmed. The biggest concerns for this skin type always affect the skin from head to toe—not just the face. The skin is either too dry, too oily, heavy in pores or has a variation in color and tone that is not uniform,” explains Dr. Harold Lancer, founder of Lancer Skincare.
What Ingredients to Look for and Avoid
When it comes to choosing the best ingredients and formulas for sensitive skin, keeping things simple without compromising effectiveness is key. “Avoid complex formulas with ingredients that you aren’t familiar with. There should only be one to three hero ingredients included and the rest should be basics like glycerin, water, etc.,” says Joshua Ross, a celebrity aesthetician at SkinLab in Los Angeles. However, it doesn’t stop at figuring out which ingredients work best for your skin; it’s also just as important to consider the quality and purity of these ingredients and products. “You don’t just want hyaluronic acid—you want to make sure it is high-quality hyaluronic acid,” Ross adds.
On the other hand, sensitive skin types should steer clear of ingredients that can often be harsh on skin such as fragrances, parabens, alcohol, sulfates and phthalates. Some active ingredients that are typically tolerated by other skin types must also be avoided if you have highly reactive skin. These include retinol, hydroquinone and certain exfoliating acids.
Instead, opt for ingredients and formulas that improve the skin’s natural barrier and soothe irritation while keeping it moisturized and hydrated, like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and ceramides. “People with sensitive skin should be looking for [ingredients with] anti-inflammatory properties [such as azelaic acid and panthenol]. You want to reach for formulations that strengthen the skin, balance it and encourage it to act optimally,” says Young Lin, a cosmetic researcher and skin care expert.
How to Care for Sensitive Skin
“Using fewer products for those who have sensitive skin is the best way to go,” says Dr. Michele Green, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “Find a gentle cleanser that’s not harsh on the skin and a moisturizer that works for your skin. Lastly, always make sure to wear sunscreen to protect your skin from sun damage. Be very cautious when exfoliating—no more than once a week as it can be very harsh and irritating on the skin.”
As a general rule, always perform a patch test before introducing a new product into your skin care routine. “Emulate the recommended use of a product on your inner forearm skin for seven days. If it does not cause irritation or any problem, then it is probably safe to use,” explains Dr. Tonkovic-Capin.
Here are some tips to remember when caring for sensitive skin:
- Wash your face with pleasantly warm to cool water. “Too cold, and it will not clean well. Too warm, and it will strip natural moisturizers from your skin, causing skin dryness and irritation,” explains Dr. Tonkovic-Capin.
- Use your hands instead of exfoliating cloths. “It’s best to use your fingers because it’ll be gentler to the touch. Avoid using an exfoliating cloth because it can be really harsh on the skin and can cause irritation and redness. As for skin-cleansing devices, if you feel that your skin can handle it, then by all means go for it. Just be sure the brush is gentle and not too rough,” suggests Dr. Green.
- Keep face-cleansing to a minimum. “Sensitive skin should not be washed more than once daily. Preferably only before sleep to wash off any toxins and pollutants that have accumulated during the day,” says Dr. Tonkovic-Capin.
Best Cleansers and Face Washes for Sensitive Skin
Ready to choose your cleanser? Here are our top picks for the best face cleansers for sensitive skin.
The post 9 Best Cleansers for Skin That’s Feeling Sensitive first appeared on Dermstore Blog.