Even sensitive skin needs to be cleansed. Here's how to choose a cleanser that protects, rather than irritates, your sensitive skin.
'Sensitive' isn't a diagnosis of your skin; it's a description. Your complexion may be sensitive for one or more reasons: genetics, allergies, a skin condition such as eczema, or even a systemic medical condition such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
One characteristic all sensitive skin types share is a tendency to overreact to new products. Cleansers can be especially irritating, since they usually strip the skin of its natural oils, potentially increasing the sensitivity that often coincides with dryness.
No single cleanser will work for everyone with sensitive skin, but by keeping a few goals in mind, you can greatly reduce your risk of a flare-up.
Know Your Skin's Sensitivities
Before you purchase a cleanser, try keeping a log of your skin's reactions. No two complexions are alike, so a cleanser that works great for one person with sensitive skin can produce a painful skin reaction in someone else.
Abrasive exfoliants as well as chemical exfoliants like salicylic and glycolic acids top the list of common skin irritants for sensitive skin, but your skin may be different. Some complexions react even to all-natural ingredients.
Keep an open mind - remember that a cleanser needs to work quite closely to your skin, so ingredients in a moisturiser that might be fine for you might not work as well in a cleanser for you.
Steer Clear of Drying Ingredients
Even oily skin can be sensitive, but many cases of sensitive skin are due to excessive dryness. You might even artificially trigger sensitivity by using too many drying products on formerly oily skin.
If you have a sensitive complexion, don't use cleansers designed to clear acne or eliminate oily skin. Such products can remove the protective barrier of sebum from the outer layer of your skin and make you vulnerable to rashes and other unpleasant reactions.
Test the Product First
No one wants to spend a week hiding a painful rash, but that's exactly what may happen if you don't take time to test a cleanser before using it. Patch-test your sensitive skin cleanser on the delicate skin behind your ear first. Wait 24 to 48 hours. If there's no reaction, you may have found your new cleansing soulmate.
Cleanse With Caution
Even if you're already using a great sensitive skin cleanser, the manner in which you wash your face can affect skin health. The following guidelines can help you avoid an unpleasant reaction:
- Don't cleanse your skin unless you need to. Few people today have dirt on their face. Instead, cleanse only when you need to remove makeup or sunscreen, after an intense workout, or if you've been exposed to an irritant.
- Don't aggressively rub or scrub your skin when cleansing. Doing so can irritate your skin and introduce sensitivity-inducing bacteria into your pores.
- Don't pick your skin or pop pimples.
- Protect your skin from the sun's harmful UV rays with a sensitive-skin-friendly sunscreen such as Mesoestetic Dermatological Sun Protection SPF 50+. The sun can increase the skin-sensitising effects of a range of products.
- Moisturise after cleansing, even if you have oily skin. Cleansers can leave any complexion parched and irritated if you don't replenish your skin's natural lubricants.
Choose Hypoallergenic Formulas
Hypoallergenic formulas are made without the most common skin irritants, making them a safer option for many people with sensitive skin. However, the term 'hypoallergenic' doesn't guarantee an allergen-free product. Use even hypoallergenic formulas with caution.
In the market for a good hypoallergenic cleanser? For combination to oily sensitive skin, Alpha-H Balancing Cleanser, which won't clog pores or irritate sensitive skin.
For normal to dry sensitive skin, try the Avene Tolérance Extrême Cleansing Lotion, which is one of Australian beauty guru Karima McKimmie's favourite products. She said it helps her with her dermatitis, and recommends it for anyone looking for a cleanser for eczema as well. Karima is well-known for her honest reviews, and she's a fantastic blogger to follow if you have dry skin and want to see how she keeps her skin looking glowing.