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Dry + Sensitive Skin: The Exact Skincare Routine Everyone Should Follow

Most people with dry, hard to manage, sensitive skin, suffer with uncomfortable flare-ups of red, itchy and flaky skin. Dry sensitive skin isn’t a clinical diagnosis. Instead, it's sort of a nebulous blanket term that describes skin which is easily irritated, either by environmental things like sun, wind, cold, or topical products, like lotions or fragrances. Irritation usually manifests with symptoms like redness, stinging, burning, itchiness, and general discomfort after your skin comes into contact with a particular ingredient or environmental trigger.

A few simple changes to your skincare routine will usually keep your symptoms under control!

Keep reading to learn what may be causing your sensitive skin , other symptoms to watch for, how to establish a good natural, dry sensitive skin care routine and other sensitive skin care tips to help your skin become healthy, hydrated, and smooth.


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We all have a protective, fatty, outer layer on our skin. This is often called the lipid (fat) barrier, and it performs two main jobs: keeping water in, and keeping potentially damaging things, like UV rays, wind, heat, and harsh chemicals, out. In people with sensitive and dry skin, this barrier is typically weaker, thinner, and more easily damaged, making it easier for moisture to be lost and irritants to penetrate the skin and cause inflammation.

You can think of your skin barrier like a brick wall put together with mortar between the skin cells. That intracellular lipid mortar is partly composed of a form of lipids called ceramides.

In sensitive or damaged skin, that mortar is weak or missing in some spots, making the barrier more permeable and the skin underneath more vulnerable. Dermatologists agree that people who have a thin lipid barrier absorb products more deeply, which is why they are often more reactive to skin-care ingredients.

On the flip side, having a thin lipid barrier means it’s also easier for moisture to escape. This is why dryness and sensitivity often go hand-in-hand.

Even if you don’t have sensitive skin, you’re more likely to experience sensitivity in certain spots where that protective outer layer is thinner, like around your eyes.

Symptoms of Dry, Sensitive Skin:

  • Itchy, tight skin

  • Redness or ashy-looking

  • Skin feels rough to the touch

  • Peeling

  • Scales or Flaking

  • Cracking and Bleeding

  • Extreme dryness in winters

  • Turns red after hot water showers

  • Reaction to certain skincare products


Sensitive skin might be the result of genetics or difficult-to-manage conditions such as eczema, rosacea or contact dermatitis. Less complex causes might be weather changes , cold weather, salon treatments (micro abrasions and chemical peels) or using the wrong types of skin care products.

The good news is that for most, keeping it simple with the right skin care products and routine can make a huge difference !


Before we get into a skincare routine that is tailored to dry, sensitive skin, let's begin by examining which product ingredients to avoid and which ones to use.

Ingredients to Avoid :

The basic advice for people who experience sensitive skin, chronically or just in the short term, is to keep it simple. This applies to both the number of products in your routine and their ingredient lists, unless otherwise recommended by your dermatologist.

The first step is to look for products specifically formulated for sensitive skin. Read the ingredients lists and make sure that these products do not contain common irritants like sulfates, dyes, preservatives, emulsifiers, alcohols and fragrances. That said, you can’t always trust a “sensitive skin” label, since there are so many different kinds of skin conditions and sensitivities out there. So, when in doubt, ask a dermatologist for the ingredients you may want to steer clear of, or do a small patch test before putting it all over your face.

Anti -aging ingredients such as retinols and salicylic acid may be irritating to your sensitive skin and should be avoided.

You should also consider staying away from abrasive scrubs and mechanical exfoliants, like microbeads and walnut shell powder, which can cause tiny tears in your skin’s barrier.

Ingredients That Are Safe To Use:

The ingredients that you do want to use are those that retain moisture. Shea, Mango, Kokum and Cocoa butter are all excellent additions to skincare formulations since these are emollients. Thick, rich creamy natural body creams made with Mango, Shea and Cocoa can be rubbed and massaged all over the body from the neck down.

