If your skin forecast shows dry or sensitive, learn what ingredients to avoid to balance the scales. Hint: you’ll have to be a beauty teetotaler - By Parizaad Khan SethiStep away from:
Foaming cleansers. If your cleanser is lathering up a storm, making you feel like Kareena in that Lux soap ad, we have to talk. Foam = dryness. The more foam, lather and large bubbles that your cleanser makes, the drier your skin will be. Opt for a creamy, less enthusiastic cleanser instead.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. SLS is a detergent and surfactant that sucks joy and moisture out of skin. Finding an SLS-free product might be a bit of a challenge, as it’s so ubiquitous in cleansers and shampoos. Both Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Cleanser and Sunflower Color Preserving Shampoo are formulated without sulfates.
Humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin. Humectants are game-changers for dry, dehydrated skin. But, irony of ironies, if used incorrectly, they make dry skin worse. Humectants (glycerin and hyaluronic acid are the most popular) attract water and draw moisture into the skin. But, if the weather is dry and there’s no moisture to be extracted from the air, they have to get their fix somehow. So moisture is pulled up from the lower layers of the skin, bringing it to the surface where it soon evaporates, leaving you shriveled up, raisin-style. Chemistry. Not an easy beast to tame, folks.
Here’s what you do: Check if your humectant-containing product also has an occlusive agent—ingredients like squalene, mineral oil, shea butter, silicone, beeswax or lanolin will seal the moisture in and not let it escape (Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream is one). If it does not, look for a moisturiser with one or more occlusives and apply it on top of your humectant.
Alcohol. At the risk of sounding repetitive, shun alcohol like the devil (only in skincare, though; we never met a martini we didn’t like). Alcohol will parch dry skin and create havoc on sensitive complexions. Do not use. The end.
Fragrance. If your skin is sensitive and tends to get red, inflamed and irritated, your skincare should be fragrance-free, no questions asked. Fragrances—both natural and synthetic—cause inflammation. It sure feels luxurious to open a jar, take a deep whiff and slather sweet-smelling goo all over your face, but ironically, even natural fragrances are damaging rather than helping your skin. Look to perfume and fragranced candles for your olfactory needs. Your skin will be happier if skincare is effective and result-driven, not a sensory experience. Clinique’s products are formulated to be fragrance free, while La Roche-Posay uses only those fragrances which don’t irritate sensitive skin.
Essential oils. Research shows essential oils have significant effects on our mood and well-being, but research also shows that many are harmful to sensitive skin when actually applied to it. Orange, lemon or citrus oils, even lavender and peppermint will better serve you when they’re in a diffuser, rather than on your face.
Bar soaps. Bar soaps are drying, as many of them have a high pH of nearly 9 or 10 (the pH of skin is 5.5). Soaps will make dry skin feel like the Namibian desert from Mad Max. This is not a good look.
Anything tingly. Alcohol, menthol, mint or witch hazel are all irritants. Remember—if it tingles, with your skin it should not mingle (*enters urban poetry competition immediately*).
Scrubs and cleansing brushes. ‘I don’t want no scrub, a scrub is a guy that can't get no love from me’—little did TLC know that their hit song would become a beauty anthem. Scrubs cause micro-tears in the skin, and friction is hell on sensitive complexions. Don’t try scrubbing off skin dry flakes—exfoliation with gentle glycolic or lactic acid is more beneficial.
The sensitive would also do well to stay away from rotating, cleansing brushes which can be too inflammatory for their skin.
PS: Sensitive skins need not only be dry ones. Oily and sensitive is also a common combination. If you’re a lucky winner with both those concerns, please read our no-nos for oily skin here.
is a beauty and wellness editor based in New York. She was the former beauty editor at Vogue India and now serves as a contributing editor for the magazine. At age 5, Parizaad fell in love with an old cream blush she found in the back of her mother’s drawer, and has been in awe of the transformative power of beauty ever since. When she’s not writing about beauty, she researches advances in skincare as a hobby, and is constantly guinea-pigging herself in the name of beauty.
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