If you have sensitive skin, it may be time to get acquainted with the fine print on the back of your favourite cleanser, moisturiser, or serum. We are referring, of course, to the ever so essential and underappreciated ingredient list. Skincare enthusiasts will let you know that not all ingredients for sensitive skin are created equally.
What is sensitive skin?
It may come as a surprise, but “sensitive skin” is not actually a medical diagnosis. It is an umbrella term covering everyone with skin that has a reduced tolerance for cosmetics and other personal care products. Meaning, people with skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, or dermatitis may not tolerate certain known irritants; resulting in stinging, itching or burning.
Quick tips for sensitive skin types
- Avoid fragrances: Although lovely to smell, scented products can have adverse effects on our skin. Fragrances consist of volatile chemicals which may have a sensitising and irritating effect on the skin.
- Stay away from alcohol: Topically applied ethanol (alcohol) works by breaking down the skin’s barrier, acting as a skin penetration enhancer. This disruption to the skin’s barrier can lead to dehydration and highly irritating contact dermatitis for people with sensitive skin.
- Skip the hot water: When it comes to sensitive skin self care routine, lukewarm water is key. We often think of hot water as the ultimate deep cleansing agent, but hot water can be very drying and irritating for those with sensitive skin.
The best ingredients for sensitive skin
Let’s get to the good stuff! Knowing what works for your sensitive skin can be an exhausting period of trial and error. In a sea of lofty claims and promising products, knowing your ingredients is the only way to have any assurances that your skincare will work for you.
Niacinamide is a biologically active form of Vitamin B3 that improves skin barrier function. This powerful ingredient works by increasing the skin’s production of ceramides, minimising visible redness and decreasing dehydration. But that’s not all; niacinamide also has anti-inflammatory properties making it a great gentle acne combating option.
When you think of a gentle remedy for itchy and irritated skin, you are likely to think of colloidal oatmeal. When applied topically, this ingredient reduces symptoms of sensitive skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema by restoring the skin’s natural barrier.
Glycerin is what makes most of our favourite moisturisers smooth and slippery. This effective humectant works by pulling moisture from the air and pushing it into our skin – leaving sensitive skin buoyant and moisturised.
Hyaluronic Acid, like glycerin, works by drawing moisture from the air. This extremely hydrophilic ingredient can retain up to 1000 times its weight in water, delivering that moisture straight to the skin. This incredibly gentle skincare go-to is an essential partner to other skincare actives, helping to increase their potency – think vitamin C.
This highly emollient and gentle ingredient calms skin through it’s anti-inflammatory properties, known to reduce visible redness and swelling. Shea butter is an effective skin softening and soothing ingredient due to its high concentration of fatty acids.
While licorice root is less common on the list of ingredients for sensitive skin, it is an effective player in any skincare lineup. The antioxidants contained in this plant extract are strong combatants against free radicals and environmental skin stressors. One key component, glycyrrhizin, is a proven treatment for eczema and other chronic skin conditions.
Known as the sensitive skin alternative for retinol, bakuchiol is a new but notable addition to our list. Like retinol, it reduces the appearance of wrinkles, enlarged pores and fine lines, while improving the skin’s firmness. Unlike conventional retinol products, bakuchiol will not irritate most skin types; it contains properties that even soothe the skin.
Our skin and skin types are as diverse as we are; there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for everybody. Let’s be honest; our skincare journey is a lifelong pursuit; as we mature, our needs change. Doing your due diligence to learn what key ingredients work best for your skin will save you time and money in the long run.