We all know how it feels when our skin doesn’t look its best. As our literal “face to the world,” it’s understandable that we can feel off balance when our skin throws a tantrum. This experience becomes even more challenging when the tantrum seems to persist. You’ve tried everything from home remedies to prescription skincare, but that sudden outburst of cystic acne won’t budge. Of course, we do the logical thing and throw everything we have at it. To our utter surprise and ever-growing frustration, not only does this not work, but it also seems to make matters worse. The agony of a temperamental skin!
I’ve had dry and sensitive skin for most of my adult life, which has become significantly harder to manage with age. Despite using gentle products, I still experience burning sensations, redness, and angry breakouts without changing anything in my routine. My skin often forgets to send me the memo that it’s gone on strike. So through trial and error, I have come to realize 5 essential things that helped me see better results with my sensitive skincare routine.
1. Looking at the problem from the wrong angle.
“I always remind myself that my skin is my largest organ. Like all other organs, it needs tender love and care from the inside out.”
This is the one that most often rings true. In the past, when I felt like my skincare “stopped working,” my immediate response was to change it up and buy something new. After all, maybe my skin just got used to this product, and the positive effects have worn off? However, I’ve learned that the first thing I need to consider is not my skincare routine but rather my lifestyle at that moment.
We all go through periods of more pronounced stress, changes in our daily routines, schedule disruptions, flu season, and aunty flo. All of these things have a significant impact on my sensitive skin. I always remind myself that my skin is my largest organ. Like all other organs, it needs tender love and care from the inside out. It only stands to reason if something changes in my routine, it can definitely affect my skin.
Some prime examples of these changes are my anxiety disorder, diet, and exposure to external factors. If you are a regular FIGGI reader, you know that I try my best to lead a life dedicated to managing my anxiety disorder. When things are off in this space, I notice it first in my skin. My skin shows it when I have been more anxious than usual or recently had a panic attack. My skin is tender to the touch and easily provoked by even gentler products, and I am prone to breakouts on my cheeks. Once I pay more attention to my anxiety routine, recognize the triggers, and read the signs of my body, I can move back to a healthier space. With this move usually comes happier skin, but it takes time.
A huge factor in my skin’s happiness is my travel schedule. When traveling, it can be challenging to maintain a healthy diet. I may drink less water, be more easily dehydrated, have less access to fresh fruits and vegetables, etc. Believe me, my skin shows its displeasure almost instantly.
I’m also sensitive to air-conditioned spaces like airplanes, hotel rooms, or offices in the Summer. Similarly, my skin freaks out in the winter if I spend too much time in the cold wind or near the heater.
Considering all these factors and the positive change I see in my skin when I recalibrate, it would not have mattered if I had bought the entire Chanel skincare range, my skin would still have been angry. Trying to fix my skin topically and thinking that the magic cure was at the bottom of yet another expensive bottle of serum did not go well for me.
If you are open to invasive procedures, you will be more satisfied with the turn-around time for drastic results. I am afraid of needles, and although I’ve scheduled laser ablation several times, I always chicken out. I am not even mentioning surgery. So a more natural route was the course of action for me. However, this route takes a lot more time. You do get there, or at least I feel I am getting there, but it’s definitely a marathon, not a race.
I could have done this better in the beginning. Since I was not open to more invasive procedures, I went product hopping. I bought a skincare product, and if I didn’t see results, I quickly replaced it with another “better” product. Not only did this make my skin angry, but I also didn’t see the results I was looking for. I have since learned that products need at least three months to work their magic, or at least, to prove to me it has no magic :-). Yes, that means repurchasing a product you may have yet to see results with and trying it for at least 90 days to see if it really is as ineffective as you think.
There are a few extra caveats to this rule. When I say try the product for 90 days, I mean to use it consistently. For example, apply it every night in the same step of your routine for 90 days if it’s a night cream. Don’t switch it out for another cream one or two nights a week, or use it only when you feel like it. You have to be consistent if results are your goal or if you just want to confirm that the product is not delivering the benefit you seek.
Another caveat is that you should avoid mixing and matching products in your routine. Keep your routine consistent for 90 days, especially when your skin is feeling unloved. Stick with the same morning routine and the same night routine, using the same products. Wait until your skin settles before introducing anything new into your routine, and then follow the 90 day rule.
