Foolproof Ways Never to Have a Skin Reaction Again

Beauty 101: Your skin care and makeup regimens are supposed to make your complexion look better. But, if you’re like many women (some surveys say up to 50 percent), the daily ritual of cleansing, moisturizing, exfoliating and treating your skin is leaving behind redness, itchiness, tightness and rashes instead of its desired effect. For those whose skin is of a more delicate variety, a new set of rules apply. We tapped five leading experts for their best advice on how to never have a skin reaction again.

Avoid Certain Makeup Colors
Some ingredients used in makeup—specifically eye shadow—are more prone to leaving skin irritated. Common additives such as talc, certain dyes and mica (which give shimmer to shadow) are less tolerated by sensitive skin. “Blue and purple colors, in particular, are more likely to trigger an allergic reaction,” says San Antonio dermatologist Vivian Bucay, MD.

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Steer Clear of the Following Ingredients
Any ingredient or product with a drying effect—think benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, soaps or alcohols—is almost always a surefire way to trigger a red and angry reaction. Fragrances added to products, specifically citrus, mint and floral, are some of the biggest culprits that can make skin itchy and inflamed. As a general rule, Boston dermatologist Emily Wise, MD, advises that those with sensitive skin remember: “No fragrances, no dyes, no acids, no beads.” And when applying perfume, take care to spray it on your clothes instead of directly on your skin.

Never Rub or Scrub
Those with sensitive skin already suffer form a weakened skin barrier, and rubbing or scrubbing—a form of physical exfoliation—can easily break down the delicate layer even more. “Always pat your skin dry after washing,” says Dr. Wise. Celebrity aesthetician Joanna Vargas advises taking the precaution a step further: “Use paper towels to pat dry your face after cleansing to avoid irritating your skin with bacteria from a bath towel."

Moisturize More
It’s not just using the wrong products that can trigger a reaction. "Skin can break down and get inflamed from dryness alone," says New York dermatologist, Heidi Waldorf, MD. “Dry skin splits and doesn’t turn over normally, causing it to become even more easily irritated by anything. Always make sure you hydrate at least twice daily with something ‘bland’—no acids or retinoid in the moisturizer.”

Wear Physical Sunscreen
The sun hurts all skin—sensitive or not, but those who suffer from skin reactions need to be extra diligent about sun protection. Chevy Chase, MD, dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, advises getting into the daily habit of wearing a hat and sunscreen to avoid sun damage and further skin irritation. One important thing to note: “When it comes to sunscreens, use only zinc or titanium dioxide,” says the doctor.

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