It’s been a long time coming, but it’s here now: my current sensitive skincare routine. I’ll update this post quarterly with what’s working for my reactive skin, so bookmark this for future reference if you’re on the sensitive-skin train. Here’s what’s keeping my skin calm, clear and happy in fall 2022.
By: Nicolle Mackinnon
IN THIS POST:
- Sensitive skin philosophy + caveats
- What’s up with my skin right now
- Morning routine
- Evening routine
- Treatments (as needed)
- Sensitive skincare FAQ
I’ve had sensitive skin for as long as I can remember. Like, if I itch my leg too hard, I get a bruise; when I get a bug bite, it immediately turns into a quarter-sized welt; and I have a list of ingredients I need to avoid that rivals the length of the great American novel. My sensitive skin is partly due to a collagen disorder, but you don’t have to have any sort of “disease” to know what I’m talking about when I say “reactive” skin.
I spent most of my teens and 20s trying to calm my skin the eff down, and it wasn’t until I started working in the beauty industry that I really began to understand what was causing my flare-ups. Now, a decade later, I still run into new ingredients that irritate my skin, and product testing for TNK can be hit-or-miss (sensitive skin loooooooooves a routine and consistency, not changing products every.damn.day.).
Not complaining AT ALL, as the products I get to try have actually made me more aware of what my skin can tolerate, and helped me tune into what ingredients are irritants. Which leads me to the same conclusion that Lisa makes in her anti-aging skincare routine: “I get to try A LOT of product. Some things I try once or twice and others take up residency in my skincare routine. Some products I enjoy, but I wouldn’t purchase again; others I rave about and would purchase a million times over.”
The products you’ll see in this post are level 2 on the TNK hierarchy of skincare, meaning I love them and would repurchase. They offer skincare benefits, work for my sensitive skin and have a beautiful sensory experience.
Before we jump into what’s keeping my skin calm and happy this season, a couple caveats about sensitive skin in general. 👇
A note about sensitive / reactive skin
If you think you have sensitive skin, memorize this rule of thumb: any ingredient, synthetic or natural or mineral or animal (ha), can be irritating to YOUR skin. Everyone is different, so if you find that you’ve got unidentified redness, irritation, bumps, itchiness, blemishes, flakiness or dryness popping up while you’re using a new (or any!) product, you might have to do a little detective work to figure out what ingredient is the culprit.
Yes, that takes time, energy and effort, but trust me, it’s WORTH IT. Having a list of ingredients you personally need to avoid is a game-changer when it comes to getting a glowy, even-toned, irritation-free complexion.
Example? It took me nearly three years to realize lavender was the cause of continuous breakouts on my face; now, I rarely get cystic acne because I’ve eliminated that ingredient from my routine. It’s incredibly annoying to read through a list of ingredients on a new product and realize I can’t use it, BUT I’d take that annoyance over painful red cystic acne any day.
ALSO. Listen to your skin. If you apply a product and you get itchiness shortly after; or you get a little too much sun and your skin is inflamed; or you’re having any kind of flare up (blemishes, redness, irritation, etc.), TAKE IT EASY. Your skin is trying to tell you something with all those red flags—pay attention and don’t assume that your skin will get over it.
AKA, ignore the adage that your skin needs time to “adjust” to a product. That’s a recipe for grumpy sensitive skin.
Sensitive skin quick tips
- Don’t assume that because it’s “natural,” it’s non-irritating for you.
- Sensitive skin likes a routine—find products that work for you, and keep your skincare consistent, especially while traveling.
- Figure out what your specific skin reacts to, create a list on your phone (or on a Post-It you can tuck into your wallet, if you’re old school) of ingredients to avoid, and scour the ingredient list of any new product you try to make sure it’s safe for you.
- Your sensitive skin will tell you if it doesn’t like a product—listen to it!
- Isolation is key: try not to add in too many new products at once. That makes it much harder to identify what might be causing irritation, if your skin reacts negatively.
- If you have a flare up, revert back to your most basic routine: a very gentle cleanser, a calming / soothing mist and a light moisturizer are all you need.
- Single ingredient formulas can be a sensitive skin’s BFF. I’m talking pure plum seed oil, straight rosewater or plain aloe.
- When in doubt, consider a skin “cleanse.” I do this a couple times per month—skip any products for 24 hours and give your skin a break. Lots of caveats here, including that you might need to avoid a workout or sweat sesh during that time too, so you don’t have dirt and grime building up.
Phew. That was a lot of info—now onto the fun part!
What’s up with my skin right now
My sensitive skin is also a thirst trap as the seasons change, so it’s feeling a bit tighter and drier than normal. Oh, and I just got diagnosed with a recurring case of SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), and that’s causing a bit of a red rash around my nose and mouth. Hoping the protocol treatment clears that up soon, which it did last time I had SIBO. In the meantime, I’m listening extra hard to what my skin is trying to tell me, and avoiding too many actives, with a focus on hydration.
- Joaquina Botanica Papaya + Enzymes Whipped Cleanser | $45
- Kosas Plump + Juicy Vegan Collagen Spray-On Serum | $48
- Muri Lelu Mauvaise Herbe Indica Oil | $135 (currently on sale for $94.50 at Credo!)
- Prima The Afterglow | $68
- No SPF (I know, I know. But I’m not spending much time outside rn).
RELATED: My Prima CBD Skincare Review.
- OM Organics Blue Azul Soothing Cleansing Emulsion | $34
- Joaquina Botanica Calendula + Peptides Hydrating Essence | $56
- OIO Lab The Forest Retreat Calming Facial Treatment | $69
- True Botanicals Renew Pure Radiance Oil | $110
- True Botanicals Phyto-Retinol Vitamin A Sleep Mask (every other night) | $140
Treatments (as necessary)
- Indie Lee Banish Solution | $21
- Rael Beauty Miracle Patch | $12
- BLUH ALCHEMY Superfruit AHA + BHA Resurfacing Mask | $68
- One Love Organics Brand New Day Scrub | $49
- 100% Pure Eye Masks | $7
Sensitive skincare FAQ
Look for single ingredient formulas. Also, don’t assume that because it’s “natural,” it’s non-irritating for you. Learn more here.
If you think you have sensitive skin, memorize this rule of thumb: any ingredient, synthetic or natural or mineral or animal (ha), can be irritating to YOUR skin. Everyone is different, so if you find that you’ve got unidentified redness, irritation, bumps, itchiness, blemishes, flakiness or dryness popping up while you’re using a new (or any!) product, you might have to do a little detective work to figure out what ingredient is the culprit. Learn more here.
Single ingredient formulas can be a sensitive skin’s BFF. I’m talking pure plum seed oil, straight rosewater or plain aloe. If you have a flare up, revert back to your most basic routine: a very gentle cleanser, a calming / soothing mist and a light moisturizer are all you need. Learn more here.
Have you tried any of these on your (sensitive or otherwise) skin this fall? What’s working for you?
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