The Best Skin Care Routine for Sensitive Skin
Reduce Fine Lines and Wrinkles
When you're dealing with sensitive skin that reacts to anything and everything, many of the more popular youth-boosting ingredients can be culprits as well. To turn back the clock without the risk of wreaking havoc on your complexion, pick anti-agers that contain peptides, which are well-tolerated by most people, advises Joshua Zeichner, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. These proteins typically work by improving communication between cells to help skin repair itself (which helps you look younger). Find them in Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum ($14; target.com). (We also suggest These Superfoods That Keep You Looking Young.)
Seek out sulfur—it treats redness, but won't irritate your skin like other acne-fighting ingredients can, says Emmy Graber, MD, President of the Dermatology Institute of Boston. (Fair warning, it doesn't smell great, but that's a small price to pay for clear skin.) Look for it in a cleansing bar or spot treatment, she adds. One to try: Kate Somerville EradiKate Acne Treatment ($24; sephora.com). (Related: How to Get Rid of Acne Overnight.)
Keep Skin Healthy and Hydrated
Keeping your complexion well-moisturized is key when it comes to reducing the likelihood of irritation. People with sensitive skin tend to have a compromised skin barrier, meaning more irritants can penetrate and get into your skin. You can easily boost this barrier by using moisturizers that contain skin-strengthening ceramides, says Kavita Mariwalla, M.D., New York-based dermatologist. Be sure to choose a hydrator that's also labeled fragrance-free; many are highly scented, and fragrance is one of the most common causes of skin aggravation. Our pick: CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM ($11; drugstore.com).
Get a Glow
Sloughing and sensitive skin aren't always the best pairing—overscrubing can seriously compromise the aforementioned skin barrier and leave you even more prone to irritation and redness. The best idea is to take the DIY route and make your own scrub, advises Mariwalla. Combine two tablespoons of baking soda with one tablespoon of a creamy, non-soap cleanser (like Cetaphil) until it makes a thick paste, then rub it gently on your skin before rinsing. "This is a super gentle way to exfoliate, and, by making your own product, you know that it won't contain any potentially irritating ingredients like parabens or fragrance," says Mariwalla.
Fade Sun Spots
Pick up a treatment product that contains niacinamide, like Paula's Choice Resist Pure Radiance Skin Brightening Treatment ($32; paulaschoice.com). "The vitamin B derivative has multiple anti-aging effects, including a brightening benefit," says Zeichner. "Because it's also naturally anti-inflammatory, it's especially ideal for sensitive skin."
Quick fix: It sounds simple, but a quick spritz of cold water can work wonders to help instantly tamp down flushing, says Zeichner. "The cold temperature on the skin constricts the blood vessels, minimizing the look of redness." For an added benefit, use one of the thermal spring waters on the market; they contain anti-inflammatory minerals, like selenium, to further boost the soothing effects. Try Avène Thermal Spring Water ($14; dermstore.com). This is a good option for larger areas of redness, but if you're dealing with a smaller area of concern, try applying a few drops of Visine directly on the skin, says Mariwalla (it also constricts blood vessels).
Long-term solution: The best way to minimize irritation is to minimize the number of potential irritants your skin is exposed to. "Stick with products that contain no more than ten ingredients, and try to use formulas that are multi-tasking, so that one product can take the place of many," says Mariwalla. Think BB creams, which can double as both makeup and skincare, or micellar waters, which do the job of both makeup remover and cleanser (and are extremely gentle, to boot). Our go-to: Simple Micellar Cleansing Water ($8; cvs.com).