Best skin care products for sensitive skin: know from dermatologist

Written By Dr Surbhi, MD Skin

Last updated: 19/09/18

"Doctor, I cannot use bleach or toner, even anti-wrinkle creams or skin lightening creams irritate my skin? Which is the best skin care product for my sensitive skin?"


Sensitive skin is highly irritable state of skin where not only faulty skin care but also trifle things like brief sun exposure can trigger an episode. Once the sensitive skin breaks out, even water can irritate it further. So, the old age “Prevention is better than cure” rightly fits in here. This article details what kind of products, aesthetic procedures or lifestyle changes might not suit your sensitive skin and what are the key point to remember while choosing skin care product or cosmetics.

Which are the best skin care products for sensitive skin?

The skin care in sensitive skin rotates around keeping the skin away from products that might contain potential irritants or allergens. Here are few tips:

  • Stick to the skin care products that already suit you. In quest of finding better, you might end up in worst.

  • If testers are available, do a patch test by putting a small amount of product on the skin behind your ear and watch for burning, stinging, redness or bumps at least for a day or two.

  • The simplest clue is to look at the label for words like- “hypoallergenic”, “gentle”, “mild” or “for sensitive skin”. However, this is NOT a foolproof method because there are no strict guidelines on labelling the products as hypoallergenic.

  • Always buy smallest possible packing and do use test before starting a new product. Apply a small amount of product behind the ear for 5-7 days and then on the more delicate skin near your eyes for another 5-7 days. Do not use if you notice anything uncomfortable while doing this use test.

  • I have scanned through the ingredient list of many products and created the list of products that are less likely to irritate your sensitive skin. I hope this will be helpful!

Which are best cosmetic for sensitive skin?

Listed below are few tips regarding the use of cosmetics in sensitive skin:

  • Powder cosmetics are preferred over cream or lotions.

  • Waterproof cosmetics should be avoided; instead, cosmetics that are easily washed with water should be used.

  • Pencil form of eyeliners is better.

  • Avoid deep colours of eye shadows like red, blue, purple, green, etc.

  • Liquid foundation with silicon base (Cyclomethicone, Dimethicone) is better for your skin.

  • Discard all old cosmetics that are more than three months old.

  • If your face is red and irritated, stop all the cosmetics and restart them in following the order: lipstick, face powder, and blush.

  • Always patch test the cosmetics before first use, by applying a small amount on temple every night for five nights. And look for redness, burning, itching, or rash over next 48 hours. 

What should I avoid?

The prevention list of sensitive skin is too varied to fit here; the common ones are summarised in 5 broad categories:

  • Skin care products

    • alcohol-based toners

    • bar soaps that produce a lot of lather

    • nutshell based scrubs

    • hair removal creams containing chemical depilatories

  • ingredients 

    • Additives in skin care products like fragrances, lanolin, propylene glycol, Sodium Lauryl/ Laureth sulphate(in face wash), preservatives like quaternium 15, etc.

    • Active ingredients like Benzoyl Peroxide, Glycolic Acid, Hydroquinone, pure form of Vitamin C, sandalwood, arnica, essential oils, tea tree oil, etc. Take a note that the list includes natural ingredients as well.

    • Sunscreen agents like Avobenzone, Benzophenone, Butyl methoxy dibenzoyl methane, Isopropyl dibenzoyl methane, Methyl benzylidene camphor, Octyl methoxy cinnamite, Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), Phenylbezimidazole sulfonic acid.
  • Parlour procedures

    • hot wax/saunas/steam

    • overzealous scrubbing during facials,

    • hair treatments that involve heat or harsh chemicals.

  • Aesthetic procedures

    • strong chemical peels

    • Micro-dermabrasion 

    • Ablative LASERS

  • Lifestyle

    • hot and spicy food,

    • hot environment,

    • moving out in the mid-day sun,

    • drinking alcohol,

    • strong emotional triggers

    • cooking food in hot climate

BOTTOM LINE: Anything that causes irritation, itching burning, bumps or redness should be avoided!