The Best "Sensitive" Skincare Products
Everything you'll ever need. Plus, some sage advice from Jessica Alba’s skin guru.
Is it just us, or has your skin become steadily more sensitive over the past few years? Maybe it’s that we’re getting older (less collagen, more fine lines and dry patches) or the cumulative years of abuse (laying out sans SPF; rough AF apricot scrubs; Oxypads—yeah, been there, done that). Or wait, is there even such a thing as truly ‘sensitive’ skin? Whatever it is that has led us to this reactionary point, we’ve got to deal. And since we’re pretty sure we all have a collective interest in having smooth, glow-y (all the desirable adjectives) skin without running the risk of having a red, tingly tantrum, we enlisted a little help by way of Shani Darden (the skin-savior to Jessica Alba, Shay Mitchell, and Suki Waterhouse, to name a few) to figure out what the hell was going on and what's truly behind our skin’s bad behavior. Hint: it’s not your ‘sensitive’ skin.
“I will tell you, I very rarely see people that actually have sensitive skin, it really never happens. It’s usually not even sensitive, it’s usually [situations like] they have eczema and didn’t know it. I’m not going to say people aren’t sensitive because I’ve seen it where someone used a peel, their skin reacted to that peel and it was because they’re sensitive but typically I just don’t see it. I mean, I put retinol on almost all of my clients and some of them will tell me that they can’t use anything. It’s usually that they’re using products that aren’t right for their skin type. I do have people that are truly sensitive and you have to keep it pretty simple with what you use, but I don’t see that very often. The majority of people that have skin problems [have reactions] because they’re not using the right product for their skin. I see it all the time.” — Shani Darden, Aesthetician
“iS Clinical has a gentle cleansing wash, it’s called Cleansing Complex and I love that, that works for any skin type and it’s really good for sensitive skin. There’s a sunscreen by Dermaquest that I love called Zinc Clear. I like Hydracool by iS Clinical, it helps a lot with redness. Sunscreens are usually really hard for people with sensitive skin.”
“There are some products that have glycolic, salicylic and lactic acid all combined‑someone with sensitive skin is not going to be able to use that. A great way [to determine a sensitivity] is to do a patch test on your skin. I have a lot of clients who are like ‘oh no, I could never use a retinol,’ and they end up being fine with it. You just have to test it out. I want to say there are some really good natural products that you could use but I find that even they can make you very sensitive.
“Generally someone that has sensitive skin should not do any kind of chemical exfoliate. You might be able to use an enzyme peel, but you would not be able to do a chemical peel.”
—Just In Case—
Your Skin Throws A Tantrum
“I like aloe a lot. A good aloe-based product can really calm the skin. If you end up getting a rash, you might have to use cortisone to calm it, but usually the skin will calm if you’re using aloe for a day.
Vaseline is really calming to the skin; I use it for everyone. You don’t want something with too many ingredients, you want it really, really simple.”