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The Dos and Don'ts of Sensitive Skin

If your skin gets red on the spot, or if every serum you've tried feels like fire on your face, then you probably have sensitive skin. "Many people with sensitive skin make it worse by choosing the wrong products or using them the wrong way," says Debra Jaliman, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Read on for expert tips on easing the tingle, soothing irritation, and erasing redness.

DON'T Be a Beauty Tester. "People with sensitive skin frequently try all sorts of different products on the market looking for the right product," says New York City dermatologist Janet Prystowsky, M.D. "When they come in they usually have a bag full of products that they are concerned with and want to know which one causes their dermatitis." 

If you're sensitive-skinned, stick to a simple regimen with basic products (think: cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF). Bring your own soap instead of using the hotel soap, and don't be so quick to try "the next new thing" at the spa. Trying multiple products or rotating through different things can be irritating to the skin. But more than that, since you're trying everything under the sun, it's hard to pinpoint what is causing the reaction.

DO Avoid Additives. Additives are preservatives, coloring, fragrances, and extra chemicals. While your normal-skinned friends may not have to think twice about slathering on the pink lotion that smells like strawberries and roses, it may sting or break out your skin. You could patch test every new product you buy, but a more efficient (and money-saving way) to save your skin from the burn is to focus on finding products that have little to no additives mixed in.

DO Keep It Simple. Dermatologists praise basic beauty products for use by everyone, especially if you have sensitive skin. Soaps should be mild (Prystowsky recommends Dove Unscented Cleansing Bar and Pond's Cold Cream), and everything else should be no-frills. "Plain zinc oxide makes a fairly good sunblock that can be camouflaged well with a dusting of a light powder," she says. "Plain mineral oil in the bath will help moisturize the skin and plain Vaseline is good for very rough hands and the excess can be wiped off with soft tissues leaving the hands soft and smooth.

DON'T Dry Out. It's important to keep sensitive skin super moisturized. Dr. Jaliman recommends using a moisturizer that contains hyaluronic acid, which binds water to the skin. You should apply lotion right after showering, when skin is still slightly damp. "But steer clear of hot showers as the hot water pulls oil from the skin," Jaliman says. "Lukewarm water is 100 percent better!" And always use a humidifier to add moisture to the air and skin (especially if you're running the heat in your house).

See our secrets to great skin no matter your age.

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