How Should I Clean My Sensitive Skin?

Sensitive-skin cleansers won't irritate your delicate complexion. Some products may even help reverse sensitivity.

People with sensitive skin are accustomed to approaching skincare with trepidation. After all, the wrong product can trigger a painful reaction that lasts for days.

If you have sensitive skin, you still need to cleanse daily, but you must also choose a cleanser that's unlikely to irritate your delicate skin. Here's how to balance your skin's need for gentle cleansing with its reactivity.


What Are the Best Cleansers for Sensitive Skin?


The Importance of Medical Advice

Understanding the causes of your skin's sensitivity can help you make better product decisions. You might have a specific allergy, extremely dry skin, or even a skin condition such as eczema. If sensitive skin consistently undermines your skin's health, talk to your doctor before switching to a new skincare regimen. 

Cleansers for Sensitive Skin

Ingredients that tend to irritate sensitive skin include:

  • Benzoyl peroxide, a common drying agent used in many acne spot treatments.
  • Salicylic acid, which is commonly found in both acne and wrinkle treatments.
  • Common cleanser ingredients such as dimethyl sulfoxideamyldimethylaminobenzoic acid, and 2-ethoxyethyl methoxycinnamate.

Exfoliants—both chemical, such as glycolic acid, and mechanical, such as coconut husk—may also irritate sensitive skin by stripping too much oil or irritating pre-existing reactions. If you know your skin is sensitive, introduce only one new skincare product at a time.

You might find that some potentially irritating ingredients are fine but others produce an immediate reaction. For a gentle all-purpose cleanser that's unlikely to irritate your skin, try Dermalogica Ultracalming Cleanser.


What Are the Best Cleansers for Sensitive Skin?


Sensitive-Skin Cleansing Tips

Gently cleansing your sensitive skin is about more than just the products you choose. How you cleanse also matters. Try these tips for a clean, reaction-free complexion:

  • Don't use too many products at once. You'll irritate your complexion and make it difficult to assess which product is causing reactions.
  • Don't rub or scrub. Use light strokes to apply products, splash with tepid water to rinse, and pat dry.
  • Don't wash too often. Frequent cleansing dries and irritates skin.
  • Use clean flannels every time you wash. Reusing cloth products can introduce bacteria into your sensitive skin.
  • Protect your skin from the sun. Pick a sunscreen specifically formulated for sensitive skin, such as Dermalogica Super Sensitive Shield.
  • Don't touch your face. Sensitive skin is highly reactive to chemicals such as trace amounts of household cleaners. Your hands may also be home to bacteria that further irritates your skin.

If you develop swelling as part of a skin reaction, or if you have a fever or other symptoms of an illness, talk to your doctor immediately. A virus, severe allergic reaction, or other health issue could be inflaming your skin.