Feeling a little sensitive?
My skin is not sensitive. But it is occasionally sensitized. That means it looks and feels like sensitive skin (red, flakey, sore), but the condition's temporary and self-inflicted—often the result of over-aggressive at-home exfoliating (or, in the winter, wind-burn). When this happens, I seek out skincare formulas that are gentle, soothing and low on active ingredients.
I recently had a bout of temporary sensitivity (after leaving an exfoliating mask on too long), so I set my usual skincare regimen aside for a few days to try out some new "sensitive" products. These three stood apart from the pack, both because they were gentle and because they cleaned, hydrated and treated my skin as well as my non-sensitive products. (This is novel; I frequently find sensitive formulas focus so much on avoiding irritation they don't do much beyond that.) But I didn't feel like I was compromising on skincare while I calmed things down. If you too suffer from occasional sensitivity—or you’re chronically sensitive—take a look:
SkinCeuticals Soothing Cleanser (This product is not available until next month so I'll update the link as soon as it's available online.) This foaming face wash (above) was created specifically for post-procedure skin so it's full of complexion-calming additives like glycerin (which helps with moisture retention) and an amino acid said to nourish the skin on contact. It also thoroughly cleaned my skin. This is notable because a number of sensitive-skin cleansers don’t remove makeup or debris to my liking, and leave behind a film (if you've ever used original Cetaphil, you know what I'm talking about). But this foaming sudser left me feeling super-clean sans stinging.
It Cosmetics Bye Bye Redness Moisturizer I had mild rosacea for a year in my twenties and treated it with Rx-strength azaleic acid and a green-tinted moisturizer from Eucerin. The moisturizer looked like pastel green frosting coming out of the bottle, but the green disappeared upon application, as did the redness. I loved this product and recommended it to almost anyone with sensitivity issues. Unfortunately, the formula was tweaked over the years, rendering this once-great lotion hard to blend. (The finish now, especially on darker skin tones, is chalky/ashy, a development I suspect is linked to a change in sunscreen content.) However, I finally found a replacement in It Cosmetics Bye Bye Redness Moisturizer. This new product is also green (don’t be scared) but it leaves a glowy, dewy finish, not a chalky one. And it feels good on the skin, helping you heal while you hide inflammation. Note: The It Cosmetics Bye Bye Redness line also has three Neutralizing Correcting Creams, which are a skincare-makeup hybrid, calming angry skin while providing foundation-like coverage. You can use them in tandem with the Redness Moisturizer (or instead of, if you just can’t get past the green thing).
PCA Retinol Treatment for Sensitive Skin If you're a regular reader of MediumBlonde, you’re probably aware of my love-hate relationship with retinoids (retinol is an over-the-counter retinoid; tretinoin in well-known formulas like Retin-A, Tazorac and Renova is the prescription version). I’ve mostly come to an agreeable truce with retinoids, having figured out how to use a low-strength .025 Rx tretinoin layered over moisturizer to minimize irritation. But I’m always game to road-test new innovations and was curious when this PCA product crossed my desk.
First a little background: PCA Skin has a line of over-the-counter retinol (vitamin A) products that all boast what they call the OmniSome Delivery system. Essentially this is time-release technology that delivers the active ingredient into the skin over the course of ten hours, rather than all at once. What they’ve added to this technology for their Sensitive Skin formula is a medley of skin-soothing and protecting ingredients, such as niacinamide and ceramides, to protect and support the skin’s barrier function. These added ingredients are comparable to my moisturizer-before-Retin-A strategy, though with PCA you get everything in one application. I started testing this product about a month ago in the midst of my temporary sensitivity, and I’ve kept it up to see if I'd have any adverse reactions. So far, not one. I’m not sure this product would replace my regular Rx tretinoin, but it’s an excellent sub for times when I'm sensitized—and it would be a viable option for those of you who've struggled to find a retinoid formula that doesn't leave you red.
If you do try PCA Retinol for Sensitive Skin, I'd love to know what you think. Ditto for the SkinCeuticals Soothing Cleanser or It Cosmetics Bye Bye Redness Moisturizer. Write me at email@example.com—or let us all know in the comments, below.