Sensitive skin is a term that’s thrown around pretty loosely in the skincare community, and a phrase you’ve more than likely come across. I never really used to understand what it meant if I’m honest. Did it mean people with conditions like eczema? Those who frequently experience allergic reactions? Over the past year, I’ve started experiencing changes in my skin, and I realized I was starting to label my skin as sensitive too. In today’s post, I’m going to discuss what sensitive skin is, top tips for dealing with sensitive skin, and a great selection of products that may work well for your sensitive skin folks.
What Is Sensitive Skin?
Contrary to what some may believe, sensitive skin is not a clinical diagnosis, although those with certain skin diagnoses may describe their skin as sensitive. Such conditions may include eczema, rosacea, psoriasis…but sensitive skin does not just refer to those with these diagnoses.
Sensitive skin very generally means skin that is more likely to react to external factors such as skincare products or the environment. I’ll be referencing my own skin a lot during this post to share examples- I class my skin as sensitive because I get a lot of heat and redness, I get flaky, itchy skin in some areas, and I also get very small but sore patches of what I believe is eczema by my eyes. Sensitive skin is very often associated with very dry skin. I know others who have sensitive skin because they break out or deal with irritation when trying new products; friends of mine have huge eczema flare ups and deal with extreme sensitivity; others find their skin to be thin and prone to acne breakouts. Symptoms of sensitive skin could be any of the above, any skin diagnoses, or other issues such as redness, blotchiness, breakouts, allergic reactions, itchiness, frequent infections, soreness, extreme dryness…basically, sensitive skin comes in many different forms, and is not defined by one “condition”.
Top Tips for a Sensitive Skin Routine
If you’re reading this and can relate, or feel like your skin is quite reactive, you can certainly take precautions in the way you do your skincare routine. Taking these steps may not prevent reactions or irritation but should certainly help lower the chances of having to deal with sensitivities.
*As with all tips we provide, these are simply suggestions and different skincare methods work differently for everyone. If you are dealing with extreme discomfort in your skin or suspect you have an underlying condition, it’s always best to consult with a professional.
How frequently do you wash your face? If you’re a frequent rinser, you may want to reduce the amount of washing. Water is more alkaline than our natural acidic skin pH (as are many cleansers!) and so it can leave your skin feeling stripped, diminishing the natural oils, and make your skin drier and more prone to irritation. The pH of your cleanser is also vital to consider. Many foaming cleansers are upwards of pH 7. Considering our skin is naturally acidic, at around pH 5, this really disrupts our skin’s natural state. By compromising this state, it damages your skin’s natural barrier meaning you’re more inclined to experience dryness and possibly even bacterial acne. Keeping that skin barrier healthy is crucial for all skin types, but particularly those who feel like their skin is more sensitive than normal.
Water temperature is also something to consider when cleansing. Warm water is your friend. Hot water is not. Hot water makes my skin extremely red and irritated. If I have a hot shower (and unfortunately, I enjoy my showers at practically scalding temperatures), my skin remains blotchy, hot, and red for the remainder of the evening. Adjusting water temperature is an easy change to make and could make a real difference to how your skin feels after washing or showering.
After cleansing, it’s super important to replenish skin with plenty of moisture. Keeping a mist or hydrating toner by your sink can be a game-changer. Spritzing my skin or using my Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum immediately after I’ve cleansed really helps prevent any feelings of tightness or extreme dryness. This also helps keep that skin barrier we mentioned earlier as healthy as possible. If your skin ever feels thin or dry, this is an essential step that you shouldn’t be missing. It will also help your products later in your routine absorb more efficiently, bonus!
There are certain ingredients that many skincare users have found can help soothe and calm irritated skin. Korean skincare brands and products often have a strong focus on soothing the skin and the ingredients-focussed formulas are interesting. Of course, these don’t necessarily work for everyone, so make sure you test out on your own skin and see how they work for you.
Snail mucin is always a winner for me. The mucin is used by snails to help heal the microtears in the skin beneath their body that drags across the ground as they move, so it has natural healing properties. Slathering a snail product on my face usually helps soothe, moisturize, as well as speed up any healing processes.
Propolis is another natural healer. Propolis is the substance formed by bees to protect their hives. Its known throughout the world for its naturally antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, and so can help heal any blemishes or irritation as well as soothing sensitivities. The moisturizing and regenerative properties also help soothe and nourish sensitive patches of skin.
