Being diagnosed with sensitive skin by a qualified expert is a whole different ball game from having a bit of dryness every now and again. Everybody gets a little sensitive, but signs of truly sensitive skin are way more consistent and annoying than the odd monthly flare-up.
Symptoms of sensitive skin include physical reactions like pustules, extreme dryness, itchiness, and a tendency towards flushing. These reactions can be caused by anything from environmental stressors (like air pollution) to your genetic makeup or even skin disorders like rosacea and dermatitis.
But whatever their cause, the sensitive skin message is loud and clear: you must tread carefully with every single product you put on your skin. For example, skincare powerhouses such as retinoids and glycolic acid might work like a dream on your friend’s complexion, but they could be a major no-no for your delicate skin.
Knowing which ingredient your skin can and cannot tolerate is a very personal thing, and unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules that work for everybody. However, there are some ingredients worth noting that are a match made in heaven for sensitive skin types.
Here are ten of the best.
Super-rich in minerals, vitamins and enzymes, aloe is naturally cooling and contains skin-soothing, anti-inflammatory sugars called polysaccharides. All this makes it an effective ingredient for suncare and almost unbeatable when it comes to relieving itchiness and inflammation after one too many hours in the sun.
But aloe is so much more than an effective post-sun treatment. It also contains cholesterol-like molecules called phytosterols, which not only help repair broken skin caused by dermatitis, eczema or acne, but work hard to reduce trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). TEWL, if you’ve not heard of it, is the process by which water evaporates through the skin into the environment which causes dryness and irritation. Anything you can do to help reduce your level of TEWL is a major plus, and aloe is great for this. Couple this with its healing, soothing, and antioxidant benefits and you’d be hard pressed to find a better ingredient for moisturizing and calming sensitive skin.
Avena Sativa Extract
Like the more well-known colloidal oatmeal, avena sativa extract is an oat derivate and often added to moisturizers for its soothing and calming benefits.
Similar to other natural ingredients like aloe and milk, history shows that wild oats have been used to treat inflamed skin since around 2000 B.C.. Avena Sativa contains phenols that offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (both internally and externally), as well as fatty acids and soothing beta-glucans. When applied topically, these work together to form a natural barrier over the surface of the skin which protects the skin’s outer levels and helps it maintain optimum moisture levels. This helps reduce dry, itchy skin and may even relieve symptoms caused by eczema or other skin rashes.
Bakuchiol is having a bit of a moment in skincare right now because it shows very similar benefits to retinol with none of the downsides. And that’s big news because as we’re sure you know, there’s little debate about the anti-aging benefits of retinol, but it can be a tricky ingredient to tolerate if you have sensitive skin.
So all the benefits without the side effects? Sign us up!
Derived from the seeds and leaves of a native Indian plant called the babchi plant, bakuchiol is used in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine to help heal and soothe the skin, but its benefits are endless. According to research, bakuchiol bears no structural similarities to retinol, yet it functions in almost the same way by activating the same genes to trigger collagen production and strengthen the skin. This means that like retinol, bakuchiol is a very effective ingredient for improving fine lines, wrinkles, discoloration, and lack of firmness. The difference is it manages to do all of this without causing the dryness or stinging sensation that retinol sometimes brings to the table.
Sometimes referred to as alpha-bisabolol or levomenol, bisabolol is a thick, colorless oil that can be extracted from either German chamomile or the bark of the candeia tree, a native species from Brazil. Bisabolol has a naturally sweet, floral fragrance and tons of anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and antioxidant properties, which is why it has been a very popular ingredient in cosmetics and skincare for hundreds of years.
A naturally protective moisturizer, bisabolol contains a high concentration of panthenol, a very effective healing and softening agent. It also helps soothe irritation and fights free radicals to help prevent the visible signs of aging.
Canadian willowherb is a remarkable plant that is commonly called fireweed due to the clever way it returns to life whenever a forest fire has destroyed both it and its surroundings. Another awesome natural ingredient, Canadian willowherb has been used by North American natives for centuries to reduce inflammation, and more recent research suggests that its anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant, and antimicrobial properties can be harnessed to treat rosacea and sensitive skin.
