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.
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)
- Coupon codes
- 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
I live in Minnesota, and winter is always a bit of a challenge for my reactive skin. My complexion is dry and dull and prone to bursts of irritation and redness (it probably doesn’t help that we’re currently testing retinols, and those tend to raise my skin’s red flags). I’ve been keeping my routine über consistent to eradicate irritation, breakouts and mysterious rashes. And I’ve been making sure to add an additional hydrating serum (something with aloe or water or hyaluronic acid) into both day and night routines.
- I’ve been skipping a cleanser in the morning, and just rinsing with water.
- Kosas Plump+Juicy Vegan Collagen Spray On Serum | $48
- Activist Active Hydration Vitamin C+ Antioxidant Serum | $64
- Made Simple Living Magic City Brightening Glow Elixir (this typically has lavender in it, which I’m allergic to, but the formulator kindly made me one without it because I LOVE blue tansy) | $72.
- Prima The Afterglow (this has been sold out since September and I’m sorry—but honestly, it’s the best, read our full review here) | $68.
- ILIA Beauty Bright Start Retinol Alternative Eye Cream | $46
RELATED: Lisa’s current skincare routine.
- Fitglow Makeup Cleansing Oil | $48
- Activist Skincare Calming Force Serum | $64
- Muri Lelu Bloomrise Sativa Serum | $135
- Le Prunier Plum Beauty Oil | $72
- True Botanicals Phyto-Retinol Vitamin A Sleep Mask | $140.
Treatments (as necessary)
- Indie Lee Banish Solution | $21
- 2x/week: Marie Veronique Multi-Retinol Night Emulsion (Jury’s still out on if this is too much for my skin—using it every other night WAS too much. But more to come!) | $135
- Rael Beauty Miracle Patch | $12
- Made Simple Living: Code TNK15 will save you 15% off your first purchase.
- Prima: Code NEWKNEW will save you 20% sitewide.
- True Botanicals: Code TNK10 will save you 10% off your order.
Check out our Coupon Codes page to save on these products and more!
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?
TNK Team Note: This article contains affiliate links. TNK uses affiliate links as a source for revenue to fund operations of the business and to be less dependent on branded content. TNK stands behind all product recommendations. Still have questions about these links or our process? Feel free to email us.