Best Products for Sensitive Skin

Skin that’s quick to blush, itch, bump, or rash, or defaults often to dryness, needs careful care to stay moist, calm, and healthy. You can give your sensitive skin a boost by choosing products designed to cater to its needs.

Before You Buy

It’s a good idea to check with an expert like a dermatologist first before you add products to your skin care routine, especially if your sensitive skin symptoms can be severe. She can help figure out what your triggers are (so you can try to avoid them) and what problems you’re hoping to prevent or solve. Once you have a better idea of the cause, you can pick products that will best care for the skin you’re in.

Be label-wary. Often, products that say “for sensitive skin” don’t have official approval to do so. Instead, test products on a tiny area of skin. Watch for any reactions or redness. If your skin tingles, burns, or turns red within 72 hours, that product isn’t for you.

Cleansers

Check labels, too. Avoid products that exfoliate. They might have small, rough ingredients, either natural or manmade. (You might see terms like "microbeads.") They remove dead skin cells with friction. Skip brushes and washcloths made for the same purpose. You don’t need to exfoliate skin to get it clean. You could irritate it instead. Avoid cleansers with chemicals that exfoliate, like salicylic acid or alpha and beta hydroxy acids.

Look for products that are:

  • Not soap
  • Fragrance-free
  • Alcohol-free

Typically, the fewer ingredients in a product, the better the chances it won’t irritate your skin.

Moisturizers

Locking in moisture is key for battling dry skin, which can often be the cause of eczema flares or other sensitive skin reactions. Moisturizers that create the best barrier for skin include:

  • Petroleum jelly
  • Mineral oil
  • Ointment
  • Creams with added oil, like olive or jojoba 

Avoid dyes and fragrances in your moisturizer. Thick creams work better than liquid lotions when it comes to keeping skin’s moisture in. To soothe as you seal, pick creams with calming ingredients like:

  • Green tea polyphenols
  • Chamomile
  • Aloe

You can also look for moisturizers with ceramides, which are fatty acids, or lipids, that help your skin hold onto moisture.

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Sunscreens

Sun protection is important all year. Aside from preventing skin damage, good sunscreen can shield you from sunburn, which often makes sensitive skin problems worse. The best blocks are SPF 30 or higher, and include:

  • Zinc oxide (has complete UVA spectrum coverage), titanium dioxide, or both
  • Broad-spectrum protection

Check the ingredients for fragrance. If your sunscreen has added scent, it’s better on the shelf than on your skin.

Makeup

Whether you’re a full-face makeup wearer or just brush on a little blush, choose products that won’t bug your skin. Follow these guidelines.

Avoid:

  • Alcohol
  • Camphor
  • Dye
  • Fragrance
  • Glycolic acid
  • Lactic acid
  • Menthol
  • Sodium laurel sulfate (common in some soaps and shampoos)

Look for products labeled non-comedogenic. This label means a product won’t clog your pores and perhaps kick off a rash or reaction.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on December 04, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology: “Sensitive Skin.”

American Contact Dermatitis Society: “Patch Testing.”

American Academy of Dermatology: “6 rosacea skin care tips dermatologists give their patients,” “Dermatologists' top tips for relieving dry skin,” “Evaluate before you exfoliate,” “How to safely exfoliate at home,” “Learn the language of skin care labels,” “Proper skin care lays the foundation for successful acne and rosacea treatment,” “Saving face 101: How to customize your skin care routine with your skin type.”

National Eczema Association: “Eczema Causes and Triggers,” “Moisturizers.”

American Osteopathic College of Dermatology: “Dry Skin.”

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