How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

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The care of sensitive skin is important and starts with a daily routine of keeping your face clean. There is a right and wrong way to wash your face, whether you have sensitive skin or not. The skin of your face is always exposed to many elements and is affected by sun exposure, debris, environmental pollutants, and the ingredients in your skin care products or makeup.

Understanding what your skin needs to stay healthy and to combat the harmful things its exposed to daily, is the key to managing sensitive skin starting with how you wash your face.

1. Know Your Sensitive Skin Type

With sensitive skin, it’s not only important to know if you have dry, oily, combination or normal skin, but also what type of irritation you’re prone to. For example, you may have dry but acne-prone skin which requires special needs, or oily skin with flaky patches.. No matter which type or skin condition, choose as few products as possible for your daily routine. Using too many products or constantly adding or trying new ones, can exacerbate your delicate skin.

2. How to Choose the Best Cleanser for Your Sensitive skin

There are many types of sensitive skin. Just because a particular cleanser works for someone else with sensitive skin, it may not work for you. A self-patch test can help, if you haven’t checked with your dermatologist for ingredients you may be sensitive to. There are general guidelines you need for choosing the best cleanser for the care of your sensitive skin:

Avoid products with fragrance. Only use fragrance-free products. Not only does fragrance contain numerous toxins, but it can flare up skin conditions or cause allergies.

Plant ingredients in products may sound nice and “natural”, but nothing is further from the truth. Most plants contain harsh preservatives to prevent mold, even if it’s not listed on the label. Some of the most common allergy producing ones include plant extracts, essential oils, including lavender, peppermint, menthol, eucalyptus, and camphor

Most anti-aging or treatment products contain harsh ingredients such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid or retinols. Learn what your skin needs to be healthy and youthful, and choose skin care based on that, not what the label promises.

Formaldehyde, parabens and alcohol are some of the other ingredients to look out for and avoid.

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a harsh detergent found in many cleansers and most soaps. It can leave your face stripped of oil. It’s best to use aSLS free cleanser. Since SLS is the common ingredient in soaps, it’s best to avoid them. Facial wipes may also contain harsh ingredients as well. Waterproof makeup may be hard to clean off your face. There are more gentle ways to clean your face of makeup, as described below, than with harsh soaps and makeup removers.

3. How to Wash Your Sensitive Skin

For dry sensitive skin wash your face with a gentle mild lotion cleanser. These types are hydrating and will not leave your face feeling tight and itchy. Dry skin doesn’t need to use an exfoliator. These abrasive scrubs can damage your skin. If you tend to have breakouts, then a gentle exfoliating scrub should only be used once a week at the most.

Wash once a day at nigh time with your cleanser, rinsing off well with warm or cool water, never hot. Gently pat dry with a soft towel. Make sure not to scrub too hard when washing your face or drying. Apply a gentle hypoallergenic fragrance-free moisturizer within 3 minutes of washing your face. Opt for a cream or oil moisturizer, but stay away from mineral oil, lanolin, and petrolatum types of ingredients. These contain emollients, but also unnecessary contaminants. In the morning only rinse, since washing with a cleanser may dry your skin more. Once a day cleansing is sufficient for dry skin. Washing too frequently will not help skin hydration, but make it more dry.

To remove makeup that your cleanser won’t get off, use a cotton or cosmetic pad with a cream moisturizer. This will clean off the makeup without drying your skin. Follow with washing your face as described.

If you have oily or acne prone sensitive skin you may think antibacterial soap is what you need, but these are irritating and can be drying. A gentle exfoliating scrub can be helpful to remove dead surface cells, allowing healthy, clear skin to surface. A gentle scrub can be used as often as once or twice a week. Avoid harsh abrasive scrubs.

To wash, use a gentle face wash for oily skin. Always use an alcohol-free toner with alphahydroxy acids (AHA) following washing your face. This completes the cleaning of pores and helps balance the pH of your skin, which is important for an even tone complexion.

Wash two times a day, before you go to bed and when you wake up. Wash your hands, and wet your face with lukewarm water. Gently clean without scrubbing. Rinse with lukewarm water. If the water is too hot, the oily layer of your skin, called sebum, will be affected. To remove waterproof makeup, use a makeup pad with a light oil-free facial lotion. This will be the same lotion to moisturize after washing your face. To dry, pat your face with a soft small towel or wash cloth. Change towels daily if you have acne.