Finally, Centella Asiatica is a famous Korean skincare ingredient renowned for its soothing abilities. Traditionally used in Chinese medicine, this extract has become extremely popular within the K-beauty community as a key ingredient in calming products, and there is no shortage of cica products on the market. Topically, it has been shown to reduce inflammation, making it a calming option for irritated skin.
Dry skin and sensitive skin often go hand-in-hand, so it’s vital to moisturize to keep that skin barrier healthy and prevent further sensitivities. Dryness can often develop as we age and it’s important to pay attention if your skin is feeling more sensitive than it has in the past. Personally, I find that ceramide products really help deeply moisturize and protect my skin and I make sure to moisturize intensely both morning and night.
Patch Test & Get to Know Your Skin
Unfortunately, there is no single product or practice that will work for every individual. Products that work for others with sensitive skin may not work for you, and vice versa. When you do have sensitivities, it’s always a good idea to patch test any new products. That is, test the product on a small area of your face, and leave for 24 hours (for leave-on products) to see if you have any reaction before you use on your entire face. Look for patterns over time of products, environmental factors, or activities that affect your skin or create irritation. Getting to know your own skin and tailoring your skincare for yourself is really the best advice you can take.
These are our product recommendations for part of a soothing, calming skincare ritual, to restore moisture and hydration to damaged, sensitive skin. As mentioned, always patch test a new product and be aware that products react differently on different skin.
This luxurious cream offers a calming and soothing experience, while infusing your skin barrier with moisture and hydration. With birch sap that cools and replenishes a tired complexion, the rich cream provides relaxation for stressed skin and helps maintain long-lasting moisture. It keeps the skin feeling bouncy and healthy throughout the day and reduces the likelihood of sensitivity due to dryness.
This vial of goodness is known to add an intense dose of moisture and goodness to any routine. One of Dr. Ceuracle’s most famous products, this ampoule not only helps skin regenerate and feel nourished, it also helps add back the glow. Simply pat a couple of drops into skin after your toners and essences or add a couple of drops to your moisturizer for a boost. The antioxidants also help protect skin from the effects of premature ageing.
An intensive cream that contains madecassoside, panthenol and cypress tree extracts to help treat sensitive and damaged skin. The combination of these three ingredients together creates a powerhouse for treating sensitive skin and the concentrated formula should help soothe the skin and strengthen your skin’s barrier to help prevent future sensitivity issues. The product is free from fragrances, colorants, and PEG surfactants and part of IOPE’s Sensitive Care line. It can be used as a daily moisturizer.
As we’ve mentioned, sensitivity is often linked to dry skin, so using an oil can really help repair the dry damage. Hanyul’s Yuja Oil is made with citron peel from the Yuzu fruit, which grows in the Goheung region of South Korea. The oil is multifunctional: it deeply moisturizes, can brighten the complexion, and works as a powerful antioxidant to help combat premature ageing. Adding a couple of drops to a night cream will rejuvenate and nourish the skin, helping treat the dryness that can cause sensitivity and leaving skin radiant.
We’ve already discussed Centella Asiatica for soothing and Amore Pacific’s patented Cica ingredient, “Forest Yeast”, is the star of this overnight mask. The formula cares for dry and damaged skin with intensive nourishment during the time when we’re most likely to lose moisture and oil from our skin- while we’re sleeping after enduring the day’s environmental irritants. The mask creates a barrier to strengthen your skin and you should wake up with soothed, rejuvenated, stronger-feeling skin. It should be applied at the last step of your evening skincare routine.
There are many different causes as well as a wide variety of symptoms for sensitive skin. If you’re feeling discomfort, dryness or irritation, it can be worth looking at your current routine to see if you’re doing anything that could be potentially irritating, as well as consider any products that could be causing you problems. Try following our tips above to help relieve sensitive skin, and check for patterns when you’re experiencing the sensitivity. Is it linked to a certain product or to a certain environmental factor? Are there any changes you can make? We will all experience sensitivity at some point or another, but try and be gentle with your skin, or see a doctor if you have serious concerns. I hope this post was helpful! Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below and we’ll be happy to get back to you.
Katherine Spowart from skinfullofseoul.com