Ingredients must also serve to replenish the the lipid barrier (including ceramides and fatty acids like Oleic and alpha-linolenic acids). When you are dealing with the face, serums containing plant oils such as Argan, Almond, Jojoba and Sea buckthorn are effective ingredients because these oils are high in Oleic acids. Oleic acid is an Omega 9 fatty acid that reduces inflammation making it perfect for those with dry skin. Jojoba oil is actually a wax that closely resembles the sebum of skin. It is rich in ceramides and Eicosanoic acids. Essentially, moisturizing dry skin is all about trapping water and creating a protective layer.

Now that we’ve seen which products are good and which ones should be avoided it's time to develop a simple skincare routine that works.


The first step to a good skincare routine is cleansing. Let’s examine how to cleanse sensitive skin the right way...


  • Cleanse your face at night. Cleansing your face at night is a hard-and-fast rule when it comes to caring for your skin, and it holds true even if you don’t wear makeup. During the day, natural oils and sweat accumulate on the skin. Not removing all of this dirt and gunk at the end of the day can cause skin irritation, inflammation, and acne breakouts.

  • Wash your face with a gentle cleanser that is soap and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) free. These harsh ingredients can lead to further irritation and dryness. Soap ingredients (even in some sensitive skin brands) can remove natural needed oils from your skin.

  • Wash your face with warm water, never hot, and limit long showers under hot water. Extreme temperatures, such as hot, steamy showers or hot water, can cause dilation of blood vessels and breakage of delicate tissue. Further, the hot water naturally strips skin of the necessary oil barrier that helps maintain skin integrity. This means your skin will dry out faster and become more itchy and flaky over time. Instead, use cool or lukewarm water on your face, and don’t wash more than once a day.

  • Always wash your face gently and dry with a soft cotton towel. Never rub as you dry.

  • In the morning, only rinse your face to refresh. No need to wash with cleanser again. Over-cleansing can further dry out skin.

The next step in your skin care routine is the application of the right moisturizer...


Moisturizing helps skin cells retain water from the inside. Choosing the right moisturizer that is free of harsh ingredients is very important for hydration as well as your health.

  • Moisturize within 3 minutes of washing your face. At this point your skin is still damp and will absorb the product better. Apply at night after washing your face and again in the morning after rinsing.

  • To moisturize your skin ( from the the neck down), use natural whipped body creams made with pure Shea, Kokum, Cocoa or Mango butters, Jojoba oils. All of these are excellent emollients and will trap moisture within the lipid barrier. For the face, opt for organic plant based serums that are made with wholesome plant oils that are low on the comedogenic skin (won’t clog pores) and beneficial for dry sensitive skin. Argan, Neem, Hazelnut and Peach Kernel Oils are recommended for use on dry sensitive skin since they are high in Oleic acids.

  • Weekly use of a facial mask with Kaolin clay to help add nutrients to your skin is helpful. Your skin will feel soft and smooth.

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day to help hydrate your skin from inside out.

To summarize, if you have dry, sensitive skin, keep your skincare products and routine as simple as possible. Essentially you should cleanse your face at night, followed by moisturizing with a moisturizer that is well suited for your skin type. In the morning, rinse your face (without cleansing to avoid stripping away too much oils) and reapply moisture. Repeat these steps each day.

Now that we’ve outlined the simplest skincare routine for dry sensitive skin, here are some extra tips that will help you reduce the chance of flare-ups.


  • Protect your skin from the sun. Excessive sun exposure without sun protection is not recommended for any skin type. Use broad spectrum sunscreens with SPF 15 OR SPF 30 that contain the safest physical sun blocks of Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. These ingredients are very effective and gentle on sensitive skin. Avoid sunscreens that contain benzophenones as these might trigger contact dermatitis.

  • Avoid excessively cold or heated rooms. Use extra moisturizing creams and drink lots of water under these conditions. If need be, reapply moisturizer as needed during the day. You don't need to wash in between.

  • Avoid skin peels and other salon treatments as these may aggravate your skin.

  • Avoid touching your face throughout the day. Fingers can transfer bacteria, fungi and viruses to your skin. Make sure your hands are clean as you apply moisturizers and makeup.

  • Use makeup that is mineral-based. These are gentler on the skin and typically wont clog pores

  • Always test a small amount of any new product on the inside of your wrist and cover with a bandage. Wait 24-48 hours for any negative reaction.

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