My skincare philosophy is simple: problematic skin is sensitive skin.
No matter what issue you suffer from - acne, rosacea, psoriasis, dehydration, enlarged pores, hyperpigmentation, premature aging - it is important to remember that there is a cause behind these issues. The only way to eliminate your skincare as a potential culprit is to use skincare built for sensitivities.
Below are my five tips to be sensitive to your skin.
1. Do not use scrubs
Just don't. Ever again. Scrubs do not clean your skin any deeper than other cleansers. They just scratch the surface. Scrubs are also the harshest form of exfoliation and can worsen acne and redness. If you want to exfoliate your skin use a toner or moisturizer with lactic acid (most gentle), glycolic acid, or salicylic acid (least gentle, but most effective on acne).
2. Cleanse gently, but thoroughly
This is the same idea as not using scrubs, but you need to be even gentler to your skin than just avoiding those destructive beads. I also recommend generally avoiding anything that foams. Even if you have oily skin, it's better to cleanse your skin with a milk or balm consistency, then use salicylic acid to prevent pimples and benzoyl peroxide as a spot treatment. These won't exacerbate other problems with your skin (when used appropriately). I personally prefer balm cleansers like the Boots Botanics Hot Cloth Cleansing Balm ($8.49 at Target), but the shea butter in this one is not recommended for acne-prone skin. Try the Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm.
3. Eat Gently
Avoid food that doesn't sit well in your system. For everyone, this means sugar and artificial chemicals like aspartame and MSG. This will surely make acne-prone skin get more spots, and will hold back recovery for any other kind of skin problem.
For those of us lucky enough to have food sensitives, these foods will hurt your skin in addition to your digestion. I find my skin is at its best when I've been keeping up my gluten-free, lactose-free diet. (Yes, I am intolerant of both. Yes, your life is better than mine.)
4. Avoid Fragrance (to the best of your ability)
As someone who hates artificial fragrances just on the smell alone, I know how difficult it is to get an entire skincare regime that is fragrance-free. I suggest doing your best, but if a skincare product has a very light, non-offensive fragrance, it is less likely to irritate your skin.
5. Do Your Research
If a product gives you a negative reaction, google some of the ingredients in it and see if any are irritants or cause allergic reactions in some people. This way, you can take note of the ingredient, avoid it in future purchases, and never have the problem again.
I know how frustrating bad skin can be, but remember two things when treating these problems: people truly don't notice them as much as you think they do; and its better to find a product works slowly and gently than to find it works too harshly and causes your skin to develop new problems.