Our best moisturizer for sensitive skin
If you have sensitive skin, chances are you already know it and have been dealing with it for your whole life. Sensitive skin reacts easily to ingredients, so you may have spent much of your beauty and skin care time worrying about skin redness or skin irritation and avoiding the spicy foods that can sometimes cause sensitive skin flare-ups. But between advances in skin care and a proper skin care regimen, it’s gotten easier than ever to take care of sensitive skin. The silver lining of having sensitive skin is that it forces you to pay extra attention to the way you treat your skin. For sensitive skin types, scouring skin care ingredient labels should become a way of life. A little bit of education about ingredients, potential skin irritants, and what works best for your skin can go a long way in helping sensitive skin appear healthy-looking. Ahead, learn how to evaluate if you have sensitive skin, discover how to take care of your skin type, and follow through with a complete customized skin care routine for sensitive skin.
How to Know If You Have Sensitive Skin
Since sensitive skin has very special and personal needs, it’s important to know for sure if sensitive is your skin type before adopting a sensitive skin-focused skin care routine. Garnier consulting dermatologist Dr. Diane Madfes breaks down the basics of a sensitive skin determination. “Sensitive skin feels dry and flaky but most often people complain about redness,” says Dr. Madfes. “Some product formulas can irritate sensitive skin. Sensitive skin occurs from a disruption on the skin barrier.” According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), “sensitive skin may sting or burn after product use.” If most skin care products you place on your face cause skin redness, or you find your skin burning after product use more often than not, you may have sensitive skin.
Aside from monitoring the signs in your everyday skin care routine, another way to test for sensitive skin is simply to brush your fingers with pressure along the skin. If the skin turns red, you may have sensitive skin. The good news? Sensitive skin is more rare than you might think. Many skin types tend to turn red in the winter, for example, or can be irritated by strong skin care ingredients like retinol. To be absolutely sure that your sensitive skin evaluation is accurate, follow up with a dermatologist who can analyze your skin type.
Once you’ve confirmed that you have sensitive skin, it’s important to incorporate the right skin care habits into your daily life.
Skin Care Routine for Sensitive Skin
Sensitive skin requires a more nuanced level of attention and some TLC than other skin types. The best way to take care of sensitive skin is with a skin care the-best-skin-care-routine-for-sensitive-skin customized to your sensitive skin and any specific skin concerns you may have.
Sensitive skin types may benefit from only cleansing skin once a day. A healthy moisture barrier should be a high priority for sensitive skin types, and the additional dryness brought on by cleaning your face twice daily may affect the moisture barrier. If you do prefer to cleanse twice, opt for a no-rinse cleanser like Micellar Cleansing Water which lifts makeup, dirt and impurities from skin without the drying effects of water. When you need to remove makeup, try an on-the-go makeup wipe like Garnier Clean+ Soothing Towelettes for Sensitive Skin, which is infused with calming plant extract and Vitamin E to moisturize skin while it cleanses.
Sensitive skin types may also want to try a gentle cleanser that’s formulated specifically for sensitive skin, aka without fragrance, oil, soap, parabens, sulfates, or alcohol. We like Garnier The Gentle Sulfate-Free Cleanser which is formulated with glycerin to keep skin soft yet clean. “Wet your face with lukewarm water and use your fingertips to apply cleanser,” directs the AAD. “Using a washcloth, mesh sponge, or anything other than your fingertips can irritate your skin.” The best way to find a face cleansing regimen that works for you is by testing gentle skin care products and care plans — and sticking with the one that works best. For sensitive skin types, consistency can help keep skin looking and feeling healthy. According to the AAD, it’s best to “resist the temptation to scrub your skin because scrubbing irritates the skin.”
After cleansing, follow up with a face moisturizer formulated for skin types that include sensitive skin. Look for a moisturizer with SPF to help protect skin against sun damage, dark spots, and aging, all in addition to nourishing your skin. The Mayo Clinic offers a helpful skin care tip when choosing the best moisturizer for your sensitive skin: “Find a moisturizer that fits your skin type and makes your skin look and feel soft. You may need to try several brands with varying ingredients before you find one you like.”
If you have a sensitive skin care routine down, learn what to avoid and how to test skin care products to make sure you’re achieving the best results for your skin. A few lifestyle changes — like paying extra care when reading skin care ingredient labels — can go a long way in finding the right sensitive skin products for you.
