Balanced thoughts on sensitive skin

The basic rules for sensitive skin care

The dos and don’ts of looking after sensitive skin – 20 tips to help you care for your sensitive skin type

If you are among the 6 out
of 10 people who report
experiencing sensitive skin
issues, you will know how
hard it is to keep your skin
on an even keel and to find
products which do not cause
soreness or flare-ups. Our
20 top tips will help you
navigate the cosmetics
counters and keep your skin
in its best possible shape.

1. Avoid skincare and make-up products with perfume in them
Fragrance, perfume or essential oils are THE major causes of skin irritation.
Products most likely to cause skin irritation are those containing perfume,
fragrance or essential oils. It is worth noting that many products claim to be
unscented or unperfumed but do contain a masking fragrance which covers the
natural smell of the product if this is deemed unpleasant!

2. Look for products containing the fewest ingredients

The more ingredients contained in a product, the more chance you may
experience a reaction and the less chance you have of isolating what may be the
problem ingredient(s). Less is definitely more!

3. Make sure there IS a list of ingredients

By law, products are required to list ingredients so make sure you know what is
in your products before you buy them. There are ranges which can be bought
online which do not disclose what is in their products. These are to be avoided!

4. Streamline your beauty regime

Keep the number of products you use to a minimum, particularly make-up. While
innovations or trends such as the current focus on contouring may call for a
whole host of highlighters, concealers and primers, these can spell disaster for
sensitive skins. Keep things simple!

5. Don’t assume ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ products are best

This is key for sensitive skins. Just as people can be allergic to pollen or nuts
(naturally occurring substances), they can also be sensitive to fruit or herbal
extracts or oils and other plant derived materials and perfume/oils.
Natural/organic products tend to contain essential oils and extracts which are
highly perfumed too.

6. Don’t believe the ‘hype’

The headlines that scream about the chemicals or toxins in your bathroom
cabinet and beauty products are rarely based on scientific, proven research. Don’t
ditch a product that is working for you because you read that one of its
ingredients is ‘deadly’ and don’t stop buying a product that may suit you because
it contains one of these demonised ingredients. If the ingredients/product are not
banned, they are likely to be safe, safer in fact than new, untested ingredients. Do
your own research!

7. Don’t let your skin get dry

This is easier said than done, we appreciate, as dry skin and sensitivity often go
hand in hand. Dry skin is vulnerable skin so the more you can do to keep it
moisturised, the better!

8. Always patch test products

Try out a little of the product behind your ear or inside your elbow (the latter is
not usually the best guide as many people can use products quite safely on their
bodies which cause reactions on their faces). Wait for at least 24 hours to ensure
your skin has not reacted. Patience is key!

9. Try new products individually

Don’t try new products at the same time you are using other products as you may
not be able to isolate the cause of a reaction if one occurs. Try each new one
separately and with at least 24 hours between them. It may be painful to go a day
without wearing make-up or using a usual product but if it prevents a flare-up,
it’s worth it!

10. Keep a notebook

When you are trying new products, make notes as to how your skin reacts. Note
the brand and precise product name accurately. You may think you will
remember each one but, further down the line, you will be standing in front of the
cosmetics shelves thinking ‘did i try that one before’?

11. Keep the packaging or take photos of the ingredients listings

This is helpful if you react to a brand/product you have always used as it enables
you to see if the formulation has changed or if you have unfortunately developed
a sensitivity. It can be surprising how often formulations change without any

12. Keep your stocks up

A lament we often hear when formulations are changed or a product is
discontinued is ‘why didn’t I buy more’. If you rely on one or two products, buy
extras – check the expiry date – and keep in a cool place. When you come to use
the reserve product, buy another, checking ingredients are the same before you
do so. If you find they are not, you at least have your reserve product to fall back

13. Spray perfume on your clothes not your skin

If you really can’t bear to be without perfume, spray just a tiny amount onto
clothes in areas which are unlikely to come into contact with skin.

14. Avoid using too much water on your skin
Try to avoid foaming cleansers and soaps as these are too drying for sensitive
skin. Use a cream cleanser and, if you can tolerate one, a gentle toning lotion.

15. Avoid perfumed shampoos

Water running down your face and into your eyes containing perfumed shampoo
or conditioning products can irritate and dry skin and eyes.

16. Be gentle.

Try not to rub and pull and avoid exfoliators or scrubs which are too abrasive for
sensitive skin. A soft facial tissue / cotton wool pad is enough to remove dead
cells and give skin a lift. Use gentle upward sweeping motions when cleansing
and pat or press moisturiser very gently into the skin.

17. Try to avoid extremes of temperature

Quite apart from the obvious keeping skin out of – or protected when in – the sun,
try to avoid super hot baths or showers and going from very cold to hot
temperatures or vice versa.

18.Ask yourself if you really need to try something

New products and innovations sound exciting and it is human nature to want to
try them. Most claims, however, are just marketing and rarely live up to the

19. Check out your dressing table

Try and make sure all lotions, potions and make-up are in date, are kept out of
sunlight or protected from extremes of temperature and that your make-up
brushes and applicators are clean. Sensitive skin does not need to have to fight

20. Don’t suffer in silence: check out your symptoms

Many people put their red, easily flushed skin down to heat or alcohol or
hormones but it could be due to rosacea for which various treatments are
available to control (there is not a ‘cure’ at this moment in time) symptoms and
improve the look and feel of your skin. Likewise with eczema.

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