Skincare for Sensitive Skin: Fall 2022 Routine

July 22, 2022 (updated November 7, 2022)

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.

A woman has a resurfacing face mask by BLUH Alchemy on her face.

By: Nicolle Mackinnon

IN THIS POST:

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. 👇

RELATED: Lisa’s current anti-aging skincare routine (her top picks for the BEST skincare).


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.

RELATED: A simple guide to the best skincare for your specific skin type (with product recs!).

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!

RELATED: Got acne-prone skin? This routine is for you.


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.


Morning routine

  1. Joaquina Botanica Papaya + Enzymes Whipped Cleanser | $45
  2. Kosas Plump + Juicy Vegan Collagen Spray-On Serum | $48
  3. Muri Lelu Mauvaise Herbe Indica Oil | $135 (currently on sale for $94.50 at Credo!)
  4. Prima The Afterglow | $68
  5. No SPF (I know, I know. But I’m not spending much time outside rn).

RELATED: My Prima CBD Skincare Review.


Evening routine

  1. OM Organics Blue Azul Soothing Cleansing Emulsion | $34
  2. Joaquina Botanica Calendula + Peptides Hydrating Essence | $56
  3. OIO Lab The Forest Retreat Calming Facial Treatment | $69
  4. True Botanicals Renew Pure Radiance Oil | $110
  5. True Botanicals Phyto-Retinol Vitamin A Sleep Mask (every other night) | $140

A woman lays on her sofa with green 100% pure eye gels under her eyes.

Treatments (as necessary)

  1. Indie Lee Banish Solution | $21
  2. Rael Beauty Miracle Patch | $12 
  3. BLUH ALCHEMY Superfruit AHA + BHA Resurfacing Mask | $68
  4. One Love Organics Brand New Day Scrub | $49
  5. 100% Pure Eye Masks | $7

Sensitive skincare FAQ

Which skincare brand is best for sensitive skin?

Look for single ingredient formulas. Also, don’t assume that because it’s “natural,” it’s non-irritating for you. Learn more here.

What should I avoid if I have sensitive 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. Learn more here.

What is a good skincare routine for sensitive skin?

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?

xo, nicolle

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.

By Nicolle Mackinnon

Nicolle Mackinnon is TNK's content manager. She has a penchant for vegan lip color, cold-brew coffee and helping women feel empowered to make informed choices about their health by opening them up to new information and trends. Better, clean beauty is just one outlet to changing the way we shop and live.

7 Comments

  1. Reply

    Faith

    I love these sensitive skin updates–thank you! Do you have any experience or advice for rosacea? My dermatologist prescribed something, but I wonder if there is a less harsh version or other options. Also, wondering if Nicole and/or others have makeup tips for sensitive skin…

    1. Reply

      Nicolle Mackinnon

      Hi Faith!
      My best tip is in my note from the blog, which I should have tattooed on my forehead: 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. Same goes for rosacea-prone skin (and I’m NOT a derm or a doc or an esthetician, so this is just from my personal experience!). Then, find makeup (and skincare) that is free of those irritating-to-you ingredients.

      And I’d add this: ignore the adage that your skin needs time to “adjust” to a product. That’s a recipe for grumpy sensitive skin. If you have any reaction, at any point, stop using that product.

      But in general, if we’re talking the best makeup for reactive skin, I’ve found that mineral based makeup is less irritating – and fewer ingredients can be a great place to start. Alima Pure is a great brand for that, as their entire line is mineral based (like a better, cleaner version of Bare Minerals). Jane Iredale is also a great line to check out. I’m wondering if I should do a makeup routine post… or at least brands that have worked for my sensitive skin. Thoughts?

      One last thing, and I would have HATED to hear this a decade ago, but I’ve honestly found it to be true: Focus on your skincare and helping to get your skin in balance FIRST; then consider makeup. My skin is the best it’s ever been since I stopped wearing makeup every day (it’s one good thing I can take from the pandemic…). I know that’s NOT what someone with skin sensitivities wants to hear, but it’s worked for me. I still wear makeup but not counting on it daily has changed my skin.

  2. Reply

    Lisa

    I’m with Faith! I’ve got rosacea as well so looking forward to your recommendations.

    1. Reply

      Nicolle Mackinnon

      I’m going to get our team esthetician to do a post about this, since I’m not an expert. See my reply to Faith about makeup, but keep your eyes peeled for more from Hayley about rosacea!

  3. Reply

    Mary

    I also have trouble with rosacea, and flaky dry skin on my face year round. Any help you can offer would be appreciated. Products from the derm have not been helpful for the flaky skin.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Mary! Have you tried Le Prunier’s Plum Beauty Oil? It’s one of my faves! xo, Lisa

  4. Reply

    Mary

    Thank you, Lisa! I just started plum oil. I am hopeful it will help.

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