How to Take Care of Sensitive Skin
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), a cream-based moisturizer can “help prevent or reduce irritation.” It’s important to consider the ingredients in your skin care routine. According to the AAD, “active ingredients found in skin care products penetrate more deeply into damp skin (which can often be beneficial in normal skin), but this can cause irritation in individuals with sensitive skin.” Unlike the popular skin care hack you may have read in the past, sensitive skin types should make sure skin is completely dry before applying any skin care products.
The AAD continues with words of advice for specific skin care ingredients. “Products containing acids, such as lipoic acid, glycolic acid and salicylic acid, may be irritating to sensitive skin. For that reason, caution must be taken with any skin care product that contains these types of active ingredients.” Pay attention to products that contain simple alcohols like isopropyl or ethanol. These ingredients show up in skin care to help a product dry quickly on your skin. But for sensitive skin types, these types of skin care products may weaken the skin’s moisture barrier. The AAD also recommends avoiding deodorant soaps, which may be too harsh on sensitive skin and strip away healthy natural oils on your face. One way to choose if an ingredient is right for you is with the patch test. Take the product you’d like to use on your face and swipe it onto a dime-sized section on the underside of your arm. Check the area in 24 hours. If no irritation has occurred, it’s more likely that the product will also be safe to use on your face.
Sensitive skin types may also want to make exfoliation a once a week skin care step. It’s important to slough off dead skin cells from the surface of skin to help stimulate surface skin cell turnover and reveal its natural skin glow. But daily or semi-weekly exfoliation may be too abrasive for sensitive skin types. Try to avoid any harsh rubbing, which can bring out skin redness or skin irritation. Sensitive skin types may also want to skip powerful exfoliating tools like cleansing brushes or abrasive face scrubs in favor of a gentler face exfoliation approach.
Once you know which ingredients can trigger irritations or reactions in your skin, keep a running list of what to avoid when choosing skin care products. Since sensitive skin varies from person to person, it’s beneficial to remember what works for you. When shopping, read ingredient labels to be sure you’re buying a product that will truly help your skin. Consistency is key for sensitive skin. Once you find a skin care product line that works for you, look for other options in the same range. Just be sure not to overload on products — often sensitive skin only needs a once daily facial cleanse and a moisturizer to look its best. (Another silver lining for sensitive skin types.)
Moisturizer is a key ingredient in any skin care routine, and especially crucial for sensitive skin types who often use fewer products.
Our Best Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin
“Moisturizers can protect sensitive skin, improve skin tone and texture, and mask imperfections,” says the Mayo Clinic. Since sensitive skin types are often concerned about avoiding skin irritation, you may want to choose a moisturizer that’s as simple as possible. “Sensitive skin is susceptible to skin irritations, redness, itching or rashes,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “Look for a moisturizer formulated with soothing ingredients, such as chamomile or aloe, and doesn't contain potential allergens, such as fragrances or dyes. Also, avoid skin care products containing acids, which can irritate sensitive skin.”
Make sure to double check ingredient labels for any personal known potential irritants. “If you have sensitive skin, use mild, ‘fragrance free’ products, as products containing fragrances can leave skin feeling irritated or dry,” says the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). “However, beware of products labeled ‘unscented,’ as many of these contain fragrances that can still irritate your skin.” Fragrance and artificially colored products may act as irritants on your skin.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Sensitive skin may require a gentle soothing moisturizer that is free from fragrances and preservatives.” Whether you already know that fragrance or alcohol are irritating to you or just want to ward off any potential issues, one solution is to choose a fragrance-free moisturizer. We like Garnier Moisture Rescue Actively Hydrating Daily Lotion Fragrance Free SPF 15, which is also formulated with the broad spectrum sun protection you should be applying as part of your skin care routine on a daily basis. The non-comedogenic moisturizer formula means it’s created to avoid clogging pores, while glycerin helps hydrate skin.
Apply moisturizer twice a day; first after cleansing your face in the morning and secondly at night before bed. The AAD also offers a helpful tip for when and how to apply moisturizer: “Apply moisturizer if your skin is dry or itchy. Be gentle when applying any cream around your eyes so you do not pull too hard on this delicate skin.” You may want a separate eye cream — we like Garnier Miracle Anti-Fatigue Eye Gel Cream, which contains moisturizing hyaluronic acid and energizing caffeine to help improve the appearance of under eyes.
With a gentle facial cleanser, the right face moisturizer, and a lifestyle that keeps your skin type in mind, sensitive skin is easily manageable. Even better, paying attention to what you put on your skin will make you more educated about not just skin care and beauty products, but about your own health and needs.