Combination skin is tricky since you have dry areas as well as oily sections on your face. Be practical and cleanse dry and oily areas appropriately.

Recommended SLS Free Lotion Cleansers for Sensitive Skin

Because you shouldn’t see red when you wash your face.

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

Finding the best face wash can be a huge pain in the you know what when you have sensitive skin. Like, you need a cleanser that will do a thorough job of cleaning your skin without turning it into a dry, red, super-irritated mess. And let’s be real: That carefully balanced formula can be hard to come by.

Wondering what sensitive skin means, exactly? “Sensitive skin refers to burning and stinging of the skin when you use personal care products,” explains Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “The wrong skincare products easily disrupt the skin barrier in people with sensitive skin, leading to microscopic cracks, loss of hydration, and inflammation.” Noted!

So what’s the best way to avoid irritating your face if you’ve got sensitive skin? In general, Dr. Zeichner recommends sticking to gentle, soap-free cleansers if you can (since true soap can be harsh and drying). He also suggests you steer clear of exfoliating products (i.e. anything that says brightening or has active ingredients like glycolic acid is a no-go for you). These “can cause more harm than good,” says Dr. Zeichner.

On top of that, you should also be wary of cleansers that contain parabens, sulfates, or fragrances says Miriam Vega Gonzalez, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Philadelphia. “Look for products that have the least amount of ingredients on the label.”

Instead, try any one of these 10 best face washes for sensitive skin. That’s right! Keep reading for the most gentle cleansers out there, according to experts.

Shop these soothing, hydrating facial cleansers that won’t irritate your skin.

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

For all the focus on serums, moisturizers, and anti-aging products, you may forget about an important piece of the skincare puzzle: a good face wash. “Cleanser is a really big deal, especially during the extreme times of year, like winter,” says Tina Alster, M.D., director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery and a clinical professor at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Why? The colder temps outside coupled with the dry heat inside is already zapping moisture from your skin—so adding a harsh cleanser into the mix can spell trouble for your complexion. Your face wash is designed to clean the skin, so many are often packed with surfactants: soaps that draw dirt, oil, and grime from pores. This can strip even more moisture from the skin and lead to dry, flaky patches. It’s not just a matter of flakiness or that uncomfortable tight feeling—dry skin looks sallow, dull, and highlights lines and wrinkles.

Even if you’re dealing with acne, be careful about drying out your skin. “This causes micro-injuries to skin in which bacteria can enter and worsen acne. Even those with acne-prone skin need to be aware of how the dry, cold winter air impacts their complexion,” says Dr. Alster.

That’s where a gentle, hydrating face wash can work in your favor. “Cleansers are an incredibly powerful tool when dealing with dry skin,” adds Deirdre Hooper, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at Audubon Dermatology in New Orleans. But how do you choose when there are dozens of options on the market? Here, dermatologists explain what to look for in an effective face wash for sensitive skin.

How to choose the best face wash for dry, sensitive skin

Go creamy: Many people switch to a gel cleanser in the summer months to help control oil and shine in the humidity. But a creamy face wash is more beneficial if have dry skin, says Dr. Alster. Look for labels that say “creamy” or “lotion,” appear white out of the bottle, or feel like a moisturizer when applied.

Avoid fragrances: It’s especially important to choose unscented products, as fragrances can spur irritation, says Dr. Hooper. Look for unscented or fragrance-free on the label. Sensitive skin products are another good go-to.

Look for moisturizing ingredients: Hyaluronic acid is a top-notch moisturizer because it attracts water to skin, says Dr. Alster. Glycerin and ceramides also deliver an extra boost of moisture, while aloe vera and soy can feel soothing.

Watch the anti-agers: Ingredients like glycolic or lactic acids may help fight the signs of aging (and keep pesky blackheads at bay), but they will strip dry skin of the oil it needs. Keep these ingredients out of your face wash.

Once you find a face wash you like, be sure to cleanse only once a day before bed if you’re feeling extra dry, says Dr. Hooper. (You can supplement with a micellar water or hydrating toner in the morning.) Immediately after when skin is still damp, lock in hydration with a good moisturizer for sensitive skin, she says.

