Cleansing is the most important step in any skin care routine, as it removes excess oil and dirt while ideally rehydrating the skin. Unfortunately, for sensitive skin, this isn’t always the case. In fact, it’s often far from it, as many cleansers on the market are simply too harsh, or filled with unnecessary chemicals and fragrances that can cause adverse reactions. Find out in this article from The Dermo Lab and in collaboration with the dermatologist Dr. Tara Bardawil why your skin becomes sensitive, what to avoid in your skin care routine and how to choose the best cleanser for sensitive skin.
What is sensitive skin?
According to Dr. Tara Bardawil, sensitive skin is not a disease; rather, it is a type of skin that reacts easily, more than usual, or is a symptom of a skin condition. Sensitive skin is generally more reactive to soaps, detergents, dyes, and fragrances in topical products.
She explains that the skin depends on multiple elements such as the hydrolipidic film (water, fatty acids, lipids), pH, and enzymatic activity to protect itself and stay healthy. Sensitive skin has a compromised skin barrier, water loss, reactive nerve fibers, and inflammation, making it more prone to irritation.
What are the reasons for skin sensitivity?
Dr. Tara Bardawil highlights the causes of sensitive skin:
- Dry or damaged skin that can no longer protect itself (water and/or oil loss).
- Excessive exposure to environmental factors that are harmful to the skin.
- Genetic factors, age, gender, and race differences in skin sensitivity may play a role but are less well defined.
- Medical conditions include eczema (atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis), rosacea, urticaria (hives), and psoriasis.
There are also triggering/exacerbating factors such as:
- Sudden changes in temperature
- Spicy foods, alcohol
- Topical products
- Detergents, fabrics, dyes, chemicals, preservatives
- Psychological factors: anger, intense emotions, stress, lack of sleep.
It is important to have your skin examined by a dermatologist to determine if you have sensitive skin or if your skin problem has an underlying cause.
Sensitive skin may have the following symptoms:
- Red, swollen skin
- Rash or hives
- Dry skin that may crack, blister or bleed
- Patches of dry skin that are hard and leathery to the touch.
How to choose the best cleanser for sensitive skin?
Beyond simply removing dirt, cleansing plays an important role in balancing and strengthening the skin and improving the absorption of skin care ingredients. For sensitive skin, in particular, choosing the right cleanser is crucial. Whether your sensitive skin is dry, normal, or combination, learning how to properly cleanse it is the first important step toward a calm, comfortable complexion. So let’s get started.
Sensitive skin has impaired barrier function, making it more susceptible to irritation from pollutants and allergens. The right cleanser will gently remove these impurities while avoiding harsh, dehydrating ingredients. However, not all sensitive skin is the same, and each skin type will benefit from a different formulation.
Here are some simple ways to make your sensitive skin look and feel great:
- Keep it cool
Hot and cold temperatures can have a negative effect on sensitive skin. When cleansing your skin, avoid extreme temperatures. Use lukewarm water to clean your face. In the winter, try to protect your face from the extreme cold by moisturizing it well and protecting exposed skin with hats and scarves.
- Be gentle, not abrasive
Exfoliation is essential for all skin types; even the most sensitive skin can benefit from the removal of dead skin cells from the surface of the skin and the deep cleaning of its pores. However, for sensitive skin, an aggressive scrub can trigger irritation and sensitivity, so it’s best to use gentle products. Avoid scrubs that are gritty and contain ingredients such as crystals, sugars, and salts. Instead, choose products formulated with enzymes or fruit acids that gently remove dead skin from the skin’s surface.
- Avoid perfumes and alcohol
Many skin care products smell amazing and contain fragrances. While this may smell good, it’s not compatible with your skin. Instead, look for a gentle facial cleanser for sensitive skin formulated without fragrance and alcohol.
- Use soothing cleansers
Gentle cleansers are important for sensitive skin. While other skin types may use stricter formulas to remove oil from the skin’s surface, your sensitive skin does not benefit from these types of cleansers. Dr. Tara Bardawil advises looking for products that contain the following ingredients that maintain and nourish the skin barrier:
- Hyaluronic acid
- Fatty acids
- Other anti-inflammatory/antioxidant components
She also recommends avoiding products containing:
- Antibacterial ingredients
- Astringents or harsh exfoliants
- Retinoids or alpha hydroxy acids
Here’s our list of cleansers that treat your skin right while gently washing away dirt, makeup, and oil. They remove dirt, oil, and makeup without harsh scrubbing, leaving skin perfectly clean, hydrated, and refreshed without over-drying.
For oily and acne-prone skin:
Eau Thermale Avène Cleanance Cleansing Gel
For dry skin:
Eau Thermale Avène TriXéra Nutrition Nutri-Fluid Cleansing Gel
For normal skin:
Eau Thermale Avène Micellar Lotion
- Protect your skin from the sun
Sunscreen is essential for all skin types, including, of course, sensitive skin. Be careful about the products you use to protect your skin from the sun, as some sunscreen formulas can potentially irritate your skin.
Always look for a broad-spectrum product with an SPF of at least 15; plan to go higher depending on your skin color or how easily it reacts to sun exposure. Sensitive skin needs daily sun protection to prevent premature aging and damage from sun exposure.
Look for non-comedogenic and fragrance-free SPFs, which are less likely to upset your skin. We recommend the following products:
For normal to combination skin:
Eau Thermale Avène Very High Protection Fluid SPF 50+
For dry skin:
Eau Thermale Avène Very High Protection Cream SPF50+
In general, sensitive skin is not a sign of a serious skin condition. You may be more sensitive to products that come in contact with the skin.
Avoiding harsh chemicals, fragrances and other irritating ingredients in skin care products can help reduce and eliminate symptoms. Using the best gentle cleansers for sensitive skin can help soothe rashes or minimize people’s reactions to these products.
Anyone whose symptoms persist or worsen should see a doctor or dermatologist for testing. There may be an underlying condition or allergy that is causing the reaction. Doctors may also be able to recommend other treatments.