Gentle & effective products for sensitive skin | Part 1: Skincare

As much as I love experimenting with new products, I am hesitant to do so a lot of the time. Many formulas–including those that the rest of the beauty community seems to love–tend to throw-off my skin’s balance, leaving me with break outs.

My skin overall is “normal,” slightly oily at times (but I am definitely not immune to dry spots) and *sensitive*. So, I am more cautious than most when trying new things.

When I invest in something new to try, I always give it a fair shot by using it several times. But whether it breaks me out only the first couple times I try it, or for an extend period of time, the unwanted spots are super frustrating.

Thankfully, all this experimenting has helped me discover plenty of amazing products for my sensitive skin that haven’t caused any break outs whatsoever!

What it’s called: Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser

What it does: Cleanses and soothes skin, removes makeup

Key ingredients: Poloxamer, an effective “cleansing agent” found in contact lens solution that is gentle on sensitive skin and eyes; soothing rosewater; comfrey root extract, which contains allantoin to relax dry or stressed skin

How I use it: As cleanser with warm water (I keep my bottle in the shower!)

What it’s called: Bioderma Sensibio H2O micellar water

What it does: Removes dirt, oil and makeup

Key ingredients: Micellar technology that gently “cuts through impurities (even waterproof makeup) while maintaining the skin’s moisture balance”; soothing cucumber extract

How I use it: To cleanse or remove makeup without rinsing

What it’s called: Tatcha The Rice Polish Foaming Enzyme Powder

What it does: Exfoliates and nourishes the skin, reducing the appearance of fullness, uneven texture, fine lines/wrinkles and pores

Key ingredients: Japanese rice bran (“rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and nourishing moisturizers”) to gently exfoliate the skin; rice and papaya enzymes (papain), which remove debris and dull, dead skin while supporting “healthy turnover to reveal fresh new skin”; pearl, a hydrator that contains amino acids, collagen and minerals.

How I use it: With warm water as a quick exfoliating treatment after cleansing once or twice per week.

What it’s called: Lush Tea Tree Water

What it does: Balances oily skin, fights dirt

Key ingredients: Tea tree water to “cleanse, clarify and tone” skin

How I use it: As a refreshing mist throughout the day (I keep one in my bag and one on my top shelf.)

What it’s called: Thayers Alcohol-Free Unscented Witch Hazel Toner

What it does: Cleanses, tones and soothes skin

Key ingredients: “Non-distilled extract from the Witch Hazel shrub maintaining the highest levels of therapeutic tannins”; aloe vera

How I use it: To balance skin after cleanser

What it’s called: Glossier Solution

What it does: Fights and prevents breakouts, corrects dark spots

Key ingredients: Salicylic acid, a BHA that “reduces acne and unclogs pores by breaking oil bonds attaching dead cells to skin”; glycolic acid, an AHA that “breaks water bonds attaching dead cells to skin, improving tone and texture” and brightening the skin; lactic acid, an AHA that reduces the appearance of dark spots; gluconolactone, a PHA that “exfoliates while moisturizing and conditioning”; a blend of “ultra-soothing aloe, hydrating glycerin and calming niacinamide”

How I use it: As toner four to five times per week

What it’s called: Glossier Super Pure

What it does: Treats and soothes breakouts, shortening their lifespan

Key ingredients: Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) a “powerful soother” that almost instantly diminishes redness; zinc PCA to “penetrate pores,” helping “clear out impurities and excess sebum that can cause blemishes. Adding zinc is like giving your skin a calming massage to help it rest, recharge and let go of built-up agitation.”

How I use it: As a spot treatment after toner, before moisturizer

What it’s called: Tarte Maracuja Oil

What it does: What doesn’t it do? This formula balances, moisturizes, softens and helps lock-in skin’s hydration without clogging pores; reduces excess sebum production for oily/acne-prone skin; provides anti-aging and skin-firming benefits; protects with antioxidants from environmental aggressors; leaves a “dewy, radiant finish.”

Key ingredients: Cold-pressed oil from maracuja, a fruit that naturally contains vitamin C and fatty acids to “nourish, protect and feed” the skin

How I use it: As an extra boost of all-over hydration and nourishing benefits before moisturizer

What it’s called: Summer Friday’s Jet Lag Mask

What it does: Hydrates, nourishes, soothes and refreshes skin

Key ingredients: Vitamin C to brighten and even skin’s tone, “revitalizing” its surface; vitamin E, an antioxidant that “helps rid the skin of free radicals”; sodium hyaluronate to “boost skin’s moisture content, soothe and defend against moisture loss”; arginine, a “naturally occurring amino acid” that serves as the “building block of proteins; ceramides 1, 3 and 6 II

How I use it: In place of my regular moisturizer one to three times per week (no need to wash this mask off!)

What it’s called: Mega Greens Galaxy Pack

What it does: Gently detoxes and exfoliates skin

Key ingredients: A blend of “leafy green” phytonutrients from parsley, spinach and cress sprout extract that “clean and help protect skin against environmental pollutants”; bitter orange peel, a soft exfoliant that “helps promote optimal oil balance”; kaolin clay, a “creamy white clay,” that “gently purifies pores by drawing out oil and build-up; avocado oil + aloe, two natural moisturizers to soften and condition skin; antioxidants from a mix of “vitamin- and omega-rich superfruits” (including açaí, aronia and bilberry) that protect the skin from damage.

How I use it: As a 20-minute mask (after cleanser, before moisturizer) one to two times per week

What it’s called: MAC Cosmetics Prep + Prime Fix+

What it does: Improves and enhances makeup’s wear while moisturizing, soothing and refreshing skin, leaving it with a “soft sheen”

Key ingredients: Green tea, chamomile and cucumber

How I use it: To wet and set powder makeup products, both before and after application


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