Now that you know what to look for, you can revamp your routine. Here, the best face washes you can try if you have dry, sensitive skin.

Washing your face is one of the most important steps in your skincare routine. Not only do you need to remove the dirt, sweat and grime from your day, but you need to prepare your skin for any serums or lotions that you want to use. It’s essential to make sure your facial cleanser is appropriate for your skin type. Here are some of the top facial cleansers to help you get your face squeaky clean.

Best Overall: CeraVe Hydrating Face Wash

CeraVe hydrating face wash is a top-selling face wash on Amazon. Fans of this fragrance-free product report that it gently cleanses the skin without being overly abrasive, and that your skin will feel hydrated, moisturized and soft to the touch. If you wear heavy or waterproof makeup, you may want to use a separate makeup remover before washing your face.

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

Best Value: L’Oreal Paris Pure-Clay Facial Cleanser

A great cleanser doesn’t have to bust your budget. L’Oreal Paris pure-clay cleanser runs between $5 and $10. Users report the clay blend does an excellent job of brightening the skin and removing impurities without drying the skin out. Due to the clay content, you need to make sure you promptly rinse any extra product away to prevent staining your sink or shower.

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

Best for Combating Aging: InstaNatural Vitamin C Facial Cleanser

InstaNatural vitamin C cleanser combines Vitamin C with aloe, coconut water and extracts to cleanse the skin and combat early signs of aging. Users claim regular use of this cleanser will help fade age spots, skin discoloration and old acne scars. They also find it softens the appearance of fine lines and assists with preventing minor breakouts.

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

Best Set: Clean and Clear 2-Pack of Night and Day Cleansers

As the name suggests, Clean and Clear 2-pack night and day cleansers includes two different facial cleansers for washing your face. Users like the energizing aroma of the daytime cleanser, and they find it slightly exfoliates the skin, providing a smooth surface for additional skin care products. Fans also like the cleaning properties of the night time cleanser, as well as the soothing scent.

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

Best for Exfoliating: Aveeno Positively Radiant Facial Scrub

Aveeno Positively Radiant facial scrub is an excellent cleanser for removing dead skin cells and evening the tone and texture of your skin. After they use this facial scrub, users report they’re left with smooth, glowing skin, regardless of their skin type. This scrub also helps prevent ingrown facial hairs for some users.

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

Best for Men: RUGGED & DAPPER Daily Power Scrub

RUGGED & DAPPER daily power scrub is a multipurpose product designed to cleanse, exfoliate and tone the skin. Fans of this face wash state it decreases their breakouts and does a good job at preparing the skin for shaving. They find the slight citrus odor is noticeable, but doesn’t linger long after washing the face.

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

Best for Children: Mustela No-Rinse Soothing Cleanser Water

Thanks to their frequent feedings and snacking, babies and children often have messy faces. Mustela no-rinse soothing cleanser water lets you wash your child’s face, even if you don’t have access to water. Parents love this cleansing water for freshening up their children throughout the day and when they’re on the go. It also helps with reducing the bumps and redness associated with baby acne.

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

Best for Removing Makeup: Organys Cleansing Oil

Thanks to all-day and waterproof formulations, makeup can be notoriously difficult to remove. Organys cleansing oil is an effective way to remove makeup (including eyeliner and masker) and sunscreen with one wash. Many users also find the oil assists with eliminating blackheads and reducing acne. It also leaves the skin feeling soft and moisturized.

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

Best for Oily Skin: COSRX Low pH Gel Cleanser

Keep your face from feeling like an oil slick with [productid asin=”B07QDTRPMW”]COSRX low pH gel cleanser]. Tea tree oil and natural BHA shrink your pore size and control your face’s oil production. Users like this cleanser because it removes oils and impurities from the face without completely stripping it of moisture. Some reviews mention this cleanser doesn’t lather, but this doesn’t impact its performance.

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

Best for Sensitive Skin: Cetaphil Gentle Skincare Cleanser

Users with sensitive skin prone to excessive dryness or that frequently reacts with skincare products prefer the formulation of Cetaphil gentle skincare cleanser. Fans of this cleanser find it’s suitable for cleansing skin with a number of skincare ailments, including cystic acne, psoriasis, eczema and rosacea. The formulation is hypoallergenic and won’t clog your pores.

