Living with sensitive skin can be difficult. You might feel itchy, dry, or otherwise uncomfortable after basic tasks like showering, or you might experience a negative reaction to common products like lotions and soaps.
While there’s no “cure” for sensitive skin, there are some habits, products, and techniques that can help you live a more comfortable life if you suffer from this affliction.
Living With Sensitive Skin
These are some of the best ways to keep yourself comfortable if you have sensitive skin:
- Use shea butter shaving creams. Shaving can be difficult with sensitive skin. Not only will you be using multiple skincare products on your face and other sensitive areas of your body, but you’ll also be using a harsh razor to shave your hair. You can make the experience more pleasant by using shaving cream and/or aftercare products based on shea butter, which is a natural ingredient. Ingredients like glycerin, lanolin, and tallow can also be beneficial, but you should avoid products with benzyl alcohol, triethanolamine (TEA), methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI), or methylisothiazolinone (MIT).
- Buy hypoallergenic laundry detergent. Laundry detergents tend to be harsh, and can result in extra skin irritation for those with sensitive skin. Your bed sheets and personal clothes can make you itch throughout the day. Buy hypoallergenic laundry detergent, made with milder ingredients, if you want a more comfortable experience.
- Use products with few ingredients. If you have sensitive skin, many different types of ingredients may cause irritation. These ingredients vary from person to person, and there’s no way to tell, for sure, if a new ingredient could negatively affect you. If you want to improve your overall experience, try to use products with the smallest number of ingredients. With fewer ingredients, there will be fewer chances of feeling irritation, and if you do experience negative effects, you’ll be able to narrow down the true culprit.
- Use one product at a time. Similarly, it’s wise to only use one product at a time. For example, if you use three different soaps, two different types of lotion, and a different kind of shaving cream all in the span of an hour, and you start to see a side effect, you’ll have a difficult time figuring out which product was responsible. Instead, work with products in isolation, and introduce new products gradually.
- “Patch test” new products. One of the best things you can do with a new product you haven’t used before is the “patch test.” Apply a small amount of the product on an inconspicuous part of your body, like the forearm, and see how your skin responds. If you don’t feel any irritation or see any redness after some time has passed, you can consider applying it to your face.
- Learn how you respond to different ingredients. Keep an inventory of different ingredients that are common in skincare products, and measure your responsiveness to each one. If there’s a product that you enjoy with no side effects, it’s likely that all the ingredients present in that product can be considered “safe.” If a skincare product causes irritation, one or more ingredients in it must be responsible. You can cross-reference your product and ingredient lists to determine which ingredients, specifically, evoke a reaction in you. You can then avoid products with those ingredients in the future.
- Avoid overwashing. Some people with sensitive skin believe at least some of their symptoms are the result of excess oils or dirt; accordingly, they wash their faces more often. However, it’s important to realize that overwashing can cause damage to your skin, and make yourself even more vulnerable. Be careful not to wash your skin, especially on sensitive areas like your face, too many times per day, or in a way that’s too harsh.
- Only lightly exfoliate your skin. Exfoliation follows the same rules. Lightly exfoliating your skin, especially around your face, can make you feel cleaner and healthier. If done occasionally, like once or twice per week, even someone with sensitive skin shouldn’t see an issue. But if you exfoliate too aggressively or too frequently, like multiple times a day, you could cause more damage.
When to See a Dermatologist
These habits are simple and approachable enough for anyone to use, and if you experience mildly sensitive skin, they should help tremendously in improving your quality of life. However, in moderate to extreme cases, they may not be enough. If you experience persistent skin irritation, discoloration, rashes, or breakouts, and your habit changes haven’t significantly improved your life, it’s in your best interest to speak with a dermatologist. They’ll be able to provide you with further guidance, including recommending more appropriate skincare products.