Skin care for sensitive skin isn't hard; it just requires paying special care and attention to what products and ingredients you're using. Before we break down what you should or shouldn't use in your regimen, we first have to define what having sensitive skin means.

What Is Sensitive Skin?

Sensitive skin means your skin is likely to experience inflammation or irritation when exposed to even minor stimuli or irritants that most people might not expect to affect their skin. These irritants can include smoke, certain fabrics, and some beauty products.

It's usually easy to spot signs of sensitive skin. Dr. Robert Finney, a board-certified Dermatologist based in New York City, told EltaMD the clearest sign you might have sensitive skin is if you feel any burning or stinging when you apply a product. Other signs, he says, include:

  • Rashes

  • Bumps

  • Redness

  • Peeling

  • Itchiness

  • Dryness

  • Acne

If this sounds like you, you likely have sensitive skin. But no need to worry: taking care of temperamental skin isn't an impossible task.

Skin Care for Sensitive Skin Tips

1. Wash Skin with Gentle Products

Here's a simple routine you can follow if you have sensitive skin:

Washing your face is extremely important. It helps clean off the dirt, debris, makeup, and anything else that might clog your pores and lead to uneven skin texture and breakouts. For sensitive skin especially, it's important to find a product that will clean without stripping any of your skin's natural oils. Stick to milky or creamy cleansers that are gentle and hydrating.

2. Don't Exfoliate

Those with sensitive skin should stay away from any mechanical or chemical exfoliation. This means you should avoid using scrub pads and chemical peels. You'll also want to avoid any harsh exfoliating ingredients such as alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids.

Other ingredients to avoid include retinol and benzoyl peroxide, as they're known to be drying to the skin. Dr. Finney also notes that using too much hyaluronic acid can be irritating for some people.

Instead, use gentle cleansers and moisturizers that will help combat redness and peeling. If you want to use an exfoliating product, look for one that contains poly-hydroxy acid, as that will gently exfoliate and hydrate the skin. Choosing products labeled as fragrance-, paraben-, and preservative-free is an added bonus; those are non-comedogenic and won't clog pores or lead to breakouts.

3. Use Moisturizing and Anti-Inflammatory Products

The best ingredients to look for are ones that are moisturizing and anti-inflammatory. As Dr. Finney explains, hydrating ingredients include ceramides, glycerin, and dimethicone. To help combat inflammation, he recommends products with niacinamide. EltaMD Skin Recovery System toner, serum, and moisturizer also help repair, renew, and protect skin while reducing redness caused by barrier damage and inflammation.

4. Always Use Sunscreen

Regardless of your skin type, you should be using an SPF 30+ broad-spectrum sunscreen daily. Dr. Finney recommends EltaMD UV Daily Broad-Spectrum SPF 40 to help gently protect your sensitive skin from further damage from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays.

If your skin is still reacting harshly after these tips, schedule an appointment with a Dermatologist. As your top resource for all things skin, they'll know exactly how to create the best routine for you.


  • Audrey Noble

    Audrey Noble is a New York City-based reporter specializing in features, celebrity profiles, and beauty topics. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Harper's BAZAAR, Allure, Vanity Fair, Refinery29, and more. She is a University of Southern California alumna with bachelor's degrees in print journalism and creative writing.

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