Best Products for Dry Sensitive Skin
Solutions for Dry, Sensitive Skin
If you have extremely dry skin, possibly in combination with very sensitive skin, you may dread fall and winter and want to break into song and dance as soon as spring comes back around. I've always had extremely dry skin, but since 2004, I've been dealing with increased sensitivity. If you have a similar problem, hopefully my years of trial and error can help. My current skin care routine has weathered the changing seasons without too many bouts of burgundy cheeks.
Products That Have Worked for Me
Cleansers and Moisturizers
Boscia MakeUp-BreakUp Cool Cleansing Oil. I like to alternate this one with Neutrogena's Extra Gentle Cleanser, which is available at most drugstores. You massage the oil onto dry skin to remove makeup (even eye makeup) and then rinse it off. It doesn't dry my skin out at all. I feel like I could almost skip moisturizer after using it. Almost. If you like to wash your face in the morning, you may want to purchase the Neutrogena one since you won't necessarily need a makeup remover. On especially sensitive days, I've been known to just rinse with water in the mornings, but washing off the oil your skin produced overnight as well as last night's products will allow your daytime products to sink into the skin better.
Boscia Vital Moisture SPF 15. This is a lightweight daytime moisturizer that works well for me year-round, but if your skin extremely dry even after a rich nighttime moisturizing treatment, you may want to look for a heavier moisturizer for day or layer something like argan oil underneath it. If I've been overdoing it with the coffee and my skin's extra dry, I'll use Josie Maran Organic Argan Oil. A very light layer of extra virgin coconut oil will work, too. You can find that in any grocery store for roughly $10/jar. The Boscia Vital Moisture has the benefit of offering SPF 15, which is generally okay for running errands, etc. If you're going for a hike or plan to be outdoors for a while, you'll usually want to use at least SPF 30 for the extra protection. (Sunburned, sensitive skin is no fun!)
If you can't get your hands on the Boscia one, Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion is a good daytime moisturizer to try, but in my experience leaves a more obvious residue that you can feel after it's been applied. I've never used the version with SPF, but it may be a good alternative if you don't have a separate sunscreen to use.
Boscia Restorative Night Moisture and Ole Henriksen Pure Perfection. I don't use these two together, but I only use them at night. Sometimes I alternate them. Sometimes I only use the Pure Perfection when my skin needs a boost but doesn't feel particularly fragile (it exfoliates, brightens, tightens pores, and stimulates collagen production, but it can tingle). I've found that the Restorative Night Moisture is perfect for using every night whereas the Pure Perfection is good for 2-3 times per week. The Pure Perfection does brighten my skin significantly, but if I use it a few nights in a row, my skin veers into a-little-too-rosy territory.
Because I can't use the Pure Perfection every day, one jar will last at least a year. When I'm waiting for the next sale but I've run out of the Boscia Restorative Night Moisture, I use the coconut oil I mentioned earlier. I put more on than I would during the day, so it's shiny and oily, but it does the trick as far as moisture is concerned. I feel like the Boscia cream does a better job at making skin look calm and less red, but in a pinch, the coconut oil works fine. I've used it for weeks at a time with no issues. Keep in mind, the Restorative Night Moisture is very rich, so it may be too heavy if you don't have extremely dry skin.
Two things I've recently introduced that I think are improving my skin are:
Boscia Enlivening Amino-AG Eye Treatment. I have the world's worst circles and some fine lines under my eyes, plus that area tends to flake sometimes in the winter. The black circles haven't disappeared yet, but I think they are lighter. The skin under my eyes is smoother, so concealer looks better, at least. I've been using this for about three weeks. I use this in the morning and at night.
Boscia Antioxidant Recovery Treatment C. I wouldn't use this if I could use the Ole Henriksen Pure Perfection daily or even every other night, all year. This serum is meant to fight sun damage and free radicals and contains vitamin C just like the Pure Perfection. The difference is, you can wear it under your makeup and put it on at night before your moisturizer. I use this twice a day, under my moisturizer.