Don’t let wearing a face mask irritate your skin.

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

Hypoallergenic is one of those words we typically hear when people are talking about their doodle-mixed dog. You probably never expected to hear it in reference to a face mask, but here we are. Some face masks might cause more irritation than others, due to the materials they’re made with. If you’re looking for a hypoallergenic face mask, cotton and silk masks were recommended as a way to cut down on skin irritation and help prevent Maskne (acne caused by wearing a face mask for extended periods of time).

While the masks on this list are all made with materials that typically wouldn’t cause allergic reactions, you should always check the product details before purchasing.

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

Everyday Non Medical Masks 5 Pack – athleta.gap.com

This Athleta mask is a top seller and is made with polyester/spandex and a cotton liner. The mask has three layers of fabric: a lightweight outer layer and two inner layers of soft, breathable cotton.

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

3-Layer Organic Bamboo and Nano-Fibers Fabric Face Masks – etsy.com

Bamboo is an even more breathable material than cotton. This face mask has a moisture-wicking feature made from the bamboo material. It allows the mask to fit comfortably over your face and it will not irritate your skin if sweating occurs.

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

The 100% Human Face Mask 5-Pack – Black – everlane.com

You can get a five-pack of this simple, yet soft Everlane face mask. The 100% Human face mask is made with a double-layer knit cotton fabric and features comfortable ear loops. Everlane will donate 10% of all sales of 100% Human Face Mask 5-Packs to the ACLU.

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

100 % Mulberry Silk Face Mask – etsy.com

Silk is a great material for those who are suffering from Maskne right now. This mulberry silk face mask is lightweight, breathable, and hypoallergenic. That makes it great for individuals with sensitive skin, or certain skin conditions such as rosacea, eczema, and perioral dermatitis. This mask comes in an adult and child bundle.

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How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

ADULT COTTON FACE MASKS – Honest Company

These Honest Company face masks are made with a double layer of 100% cotton. The masks also have adjustable silicone sliders for a comfortable and customizable fit around the ears. They also come with a bendable wire that offers a secure fit at the bridge of your nose.

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Because you shouldn’t see red when you wash your face.

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

Finding the best face wash can be a huge pain in the you know what when you have sensitive skin. Like, you need a cleanser that will do a thorough job of cleaning your skin without turning it into a dry, red, super-irritated mess. And let’s be real: That carefully balanced formula can be hard to come by.

Wondering what sensitive skin means, exactly? “Sensitive skin refers to burning and stinging of the skin when you use personal care products,” explains Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “The wrong skincare products easily disrupt the skin barrier in people with sensitive skin, leading to microscopic cracks, loss of hydration, and inflammation.” Noted!

So what’s the best way to avoid irritating your face if you’ve got sensitive skin? In general, Dr. Zeichner recommends sticking to gentle, soap-free cleansers if you can (since true soap can be harsh and drying). He also suggests you steer clear of exfoliating products (i.e. anything that says brightening or has active ingredients like glycolic acid is a no-go for you). These “can cause more harm than good,” says Dr. Zeichner.

On top of that, you should also be wary of cleansers that contain parabens, sulfates, or fragrances says Miriam Vega Gonzalez, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Philadelphia. “Look for products that have the least amount of ingredients on the label.”

Instead, try any one of these 10 best face washes for sensitive skin. That’s right! Keep reading for the most gentle cleansers out there, according to experts.

Are you a member of the over-scrubbers club?

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

Have you ever tried to get your glow on with a cool new scrub or exfoliating tool, only to end up with a raw face just in time for date night?

Yeah, it’s not a fun place to be. And New Jersey dermatologist Avnee Shah, M.D., says A LOT of us are honorary members of the over-scrubbers club.

“You can tell you’re over-exfoliating if your skin becomes red and starts to peel or flake,” says Shah. Which is ironic—peeling skin might make you think that you’re seeing results, or need to exfoliate even more. But in fact, it’s a sign that you need to slow your roll.

So for all of us who have ever Googled “how to exfoliate face,” this one’s for you. Shah dishes on everything you need to know:

What exactly is exfoliation?

For the folks in the back: Exfoliation a skin-care technique where you remove dead cells from the top layer of your skin. By removing this layer of clutter off of your skin, exfoliation helps brighten your complexion, and lets your skin-care products penetrate deeper into your skin (making them work better), says Shah.

