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Sensitive Skin, Decoded

Get to the bottom of your sensitive skin, and learn how to treat it.

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Allergic contact dermatitis
When your skin comes into contact with an ingredient to which you’re allergic, your immune system responds by releasing histamines, which in turn causes the dermis to get inflamed. While anything from ragweed to nickel can cause a rash, the most common allergens in cosmetics are preservatives and fragrance followed by colors and formaldehyde, notes Dr. Baumann. Organic enthusiasts take note: Essential oils like chamomile and calendula, as well as other botanical ingredients found in natural beauty products can also cause allergic reactions.

Tips for sensitive skin:

  • Look for products that are labeled “hypoallergenic” and “fragrance-free”.
  • Wash your face with a mild, soap-free (non-sudsing) cleanser.
  • Use an alcohol-free toner or skip toner altogether.
  • Avoid ingredients like lactic, glycolic, benzoic and alpha hydroxy acids, vitamin C, formaldehyde, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate, mineral oil, preservatives and fragrances.
  • Wear sunscreen made with physical blockers like titanium or zinc oxide, which are less irritating than chemical blockers (common chemical sunscreens are avobenzone, octinoxate and mexoryl). Learn how to shop for sunscreen here.
  • Switch to fragrance-free laundry detergent and wear rubber gloves when you clean.
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