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Face care for sensitive skin

28 November 2023 | By Leila Petersen

Prone to rashes, breakouts, and dry, flaky patches? Find out which ingredients to avoid, and what products to add to your skincare routine.


If you want a healthy, glowing complexion, nailing down the perfect routine for your skin type is key. But that can be easier said than done – especially for those who suffer from sensitive skin. It’s one of the hardest skin types to deal with – one minute it can be calm and cooperative, and the next everything seems to cause a flare-up. The reality is that most of us have experienced a sensitised complexion at some point – many factors including using extremely hot water to wash your face, using harsh ingredients such as exfoliants or retinol, or being in a dry climate –can trigger a flare-up, and when coupled with other skin conditions like acne or rosacea, can be very frustrating. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for sensitive skin, finding the right products coupled with good lifestyle choices can help minimise sensitivity, soothe irritation and keep skin moisturised.

How should you manage sensitive skin?

As a rule, keep things simple. Strip back your extensive collection of oils, acids, and peels, and build a simple routine (free from harsh ingredients and artificial fragrances) that is not only gentle on your skin but will help strengthen your skin barrier.

What ingredients should be avoided?

Ensure that you’re using fragrance-free and non-perfumed products and keep away from physical forms of exfoliation, like scrubs or cleansing brushes, as this can exacerbate irritation. Certain sulphates, drying alcohols, silicones, preservatives, and ingredients like witch hazel, essential oils, camphor, and menthol can also increase inflammation.

What ingredients are good?

Consider introducing emollients, like squalane and shea butter, to hold moisture in, and ceramides (the glue that holds your skin cells together) to bolster your barrier. Niacinamide is another phenomenal ingredient for preventing and treating skin sensitivity, and because it’s so gentle it’s often added to rosacea moisturisers too. Hyaluronic acid is another non-irritating humectant that is frequently found in products designed for sensitive skin and is a key molecule in retaining skin moisture. Natural ingredients such as chamomile and aloe are also able to soothe sensitive skin.

Skincare for sensitive skin


When it comes to sensitive skin, it’s a good idea to stay away from foaming cleansers as these have a higher pH level which can irritate. Instead opt for a gentle cream or gel formulas that’s full of comforting ingredients, like ceramides or hyaluronic acid, or try a micellar water which includes tiny particles called micelles that trap impurities and lift them away without drying your skin in the process.

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•    Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water Sensitive
•    The Body Shop Aloe Cream Cleanser
•    CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser 
•    Avene Tolerance Control Extremely Gentle Cleanser
•    REN Clean Skincare Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Gel 


When you’ve got sensitive skin, your top priority is to maintain and hydrate your skin barrier so look out for ingredients that will help reinforce it – like hyaluronic acid, lipids, peptides and squalane.

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•    Revolution Skincare 2% Hyaluronic Acid Plumping & Hydrating Serum
•    Essence Skin Lovin' Face Serum Sensitive 
•    Eveline Serum Shot 2% Hyaluronic Acid Moisturization
•    Cetaphil Deep Hydration 48 Hour Activation Serum
•    Bioderma Hydrabio Moisturising Concentrate Serum


Seek out deeply hydrating formulas that are hypoallergenic and free of potential irritants, like fragrance and alcohol, that won’t clog your pores. For a daytime moisturiser, use a gel-like formula that’s fragrance- and oil-free, and for the night, find one that's thicker in consistency (ideally containing ceramides) to reinforce your skin barrier as you sleep.

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•    La Roche-Posay Toleriane Sensitive Riche Moisturiser
•    Bioderma Sensibio Soothing Purifying Cream DS+
•    The Body Shop Aloe Night Cream
•    Clinique Moisture Surge Intense 72 Hour Lipid Replenishing Hydrator
•    Hada Labo Intense Hydrating Skin Plumping Gel Day & Night


By now you should know that applying sunscreen daily is the most crucial step in your skincare routine, no matter your age or skin type. For those with sensitive skin, it’s recommended to use a mineral sunscreen containing zinc oxide as it sits on the surface of your skin to reflect UV rays.

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•    La Roche-Posay Anthelios Hydrating Cream SPF50+
•    Bioderma Photoderm Aquafluide No Tint SPF50+
•    Eucerin Sun Creme SPF50+ Face
•    Avene SPF50+ Mineral Cream
•    Vichy Capital Soleil SPF50 Hydrating Milk Skin Cell Sun Protection

Take note:
Before using a new skincare product, doing a patch test is a good idea. Apply a small amount of the product to a small skin area and wait 24-48 hours to see if any irritation develops. This will help you determine if the product is safe for your skin and avoid any unpleasant reactions.

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