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

It’s especially helpful as we age and cell turnover slows down to prevent skin from looking dull, by keeping the process moving along at a good speed.

There are two types of exfoliation: mechanical and chemical

In mechanical exfoliation, a tool (like a Clarisonic brush or even a washcloth) or face scrub physically removes the dead skin cells.

Chemical exfoliators, on the other hand, use ingredients like alpha- or beta hydroxy acids (think a face wash with salicylic acid, or a facial peel pad with glycolic acid) to dissolve cells, says Shah.

The best method for you depends on your preferences, as well as what kind of skin you have (more on that in a sec).

How often should you exfoliate your face?

As a general rule, less is more. The goal is NOT to turn beet red or to feel a sting—it’s to gently help along your body’s natural exfoliation process so that your face glows.

As for specifics on how often you should exfoliate, it depends on your skin type.

  • For sensitive skin: You should be extra gentle and exfoliate with a warm, wet washcloth or a mild chemical exfoliant with lower active ingredient percentages once or twice a week, max. Scrubs with beady parts usually just irritate this skin type and should be skipped.
  • For oily skin: Your skin has a higher tolerance for the heavy-duty stuff, says Shah, and you can exfoliate up to five times a week. Try a cleansing tool like Clarisonic by morning, and an exfoliating peel or serum by night.
  • For normal to combination skin: You can use either of these methods with optimal results up to three times a week.

When should you skip exfoliation?

Not everyone is meant to go to town with a coffee scrub or intense facial peel, says Shah. “I see exfoliation in a lot of my acne patients doing more harm than good,” she says. Why? If you have cystic or chronic acne, your skin is already inflamed. So irritating it further with harsher exfoliants can leave behind dark marks known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. The marks can last even longer (and happen more often) in people who have tan to deeper skin tones, says Shah.

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How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

This homemade face wash is a natural DIY face wash that works great, is inexpensive, and easy to make. Tailor it to your specific skin type.

For years I used commercial face wash products without looking at the ingredients. (Sigh.) Back then the care-free, flawless-skinned, flowing-hair teenage beauties bouncing around in their commercials may have had an influence on me. I thought they could have been my friends. I wanted to hang out in brightly-colored bathrobes and splash our faces, talk on the phone, or whisper secrets that would make us roll on the floor laughing – all while upbeat music played in the background. (What were they always laughing about. )

I was a serious sucker for advertising.

Making Homemade Face Wash

Maybe those commercial beauties were laughing about the ingredients! And the suckers like myself who would be buying the product.

Now that I have a better understanding of ingredients I’m more selective about the personal care products I use. And usually, I prefer to make my own.

Focus on Ingredients

Want to know about some of the ingredients that may be lurking in your innocent little bottle of store-bought face wash? How does DMDM hydantoin, a formaldehyde-releasing ingredient, sound? Or maybe you want synthetic colorants in your face wash? Like the D&C or FD&C varieties that are continuously tested on animals due to their carcinogenic properties. No? How about synthetic fragrances? Research links them to allergies, dermatitis, respiratory problems, or possible effects on the reproductive system.

Ummmm… I’m pretty certain there would not be such glamorous commercials on TV for certain skincare products if the truth about ingredients was advertised!

I’m no longer willing to spend even a few dollars on ingredients like these. On the other hand, purchasing a quality organic or natural facial cleanser can almost break the bank; when I checked the natural facial cleansers at my local health food store prices ranged from $8-$26! (And I know other products can cost much more.)

Homemade Face Wash

I’m no longer convinced that even the expensive natural products contain magical ingredients to solve all of my skin problems (or friendship problems). Some of them appeared to be the consistency of castile soap, very runny and yellow-tinted. And what do you know, the first ingredient in most of them was castile soap, followed by ingredients such as aloe vera gel, essential oils, Vitamin E, vegetable glycerin, etc. Not such an intimidating list of ingredients.

You can make your own DIY face wash!

Even though I keep all the aforementioned items on hand in my house these days, I decided to I keep it very simple and mixed up the following recipe for my combination skin. The chamomile tea and other simple, gentle ingredients make it perfect for sensitive skin, but this DIY face wash can be tailored to meet the needs of your exact skin type – I’ll show you how in a bit.