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Soothe Sensitive Skin

Whether your skin is irritated by nature or you’ve OD’d on aggressive treatments, try these expert tricks for taming touchy skin.

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“Sometimes medical treatments beget their own diseases,” says New York City plastic surgeon Michelle Copeland, M.D. “As many people use a wide array of skincare products on a daily basis, I see an increasing number of patients with reactions to chemical components used as vehicles, binders and sometimes active ingredients.”

If you suspect that certain skincare products, such as retinols, glycolic and salicylic acids and sulfur, may be the cause of your easily upset skin, scale back or discontinue using them. Also, check ingredient labels to avoid products containing irritating dyes and fragrances. “It’s best to always use allergy-tested, fragrance-free products,” recommends Dr. Copeland. And lay off harsh scrubs and treatments like microdermabrasion, which can abrade the delicate barrier even further.

MORE: Skincare for sensitive skin

If the sensitivity persists, stop using all products for a few days and then gradually reintroduce them one at a time to see if a specific one reveals itself as the problematic product.

You’ll also want to be on the lookout for possible dietary triggers that make sensitive skin worse. Spicy foods that bring on redness and flushing, tannins found in red wine, eggs and gluten are all common catalysts.

To kick off the healing process, focus on strengthening your skin. “The most important aspect is to get that barrier back intact as soon as possible to prevent irritants penetrating and causing inflammation,” advises King.

Both sensitive and sensitized skin folks should look to products containing essential fatty acids to replace the lipid barrier, like gamma linoleic acid, phytosterols and ceramides. Eating sunflower seeds and avocados also help protect the integrity of skin by reducing water loss, adds King.

Clinically sensitive skin types should also maintain a daily calming regimen, using skincare products that contain soothing ingredients like oatmeal, chamomile, ginger, aloe or cucumber treat sensitive skin. With some TLC, you’ll get the healthy, glowing complexion you crave.

QUIZ: How Healthy is Your Skin?

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