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If you feel like you’re constantly struggling to soothe skin issues, you’re not alone: Dermatologists report seeing an increase in skin complaints with age. Things is, not all sensitive skin types are created equal — nor should they be treated the same. Whether yours is reactive, blotchy, breakout-prone or tight and dry, learn how uncover your healthiest complexion ever here.
Your skin is… blotchy and bumpy
If your complexion is characterized by blotchiness, blood vessels, bumps and enlarged oil glands, then you likely have rosacea. The chronic condition occurs when blood vessels swell and draw blood closer to the surface, causing flushing and rough texture. Symptoms usually appear after the age of 30 and affect around 16 million Americans, according to the National Rosacea Society. Specific triggers differ for everyone, but some common ones include stress, cold weather, wind, spicy foods, and the use of certain products.
The good news: Proper care can help keep flare-ups in check. Temper sensitivity with anti-inflammatory skin-soothers like feverfew, licorice, algae and colloidal oatmeal. We like Sevani Advanced Complexion Corrector ($39 in the shop), a lightweight mist that corrects redness, inflammation and enlarged pores. Stop using soapy cleansers, abrasive scrubs and cleansing brushes, and instead opt for a mild soap-free wash. A couple of times a week consider using a gentle BHA or AHA exfoliator to remove dead skin buildup and smooth its texture. Sevani Rapid Renewal Resurfacing Cream ($68 in the shop) uses glycolic acid, which also demonstrates anti-inflammatory and skin-clearing effects, as well as soothing algae and licorice.
Finally, daily application of sunscreen is a must, as UV exposure breaks down the collagen around blood vessels and exacerbates redness. To avoid irritation, choose one with mineral blocks zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, like Suntegrity 5-in-1 Natural Moisturizing Tinted Face Sunscreen ($45 in the shop). Available in four shades, it will cover any redness or blotchiness.
Your skin is… reactive
You may be allergic to a certain ingredient(s) found in topical treatments. When your immune system responds to something it doesn’t agree with, it can cause a host of skin issues, such as red bumps, hives or flakes. Some common offenders include artificial fragrance, alcohol or astringents and parabens, but it’s also important to note that your skin may be sensitive to natural ingredients as well. If skin freak outs are persistent, research from the University of Vienna and University of Southern California San Francisco shows they may be linked to a genetic abnormality in the skin barrier function.
Calm irritation with an over the counter cortisone cream. Products with soothers like bisabolol, chamomile and aloe vera also help and feel wonderfully cooling on contact. Find the latter two in La Vie Celeste Restorative Illuminating Toner ($35). Introduce new products slowly and try them first using a patch test to pinpoint any problems. Also, consider seeking out proven alternatives to potentially-irritating ingredients. A study in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science found that bakuchiol is clinically-proven to mimic the anti-aging effects of retinol but with less sensitivity. Try it in Ao Skincare Repair Night Cream ($89.95 in the shop).
Your skin is… prone to breakouts
For many women, as they age, hormonal changes—combined with stress, lack of sleep, diet, and a wide range of products—affect their skin. According to Health, sensitive skin types are particularly susceptible to blemishes because they’re naturally prone to inflammation. Consider certain situations or products you’re using around the time pimples pop up. If you’re consistently prone, it’s possible that your current regimen might be throwing off your skin’s pH balance and causing your sebaceous glands to go into overdrive.
For a deep cleanse that doesn’t dry out your face, switch to a mild cleanser like Skinfinite Purify Facial Cleanse ($30 in the shop) with anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Regular use of AHAs and BHAs helps unclog pores, exfoliate dead skin, prevent excess oil and fade acne scars. A tolerable solution is Sublime Beauty Glycolic & Salicylic Acid Serum ($40 in the shop); with a concentration of 2 percent GA and 3 percent SA, this serum can be applied frequently and left to absorb into skin.
Spot treat existing blemishes with a treatment gel. Medik8 Beta Gel Blemish Gel ($68) is formulated salicylic acid and azelaic acid to fight blemishes by penetrating deep into the pores to calm skin inflammation and congestion, plus niacinamide to reduce acne-causing bacteria. This treatment is far less irritating than benzoyl peroxide or sulphur derivatives. Don’t forget to moisturize: A study in the Journal of Drugs and Dermatology found that using moisturizer with acne treatments drastically reduces irritation without harming its efficacy.
Your skin is… tight and itchy
You may be experiencing extreme dryness. When moisture levels become too low, skin can start to lift and cause itchiness. If dry skin becomes scaly and irritated, however, you may be experiencing an eczema flare-up. The top layer of skin acts like shield that seals in hydration and protects deeper layers of skin when working properly. Those prone to eczema suffer from a faulty barrier that allows water to easily escape, leading to extreme dryness and bothersome rough patches.
Avoid harsh detergents commonly used in face cleansers and soaps, as they break down the natural lipids in skin, and only wash your face with cleanser once a day. A good choice is Red Flower Lymphatic Phytopower Sea Cleanser and Masque ($42 in the shop), which is fortified with antioxidants and marine plants to help heal and repair damaged skin. Never ever attempt to scrub away flakes or scales.
Layer on creams with ceramides and peptides to repair the skin barrier, as well as humectants like hyaluronic acid to draw in moisture. A Truth In Aging favorite for smoother and suppler skin: Dr. Dennis Gross Hydra-Pure Intense Moisture Cream ($125 in the shop). At night, try Eslor Active Night Cream ($95 in the shop).
Finish with an antioxidant-rich serum to boost skin’s defenses. Your Best Face Private Reserve Antioxidant Oil ($75 in the shop) deeply hydrates and reduces the degenerative effects of skin from environmental stressors.