How To Manage Sensitive Skin

How To Manage Sensitive Skin

Sensitive skin can take a little more effort to manage than other skin conditions, but it isn’t the end of the world. Let’s dig a little deeper into what sensitive skin is, what sensitive skin types should avoid, and how you can manage it.

What Does Sensitive Skin Mean?

Sensitive skin generally means your skin is more prone to inflammation, redness or adverse reactions to products or the environment. Sensitive skin can be broken into two main underlying causes.

Sensitive Skin

Sensitive skin is usually genetic. People with sensitive skin often have other skin conditions like atopic dermatitis or rosacea.

It’s not uncommon for some people with sensitive skin to also be very sensitive to allergens like pollen and dust, and they may also experience asthma. Often people with sensitive skin will experience adverse reactions (contact dermatitis) to allergens and products.

Sensitised Skin

Sensitised skin is skin that has been made sensitive by your environment, lifestyle, or routine.

Usually skin is sensitised by overuse of harsh skincare products - which makes it an incredibly common skin condition these days. Think over exfoliating, incorrect retinoid or actives use, or even sunburn.

The great thing about sensitised skin is that you can work to return it to a non-sensitised state by bringing routine back to basics, and supporting the skin barrier.

What Are The Signs Of Sensitive Skin?

Your Skin Is Often Reactive

You find it often reacts adversely to soaps, fragrances, skincare and body products, pollen/dust, or even intense cold, wind, or the sun.

You Often Experience Redness

You find your skin often experience redness through inflammation like red bumps, rashes, or through dilated blood vessels causing blushing and flushing.

You Often Develop Rashes

Your skin often becomes irritated when exposed to triggers - especially particular products or ingredients, or in new harsh environments (like intense humidity).

How To Manage Your Sensitive Skin

Limit The Ingredients In Use

Limiting the ingredients in the products you choose to use is often recommended by dermatologists. By using simpler products and simpler routines, you’re exposing your skin to less risk of irritation. You should also only ever add/change one product at a time.

It’s a pretty simple but effective technique. You can look for shorter ingredients lists on the products you decide to use.

Avoid Ingredients That Are Known Irritants

Avoid fragrances, essential oils, plant extracts, and botanicals. Each of these individual ingredients has a huge number of compounds inside them, many of which are known to be irritating to the skin (eg. linalool, limonene, coumarin).

Avoiding these ingredients means you also avoid the potential irritation that comes with them.

Protect And Repair Your Skin Barrier

The skin barrier, or acid mantle, is the skin’s first line of defense. Ensuring it’s as healthy as it can be for you, means it can help prevent irritating substances from getting into your skin in the first place.

Avoid over exfoliating your skin - your dead skin cells actually form part of your protective barrier, whilst also act to hold moisture in your skin. Avoid particularly harsh skincare actives, treatments, or procedures.

Use gentle cleaners, and a simpler routine that supports your skin barrier. Always wear sunscreen!

Learn Your Triggers

This one comes with time, trial and error, and ideally a log or journal of what products you’re using.

It can also be simple things like noticing hot water causes your skin to temporarily become very sensitive.

How To Treat And Calm Sensitive Skin

Follow the four rules above:

  1. Limit your ingredients
  2. Avoid known irritants
  3. Protect your skin barrier
  4. Learn your triggers

If you’re experiencing a particular acute bout of sensitivity or irritation right now, try the following:

  1. Learn the trigger. If it was caused by a product (or several products), or an external source, wash it off with lukewarm water.
  2. Strip your routine right back to a gentle cleanser and a gentle moisturiser with anti-irritation actives like bisabolol, panthenol (B5), or allantoin.
  3. If the area is particularly red or inflamed (like from an allergic reaction), it might benefit from an over the counter antihistamine, or corticosteroid cream. Drop into your local pharmacy and ask for their advice.
  4. If it's from an allergic reaction, taking an oral antihistamine often helps, but double check with your pharmacist first.
  5. Check in with your GP or Dermatologist if it’s remotely serious, or if you’re unsure about anything at all.

Can Sensitive Skin Use Retinol, Vitamin C, or Niacinamide?

If your sensitive skin is particularly unhappy right now, or if you’ve identified that your skin is sensitised, we don’t recommend using any retinoids, L-Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), or even niacinamide.

If you know you’ve got sensitive skin, but have been managing it well, you may be able to tolerate gentler forms of actives.

Retinoids like Retinyl Palmitate (a retinyl ester) are a gentler retinoid that can work well for sensitive skin. Avoid tretinoin, retinaldehyde, or strong retinols.

You can introduce gentler vitamin C derivatives like Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, or Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate. The standard form of Vitamin C, L-Ascorbic Acid, requires a very low pH which is likely to irritate your skin.

Niacinamide is generally great for sensitive skin, however a small percentage of people are known to be irritated by it. Test if it works for you as it will be formula dependent. Clinically studied Niacinamide shows efficacy at 5%, 4%, and 2%. Avoid formulas with higher than 5% as it won’t offer proven benefits, and will increase risk of irritation.

Can Sensitive Skin Use AHA’s, BHA’s?

Once your sensitive skin is in a well managed place, you may be able to introduce gentle formulations of hydroxy acids for use once a week. Twice a week may be too much, especially if you’re also using other actives in your routine as listed above.

Which Moisturiser Is Best For Sensitive Skin?

Look for gentle moisturizers with no plant extracts, essential oils, or fragrances. If you’re after an active moisturiser look for skin beneficial actives like Niacinamide, Allantoin, Bisabolol, Ceramides, and Panthenol.

If you’re looking for less fluff and well formulated skincare, our team can create your own custom made moisturiser to work with your sensitive skin.

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Prevent Redness
Sensitive Skin
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Oily Skin
Prevent Redness
Sensitive Skin
Prevent Fine Lines
Dry Skin
Balanced Skin
Oily Skin
Prevent Redness
Sensitive Skin
Prevent Fine Lines
Dry Skin
Balanced Skin


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