In a world where more is more, it’s easy to over-do things—like sensitizing your skin. Unlike sensitive skin, which is a permanent skin concern, sensitized skin is the result of external exposure to overwhelming products and environmental factors. Sensitive skin is more likely to become sensitized, but it doesn’t mean sensitization won’t affect other skin types.
Skincare products rich in active ingredients can give amazing results, but overusing them or using them incorrectly can irritate the skin and trigger its immune response. The same factors that lead to sensitization often also compromise the skin barrier, making it more susceptible to dehydration and external aggressors.
The common signs of skin irritation are redness, itchiness, swelling, burning, and a “raw” sensation. Inflammation is our body’s initial protective response because it also triggers healing, but continuous inflammation ultimately causes tissue damage. Skin that gets irritated and inflamed regularly can end up permanently affected.
We’ve put together some tips to help you cool down your skin once it has been irritated, along with suggestions that will keep you from sensitizing your skin ever again.
Don’t Play Chemist
There are certain skincare ingredients known as “actives” because of their quick and dramatic effects. They include chemical exfoliants like glycolic acid, lactic acid and salicylic acid, retinoids (vitamin A), and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). These ingredients are particularly useful for reversing visible signs of age and environmental damage like fine lines, loss of tone, and pigmentation. You wouldn’t be faulted for wanting to use all of these in a single routine, but unfortunately, that can be a recipe for disaster. Overloading the skin with actives is a very frequent cause of skin irritation.
When building a non-sensitizing skincare routine that will still have amazing results, use only one of these actives at full strength, and then use gentle alternatives for the others. You can use enzymatic exfoliants instead of acids to remove dead skin buildup, gentle retinyl palmitate instead of high-powered retinol for smoother looking skin, and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate instead of full-strength ascorbic acid for a brighter-looking complexion. If your skin is extremely sensitive, avoid extra-potent actives altogether, and stick to their gentle alternatives.
Keep the Skin Soothed
If your skin is already sensitized, it’s important to cool the skin and calm down the inflammatory response as quickly as possible. Many naturally-derived ingredients can be powerfully soothing, to quickly fade away the appearance of facial redness. They include calendula extract, which is rich in saponins and flavonoids, chamomile extract, which is rich in bisabolol and chamazulene, and Centella Asiatica extract, which is rich in madecassoside and asiaticoside.
Your first course of action should be to apply a gentle product rich in these ingredients, like our ORMEDIC balancing gel masque. This cooling mask relies on these powerful extracts to work together to quickly improve the appearance of sensitized and inflamed skin, while also loading it up with fortifying moisture.
Sensitization often occurs when the skin has been over exfoliated or scrubbed too harshly. In addition to the typical signs of sensitization, over-exfoliation can also make the skin appear tight, shiny, or extra flaky. This is why it is important to be careful when using either physical or chemical exfoliants. If your skin has been over exfoliated, take a break from scrubbing while your skin repairs itself.
Once your skin has calmed down, switch to a mild but effective exfoliating agent like our ILUMA intense brightening exfoliating powder. Exfoliation is, after all, still an important part of a comprehensive skincare routine, as it removes dead skin buildup and allows for better moisturization. This exfoliant relies on coconut milk powder and pumpkin enzymes to gently dislodge dead skin without irritating. Make sure to use it in combination with cool water, since hot water is known to further compromise the skin.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Skincare enthusiasts often irritate their skin by starting multiple new skincare products at once. It can be that the combination of new products all at once overwhelms the skin, or that your skin doesn’t react well to a certain ingredient in one of the products. The worst part is that because all of these products were introduced at the same time, it is impossible to tell which product caused the issue.
This is why you should follow some safety practices when starting new skincare products. First, before you rub your new product all over the face, try it on a small patch of skin for a few days to ensure a good reaction. Behind the ear will work well; if a negative reaction does occur, no one will know except for you, and you’ll know not to use the offending product. In addition to patch testing, make sure to only introduce one new product at a time. Give each new product at least a week or two before introducing the next product.
Buffer Your Actives
One secret not many people know is that certain active ingredients are still going to be very effective even if they’re not applied directly on bare skin. When you have sensitive or easily compromised skin, you can apply highly active serums after you’ve applied a rich cream.
This process is called buffering, and it slows down the rate at which your skin absorbs active ingredients to prevent the chances of irritation. The MAX™ stem cell crème is a perfect product for buffering because it is rich enough to ensure slow penetration, but not so rich that it blocks out the actives. This way, you can still benefit from the anti-aging effects of retinol but with a much lower chance of irritation. This cream is particularly useful if you’re combatting the visible signs of aging since it includes a stem cell complex from self-healing botanicals that fortifies the appearance of maturing or sensitized skin but doesn’t have sensitizing side effects.