What’s the Deal with Sensitive Skin?

We’ve covered different skin types before on The Guide. But today we wanted to cover one type that can make things really tricky for its owner: sensitive skin. We often have customers with sensitive skin who want to know what products they should use and how to best treat their sensitive skin. If you’re one of them and you want answers, read on. What is Sensitive Skin? In this case, the name says it all. Sensitive skin is skin that is sensitive to ingredients and weather, and will often flare up for seemingly no reason. Sensitive skin types often experience flushing, redness, and dry patches during a flare up.

What Can You Do to Avoid a Flare Up?

This is the tough part- sometimes a flare up can happen out of what feels like thin air. We often hear from customers who will have no problem with a product for a month and then suddenly react to it with a rash. One customer has had to change her face cleanser brand every month for the last three years.

Our biggest suggestion when this happens is to act like an ingredient detective. Take a photo of the ingredient list of whatever product/s you were using at the time of the flare up. Keep doing this for a few months. Then you want to compare the ingredient lists and see if the same ingredient keeps popping up over and over again. If you keep seeing one ingredient used in all of the products causing your skin to react, you’ll have your ingredient culprit (or at least one of them).

One big caveat to that- a lot of ingredients have synonyms, because why not make things more complicated for you, right? So it’s worth checking more unfamiliar sounding ingredients at the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database for synonyms, to double check you aren’t missing any matches on labels you’re comparing.

You're Using Clean Products- So Why Are You Having a Flare Up?

This is the most frustrating part about having sensitive skin. A lot of times the ingredients that are cleaner- meaning safer for you (e.g. non cancer causing or hormone disrupting) or better for the environment- can cause sensitive skin to react just as much as the less safe ones.

We wish it were simpler. It's very much a trial and error situation, and there is no one right answer for all sensitive skin types.

Are There Any Ingredients or Products You Should Definitely Avoid?

There are certain ingredients that tend to be harsh for sensitive skin. A lot of times certain types of preservatives can cause flare ups- though again, it's hard to predict which types of preservatives are going to be a problem for all sensitive skin types.

Fragrance in general can be hard for sensitive skin types. Because fragrance is an umbrella term for any number of unlisted ingredients, there can often be problematic ingredients that fall under it.

Another big issue can be certain types of surfactants, which are the cleansing ingredients used in shampoos and body washes. Again, the types of surfactants that are irritating will vary for different people. SLS and SLES are harsh for most people (which is why we avoid them completely at Alder New York), but it can be even more specific, down to the base being coconut versus palm derived, if you have sensitive skin.

So Are You Doomed to Always Have Flare Ups?

Not at all! If you take the time to study the causes, you can often find the big triggers and avoid them. Most brands accept returns if you explain your issue- at Alder New York we accept your return for any reason. So you can always try a product without the risk that you’re stuck with it if it doesn’t work. If you try something and it causes a reaction, just think of it as another product you can cross off your list as you move on to better, non flare up causing things.

Leave a comment