3. Using the wrong skincare.
“I was convinced I had combination skin and kept buying products to address this. Unfortunately, many of these products had actives for the oily T-zone that upset my sensitive host.”
If in doubt, always consult your dermatologist. Understanding your skin type is key to healthy skin and a good routine. Using products with harsh actives, for example, when you have super sensitive skin, is a huge no-no. Although actives have benefits, you need to ensure you are using products with suitable actives in the right concentration that will not upset your sensitive skin. Similarly, suppose you have oily skin prone to breakouts. In that case, you do not want to use creams for dry skin, which will further overburden your oversaturated pores.
I was guilty of this for most of my twenties. I was convinced I had combination skin and kept buying products to address this. Unfortunately, many of these products had actives for the oily T-zone that upset my sensitive host. Also, these products left my skin tired and dull because I was not correctly moisturizing my parched skin. My neck bears the evidence of this.
Staying away from TikTok home remedies is also an intelligent decision. Many foods, for example, have proven benefits for your skin, but they are not meant to be used as a topical application in their raw form. The skin is a complex organ, and there are many different things to consider when formulating a skincare product, including how effectively it will penetrate the skin. Some synthetic or other processes may also be necessary to ensure this product is safe to use topically.
4. Wrong cleansing technique.
A few years ago, I stopped washing my face with a cleanser in the mornings. This changed my skin for the better. That extra step in the morning was too much for my skin, and I found a water rinse was more than sufficient for me. Therefore, to be clear with this tip: I am not saying you aren’t cleansing enough; I’m saying your cleansing technique needs to be corrected. Over-cleansing will lead to more sensitivity and dryness and perhaps even damage your skin barrier.
If our skin is not properly cleansed, traces of dirt and grime are left behind in our pores. When we then apply a moisturizer to form a layer on the skin to prevent water loss, we create a really unpleasant skin situation. Think about it: Dirty pores, covered by a film, left to brew and breed. I am not fear-mongering moisturizers or cleansers here. These are essential steps in every routine. However, we need to approach these steps in the right way.
So what do I mean by proper cleansing? I do a double cleanse in the evening, the benefits of which I will share shortly. An important step is washing my skin with cleansers for 60 seconds . I gently massage the cleaners in circles, taking extra care with problem spots, then I ensure I wash off all traces of the sudsy remains. I like using a soft silicone massager to get the day’s grime off.
A double cleanse works in two steps. Step 1: Remove all the oil-based impurities from your skin. This is sebum, SPF, and makeup. Make sure you use a cleanser that contains oil, which will “attract” oily impurities in your skin and allow you to remove even the toughest dirt. Then I follow it up with a gel cleanser for my sensitive skin, but you may prefer a foam cleanser for oily skin. This step removes all the remaining traces of grime, makeup, and SPF with a soft gel cleanser. This also removes any remaining oil from the first cleanse. With the help of your first cleanser, the second wash can penetrate the skin and deep clean the pores.
5. Incorrectly applying sunscreen.
“It is so crucial to use an SPF that has, at least, a 50SPF rating. Even this rating only gives a 98% protection span.”
For many years I proudly stated that I was a sunscreen queen. I never left the house without it, always used a day cream with and SPF, and never indulged in Summer beach days without my trusty SPF. Although wearing at least some sunscreen is better than nothing, I learnt that there is more I can do to ensure I protect my skin from the sun’s harmful rays.
Sunscreen makes this list because of the visible damage we can see on our skin. Prevention is always my number one goal. A goal I thought I was acing. However, I needed to make a few adjustments. It is so crucial to use an SPF that has, at least, a 50SPF rating. Even this rating only gives a 98% protection span. To make sure I get the most from my sunscreen I try to apply three full finger lengths of sunscreen to my face, neck and other exposed areas. I now have two different travel size sunscreens in my handbag and I set my alarm to help remind me to reapply during the day. We really do need all this protection, especially sensitive souls with fair skin. We tend to burn really easily and the effects of that is not a good look for our skin.
We live in a world of instant gratification, so it only makes sense to expect this from our skincare products. Unfortunately, skincare is not just a routine. It’s a lifestyle. It encompasses a lot more than topical applications. Even if we just consider these products, it takes much more than slapping on the latest it-ingredient. Our skin is as unique as our personality, and each skin type has a different love language. What is yours?
Love and light