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What you need to know

Skincare for sensitive skin doesn’t have to be complicated, but there are certain ingredients that can help keep skin calm and comfortable. Ceramides can help restore your skin’s barrier, help maintain hydration and shield your skin from external triggers that could cause symptoms of sensitivity.1 Niacinamide is known to help soothe skin2 and hyaluronic acid is a gentle yet effective moisturizing ingredient3 that is ideal for sensitive skin care.

Ingredients to avoid

To help minimize the potential for related irritation, those with sensitive skin should try to avoid products containing:

  • Fragrance4
  • Exfoliating particles and microbeads5
  • Dyes4
  • Essential oils4

Finding the best skincare for sensitive skin

Less is more when it comes to any sensitive skin care routine, and the basic sensitive skin products are cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen. This minimalistic approach applies to ingredients as well, and the shorter the ingredient list the better. Fragrance-free products are also a wise choice for sensitive skin.5 It’s also important to stop using any product that causes redness, burning or itching—and keep irritated skin protected from the sun. If you do notice a skin reaction that doesn't improve within a few days, a trip to the dermatologist may be in order.

Facial cleanser and body wash for sensitive skin

Cleansing is an essential first step in your skincare routine, and sensitive skin care is no exception. There are a variety of options when it comes to cleanser for sensitive skin, and if you have drier skin you might want to opt for a non-foaming face wash for sensitive skin. However, if you have oily or acne-prone skin you may prefer a gel-based formula.6 You might even choose a micellar water, which can provide you with gentle cleansing on the go.. Regardless of skin type, look for beneficial ingredients like ceramides to help restore the skin’s barrier1 along with hyaluronic acid for hydration.3

A face wash for sensitive skin is a good start, but the face isn’t the only part of the body that can experience sensitivity, so be sure to look for a body wash for sensitive skin as well. The good news is that the same ingredients found in facial washes are safe and effective for cleansing and calming skin on the body—and some products can be used from head to toe.

Moisturizer and lotion for sensitive skin

Those with sensitive skin often have a compromised skin barrier, which can lead to dryness. To help restore your skin's barrier, you should use a face moisturizer for sensitive skin every morning and evening (or more often if necessary). Good options include lightweight lotions for oily and acne-prone skin, as well as creams for drier skin that can benefit from a richer moisturizer. And don't forget to look for a body lotion for sensitive skin, which you should use as often as you need to in order to help your skin stay hydrated. Remember, ceramides that help restore the skin’s protective barrier are a beneficial ingredient in any moisturizer for sensitive skin.1

In addition to daily face moisturizer and body lotion for sensitive skin, a skin protectant ointment can temporarily protect and help relieve chafed, chapped or cracked skin. Petrolatum, or petroleum jelly, is an excellent non-comedogenic skin protectant ingredient that creates a barrier on the skin to help lock moisture in.7 And don't forget – if you have sensitive skin you may want to look for a lanolin-free formula to avoid the risk of related reactions.8

Sunscreen for sensitive skin

If you have sensitive skin, you may also need to be careful when choosing sun-protection products. Many dermatologists recommend a mineral-based sunscreen with ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to help provide effective broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays while being gentle on sensitive skin.

All skin requires broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 that should be used as directed (in addition to other sun protection measures) to help prevent the damage that can lead to visible signs of aging and skin cancer, but sensitive skin can be especially aggravated by UV rays.5 (All CeraVe sunscreens, whether they contain mineral- or chemical-based sunscreen filters are developed by dermatologists and suitable for sensitive skin.)

    1. Meckfessel, M. H., & Brandt, S. (2014). The structure, function, and importance of ceramides in skin and their use as therapeutic agents in skin-care products. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 71(1), 177-184.
    2. Baumann, L. (2009) Cosmetic Dermatology: Principles and Practice (pp.126-128). New York: McGraw-Hill Medical
    3. Baumann, L. (2015) Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Ingredients (pp.77-80). New York: McGraw-Hill Medical
    4. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/features/sensitive-skin-products
    5. https://www.webmd.com/beauty/sensitive-skin-20-questions
    6. Baumann, L. (2015) Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Ingredients (pp.20). New York: McGraw-Hill Medical
    7. Baumann, L. (2015) Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Ingredients (pp.48-50). rel="noopener noreferrer" New York: McGraw-Hill rel="noopener noreferrer" Medical
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