As we change seasons and continue to navigate mask-wearing amid a global pandemic, and my West coast friends add wildfires to the mix, there are many factors that could cause our skin to behave a bit differently than usual. If your complexion is showing signs of irritation and stress, or is extra sensitive, read on for guidance on how to soothe any redness or reactions you’re facing.

One thing that is extremely important to mention in this scenario is that if you have the means to see a doctor or dermatologist, that is the first step you should take. You want to ensure that the sensitivity and changes you’re noticing aren’t the result of something more severe and worrisome, or an allergen that you could be exposing yourself to continuously and unknowingly. Some conditions like rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis require more extensive treatment and potentially prescription medication, and not seeing a doctor right away could waste time in delaying necessary treatment.

After more serious issues are ruled out (or perhaps while you wait for your appointment), there are a few general steps that you can take to reduce possible irritation, and to soothe inflamed and painful skin.

Since “sensitive skin” is generally defined as being more reactive to external factors, eliminating some general culprits can go a long way in starting the healing process. Sometimes, it is our environments that cause issues. Keeping your skin safe from harsh weather conditions (prolonged sun exposure, strong winds, extreme temperatures) may be a great way to help calm your skin.

Keeping your skin safe from harsh weather conditions may be a great way to help calm your skin.

Changing up your skincare routine can also assist in the healing process. Choose products with minimal, simple, and “clean” ingredients that are fragrance-free, as those are less likely to cause irritation. Since skin sensitivity is linked to the lipid-based/fatty barrier on the top of the skin, keeping it moisturized is very helpful. Looking for ingredients that help strengthen the barrier and trap hydration (like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, linoleic and alpha-linoleic acids) are very helpful.

Cleansing carefully and not over-cleansing are further key actions to take. Make sure to use warm or cool water, as hot water can cause worse dryness and irritation. If you use a Clarisonic brush or similar, proceed with caution to ensure that the friction is not exacerbating or causing your issues.

Another important action for many could be to take a look at any new product you’ve recently started using to see if it could be to blame. Patch testing and introducing new products (especially with strong active ingredients like retinol) slowly are excellent ways to rule out irritation before it impacts your whole face in a painful and/or embarrassing way.

Applying a cold compress, corticosteroid creams, aloe, or a soothing oatmeal product can also help it look and feel better.

There are a lot of ways to help soothe stressed, sensitive, and irritated skin, and one of the most important things to consider if you’re suffering from it is making sure it isn’t the sign of something worse. Like many health concerns, the best offense is a great defense, with taking steps to prevent the irritation from occurring being the best course of action. However, there is ample recourse to nourish and soothe the irritation so that you’re back to glowing in no time.

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