Whether sensitive skin has been a life-long struggle or a recent development, those who suffer from too-common skin irritation know that one wrong move is all it takes to trigger a reaction. While you may already follow the basic rules of caring for delicate skin (and purged your vanity of any and all fragranced products), there may be a few less-obvious tips that you’ve overlooked. We asked leading experts to reveal five everyday habits that could be worsening your sensitive skin.
Everyone sees dry, flaky patches from time to time, but sensitive skin can be tipped into the scaly, irritated territory far more easily. But unlike their normal-skin counterparts, those with sensitive skin should not reach for the exfoliator. “For anyone with sensitive skin, attempting to exfoliate dry patches—whether by manually scrubbing or using a chemical—will just make it worse,” says New York dermatologist Heidi Waldorf, MD. “Exfoliating can strip your skin of its oils and weaken your skin’s natural barrier, leading to uncomfortable dryness, redness and itching. Instead, the first step is to moisturize, not scrub. Use a product with humectants like glycerin that pull moisture into the outer layers of skin from the atmosphere.”
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2. Washing With Soap
Those with sensitive skin already have a weakened skin barrier, and washing with soap can further strip the proteins and lipids that make up the brick and mortar of the outer layer of skin, making it even more vulnerable to reaction. Dr. Waldorf recommends switching to a gentle, non-soap cleanser. “Ideally one with ingredients like oils that also help protect and replenish,” she says.
3. Not Moisturizing Your Upper Eyelids
Not many people are in the habit of moisturizing their top eyelids, but for those who have sensitive skin, this could attribute to more irritation in the area.
“Makeup, particularly long-wearing makeup, is frequently drying,” explains Dr. Waldorf. “This can lead to irritation and sensitivity around the eyes. Make sure you apply a gentle moisturizer in the morning before putting on eye shadow. Creams tend to be best because they’re less likely to run into your eyes.”
4. Getting the Wrong Facials
Many women turn to facials to try to calm their complexion, but a facial that uses a lot of products can actually make it worse. Instead, celebrity aesthetician Joanna Vargas recommends trying an LED treatment. “LED light is perfect for sensitive skin. It can thicken the skin, strengthen capillary walls to reduce redness and is an anti-inflammatory, so it keeps the skin calm and healthy,” she says.
5. Using Too Many Active Ingredients
Many common active ingredients found in skin care, such as acids, can cause reactions. “Anything billed as anti-aging can potentially irritate,” says Chevy Chase, MD, dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi, MD. “The first thing to do is to get your skin as calm as possible with gentle and hydrating moisturizers, and then introduce active products slowly, one at a time. There are some actives that those with sensitive skin can tolerate, but it’s often a case of individual trial and error.”
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