1. Test First, Apply Second
When using a new product, always, always do a test run on a small, inconspicuous patch of skin (like behind your ear) before applying. Wait at least 24 hours for signs of irritation, redness, or other skin freak-outs. If your skin is hypersensitive, repeat this test run on a patch next to your eye. All clear? You’re safe to apply with abandon.
2. Don’t Buy “Hypoallergenic” Hype
Hypoallergenic products and sensitive skin are besties, right? Not necessarily. Since there are no federal standards to govern the word “hypoallergenic,” products bearing this claim are not always suitable for sensitive skin. Don’t buy the hype blindly. Refer to tip number 1 before slathering away.
3. Moisturize with Vigilance
Sensitive skin is even more vulnerable to the elements and will benefit from a proper skin-care schedule. Dutifully moisturize both morning and night to protect skin from water loss and to maintain a healthy barrier from the daily onslaught of environmental factors, including pollution and wind.
4. Always Read Labels
Knowledge is power—arm yourself by reading labels. Look for products free from fragrances and paraben preservatives, two common causes of irritation and flare-ups. And the shorter the ingredient list, the better: The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using products with less than 10 ingredients for sensitive skin. The more complicated a formula, the more likely you are to introduce an irritant.
5. Wash Wisely
Keep pores clear and surface debris scarce by washing twice a day (any more can be too much for sensitive skin). Choose a cleanser that is formulated for sensitive skin but isn’t so gentle that you need to scrub really hard to remove makeup or residual grime. Be gentle: blot dry (no rubbing, please) and apply moisturizer straight away for maximum absorption.
6. Go With Less
Sensitive skin is easily overwhelmed so it’s best to keep your everyday skincare products simple: All you really need is a gentle cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen.
7. Choose Cosmetics Carefully
Just because your skin is delicate doesn’t mean you have to go sans makeup. Follow these four tips: 1) Use a mineral powder—most of which are free from preservatives and artificial dyes—or a silicone-based foundation to lessen the likelihood of irritation, 2) avoid waterproof mascara as harsh cleansers are required to remove it, 3) use eyeliner in pencil form, not liquid, as the latter often contains latex and may cause a reaction, and 4) toss old cosmetics, which can go bad or become contaminated over time. And don’t forget to clean your brushes regularly.
8. Exercise SPF Smarts
Irritable skin is often extra-sensitive to the sun. Wear sunscreen year-round with SPF 30 or higher to protect delicate tissue from aggravating rays. Look for sunscreens with physical active ingredients—such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—which are less likely to cause a reaction than chemical sunscreens, like oxybenzone, octylcrylene, and octinoxate.