Scrubs and Masks
I'm not big on masks because I always forget to start my nightly routine early and just want to crawl into bed by the time I remember to wash my face. Three that I do enjoy are:
- Ole Henriksen Blue/Blackberry Mask. It smells amazing and the lavender scent is relaxing, so it's the perfect end to the day. The mask contains hyaluronic acid and panthenol for moisture, lavender extract as an anti-inflammatory, and blackberry/blueberry extracts for cell renewal and improving the texture of the skin.
- LUSH Catastrophe Cosmetic. This one is significantly less expensive but has a shorter shelf life and has to be refrigerated. According to the LUSH website, it has calamine powder, talc, fresh blueberries, almond oil, chamomile blue oil, sweet wild orange oil, Irish moss, glycerin, rose absolute, limonene, methyl ionone, and perfume. If my skin is having a flare-up, this mask helps to calm it down. Though putting a chilled mask on your face in the winter doesn't sound like the most appealing idea, if your face is flushed and feeling hot, you'll welcome the sensation as it calms your very sensitive skin.
- Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask. It's what I use when my pores are clogged because the charcoal draws out the impurities I can't get to with just a face wash. I can't use it more than once a week, but I don't usually use it that frequently.
Dry skin is notorious for flakes that beg to be scrubbed away, but very sensitive skin is notorious for getting red and irritated when rubbed the wrong way. I don't usually use a scrub to exfoliate because some of the other products I have listed work to dissolve dead skin cells (the Pure Perfection in particular). However, sometimes I have flaky skin that needs special attention.
- The Origins Modern Friction works well because it's gentle. You can feel the rice starch working, but it's in a gentle, moisturizing cream so it doesn’t trigger any lasting redness or irritation.
- Sometimes I'll just go over my skin in circular motions with a washcloth and cleanser instead.
- If you really want to splurge, I recommend the Clarisonic. I received mine as a Mother's Day gift and it's proven to be one of the best gifts ever. When I use the Delicate or Sensitive brush heads, my skin texture and brightness improve without looking irritated. I go in phases with this. When I use it, I use it 2-4 times per week.
Getting the Best Deal on Skin Care Products
You'll notice that right now I have a preference for Boscia products, but I've tried to include products that have worked well for me in the past. Boscia's not always readily available and buying everything at once is pricy. I kind of have a cycle now…I buy moisturizers one month and later I get the serum, eye cream, etc. That way I don't have to buy everything at once. I also try to time my purchases to coincide with 20% off sales at Sephora and SkinStore.com, plus I use Ebates.
You really don't need everything I listed above to get your skin under control. I'm a product junkie and once I find a good brand that doesn't irritate my skin, I tend to try lots of different products from it. I've purchased these products over the course of a year or more, and the only ones I have to replace regularly are the daytime and nighttime moisturizers and the face wash/cleansing oil. It's really not a good idea to introduce several new products to your skin care routine in case one of them breaks you out or causes irritation, anyway.
If you're starting at square one and your ultimate goal is a skin care overhaul, try:
- Boscia Makeup-Breakup Cleansing Oil OR Neutrogena Extra Gentle Cleanser
- Boscia Vital Moisture SPF 15 OR Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion + an SPF you like (or the Cetaphil with SPF)
- Boscia Restorative Night Moisture OR coconut oil
If you can only splurge on one product above, I recommend the night cream.
Adding on to the Basics
Once your skin's feeling calm, you can add in the Ole Henriksen Pure Perfection or another vitamin C-infused cream/serum to brighten it back up. I would hesitate to put either on fragile, red or stinging skin.
Introduce the eye cream whenever you're ready, if you decide you want it. Masks and scrubs are generally less important than cleansers and moisturizers since they're used less frequently, though you will want to exfoliate either via a cream that dissolves dead skin cells, washcloth, Clarisonic, or a scrub at least once a week. This part is really up to you, your skin, and your preferences.
I've also found that a fish oil supplement improves the condition of my skin. Vitamin E is also known as being beneficial for the skin, but I didn't see much of an improvement when I took the specific supplement; I do, however, take a daily multi-vitamin.
Finding the Right Products
Finding the right products for dry, sensitive skin can be a chore, and it can take a while for one bad reaction to completely calm down. In general, look for products that don't contain parabens, sulfates, dyes, or artificial fragrances. The list above is just what has worked well for me after years of trial, error, purple cheeks, self-consciousness, and frustration.