Canadian willowherb not only helps reduce damage from oxidative stress and provides fast relief from irritation, but it also calms redness, fights free radicals and reduces excess sebum making it an awesome, yet gentle treatment for acne-prone skin.
Ceramides are naturally-occurring lipids that form a waterproof seal on the surface of your skin and account for over 50 percent of your skin’s natural moisturizing factor (NMF).
The NMF is a blend of powerful substances within the top layers of your skin that help keep it moisturized. By maintaining hydration, the NMF works to protect the
barrier function of your skin. This is super-important because when the barrier is functioning properly, your skin becomes stronger and more tolerant to irritation and heals faster.
Sadly, the skin’s ability to produce ceramides diminishes over time (surprise, surprise), which means that no matter how awesome your diet, lifestyle, and skincare regime are, those ceramides are just going to get fewer and fewer, especially if you suffer from sensitivities, such as dry skin, itchiness, eczema or acne. That’s why including them in your skincare is so important.
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is another of the skin’s most important components for maintaining hydration. But just like ceramides, your natural levels of HA also decrease with age.
A powerful, gel-like substance, HA works like a sponge within the skin to help retain water and keep it soft, plump, and hydrated. Its moisturizing prowess also helps strengthen the barrier function of your skin to protect it and reduce irritation.
As a skincare ingredient, hyaluronic acid is very well tolerated by most skin types, but you should always apply moisturizer over the top of any HA serum to lock all that goodness in. Failure to do so will allow all that moisture to evaporate into the air, leaving your skin drier and more compromised in the long run.
Packed with hundreds of potentially healing substances, licorice is considered to be one of the world’s oldest herbal remedies. It has also gained a big following in skincare in recent years, and we’re a major part of that following.
When it comes to sensitive skin, licorice’s main advantage is an ingredient called glabradin. Glabradin is a potent antioxidant and has strong anti-inflammatory properties. It works by blocking the signaling pathway for inflammation to stop it reaching the surface of your skin. This has been proven to help treat the symptoms of atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and rosacea and is why licorice gets major love from anyone who suffers with irritations such as redness, peeling, itchiness, and dry skin.
Gentle exfoliation is important for all skin types, but when your skin is sensitive, finding the right product is easier said than done.
We believe this is where lactic acid comes in. Lactic acid is part of a group of water-soluble acids called alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). Other examples are glycolic, malic, and tartaric acids. AHAs work by exfoliating the top layers of your skin to promote cell turnover and, consequently, a healthier-looking, fresh complexion.
Glycolic acid is probably the most widely used in skincare, but due to its small molecular size, it penetrates the skin very easily and can feel harsh for sensitive skin. Lactic acid, on the other hand, has a larger molecular size, which makes it more tolerable, yet still very effective. Like HA, lactic acid is also a humectant, so it helps increase the skin’s moisture levels. In addition, it has also been shown to increase the levels of ceramides in the skin. Yes, it’s that good.
Squalene is a naturally-produced oil that is one of the main components of sebum, the oil produced by your sebaceous glands, which helps keep your skin hydrated and protected. As with most of your skin’s good stuff, levels of squalene dramatically decrease over time, which is why it makes sense to replenish these levels through skincare.
The problem with squalene, however, is that as a skincare ingredient it’s unstable and has a very short shelf-life. Which is why squalane was born.
Squalane is basically hydrogenated squalene derived from plants such as olives, rice bran, and wheat germ. Like ceramides and hyaluronic acid, its primary function is to seal in moisture and strengthen your skin’s barrier function. And it does this very well, making it an ideal ingredient for all skin types.
While powerful and hard-working, Overnight Star Lactic Acid Treatment is ideal for sensitive skin. It contains many top ingredients for calming the complexion and reducing your chances of irritation. These ingredients include lactic acid, licorice, hyaluronic acid, squalane, bisabolol, and aloe.