As the name almost hints at, “sensitive” skin types tend to do better with less aggressive approaches. It isn’t as resilient as normal skin and can’t handle the same onslaught someone with normal skin is able to get away with.
Growing up as a middle schooler + teen in the ’90s, “deep clean” was foundational acne knowledge. A classic regimen included beautifully foaming cleanser for that nice, deep pore clean followed by an astringent toner or astringent exfoliating pad to really chase the gunk out. You could apply a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment for overnight problem-solving. A physical exfoliant, like a big grit apricot scrub or (later) a super fine grit scrubbing cleanser, were other regular use helpful tools. And there were a bunch of people who swore by them.
What I didn’t know until recently, is this was more than my skin is able to tolerate. And that this set me in the sensitive skin category.
Drop-kicking Your Skin Isn’t Necessary
The gentle-looking bubbles of a high-foaming cleanser are actually a sign of a strong detergent. When a detergent is too strong for a skin type, it will take off more oil than necessary, leaving skin defenseless. For sensitive skin, it can cause pimples, create dryness, or create oily skin as overcompensation for what was lost.
Astringent toners + pads, as well as high-drying spot treatments, I’ve now come to find, are generally overkill for sensitive skin. It’s just not necessary to go that far with high % benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. That dried-out or stretched tight feeling after using them are identifiers of “too much”.
Exfoliation really needs to be kept to a minimum – not an everyday usage thing. Maybe once a week at most. And done with the least aggressive version possible, like an enzyme exfoliation, for example. Too much exfoliation tends to aggravate sensitive skin + cause more issues than help.
Happy Skin is Supported Skin
Whenever you’re picking a product, try going for gentler options. Sweet talk gets you farther with our skin.
It needs support, not aggression. Gentle cleansing. Gentle, infrequent exfoliation. Supporting moisture. Lipid barrier healing.
You don’t want oil-less skin. You want happy, balanced skin. Your skin needs some oil to help keep you looking cute + moisturized, and your skin better defended. What that “balanced” oil level feels like will become clear with a little experience.