Choose The Best Moisturizer For Sensitive Skin

How To Choose The Best Moisturizer For Sensitive Skin?

Today’s cosmetic industry is flooded with a variety of moisturizer creams. However, it does not mean that all are suited for your skin, especially if you are someone with sensitive skin.

If you ever have noticed your skin turning red or feeling irritated when it comes in contact with certain cosmetics, chances are high that you have sensitive skin.

What is sensitive skin?

Skin sensitivity refers to skin that is more prone to adverse reactions and inflammation.

If you are prone to it, you will have a strong reaction to chemicals, dyes and other fragrances present in the products when they come in close contact with the skin.  You may also get irritation and rashes from clothing or due to friction.

Sensitive skin is often accompanied by conditions common to dry skin such as psoriasis and rosacea

Needless to say, it often gets very difficult for people with this type of skin to choose face products like creams and moisturizers. 

The best way out is to understand the condition, its causes, the common irritants that trigger the condition and tips to choose the best moisturizers for sensitive skin. 

So let’s get going. 

sensitive skin
Photo by Dhyamis Kleber from Pexels

Common irritants for sensitive skin

1. Synthetic emollients and Petrochemicals

Certain chemicals which are derived out of petroleum such as mineral oil and liquid paraffin can cause skin irritation.

They create an oily layer on top of the skin surface, which blocks the pores and prevents moisture from escaping. 

While these may temporarily help your skin to plump up and hide wrinkles, they are not a good option for long term use.

Often these ingredients take up a significant percentage of the product, and it is better to opt for moisturizing creams made out of plant-based oil such as almond oil and jojoba.

2. Methylisothiazolinone

This is a common preservative found in most skincare products.

Dermatologists often highlight it as a trigger of one of the worst kinds of skin allergy outbreaks that they have ever seen.

According to St John’s Institute of Dermatology, London – Almost ten percent of patients with skin allergies are testing positive for methylisothiazolinone, and it should be avoided at all cost.

3. Essential oils

Most commonly used in treatment for aromatherapy, most essential oils might not cause an allergic reaction if used in low concentrations.

However, some people with highly sensitive skin have shown an allergic reaction after getting exposed to certain essential oils.

These oils include  Isoeugenol, Farnesol, Citronellol, Linalool, Limonene, Hexyl cinnamal, and Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde, Benzyl benzoate etc which are known to cause several allergic reactions.

According to cosmetologist Pedro, “Essential oils are full of allergens, and manufacturers must list the main allergens found in their essential oils/fragrance.”

4. Bismuth oxychloride

Popularly known as synthetic pearl, it is one of the primary products included in powders that are commonly referred to as mineral make up.

If you are someone with sensitive skin, you might experience certain side effects like skin irritation, itching, redness and so on.

Although some cosmetic companies claim that bismuth oxychloride is natural and better for skincare, the hard reality is that talc is the most untouched and naturally occurring component.

Bismuth Oxychloride is manufactured by chloride (a chlorine compound) with bismuth (a by- product of lead and copper).

This component is most commonly used with cosmetics due to its unique and fine powder-like texture and pearlescent appearance, which imparts a unique glow to the skin once applied.

5. Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) and Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) 

This is a foaming agent which is commonly found in cleaning products and shampoo to clean sticky dirt on the skin.

The biggest problem with the foaming agents is that it can upset protective layers of oil which safeguards the outer epidermis.

How do skin Moisturizers work?

The main role of a moisturizer is to soften and hydrate dry skin.

This is achieved by pulling moisture from the inner layers of skin to the outer layer and sealing the moisture in the outer layer. 

A good skin moisturizer will target both the inner and outer and dermal layers of the skin and stimulate the natural production of hyaluronic acid and glycosaminoglycans within the layers. 

Certain moisturizers also work by strengthening the skin’s natural barrier function, thereby providing intense hydration which gives the skin its smooth and soft complexion. 

A moisturizer that is specially formulated for sensitive skin also works in calming, soothing and rejuvenating the stressed and inflamed skin tissues. 

Certain key ingredients that are used to seal the moisture in the skin’s outer layer are mineral oils, petrolatum, dimethicone, glycerin, propylene glycol, urea, proteins and vitamins.

Some skin moisturizers also contain AHA or alpha hydroxy acid which exfoliates the outer dead skin.

How to choose moisturizers for sensitive skin?

The following are some of the suggested tips to look out for when purchasing moisturizers for your sensitive skin. 

1. Take a note of the ingredients

This is an easy and effective step to make sure that your newly bought moisturizer does not end up causing you skin irritation.

Almost all moisturizers will have their common ingredients listed down on the packaging. Take a closer look and see whether your skin doctor has advised you to avoid any of those ingredients.

Look for common active ingredients such as petroleum, glycerin or lanolin which are known to cause skin irritation. 

Studies have shown that glycerin is less likely to cause an allergic reaction when compared to lanolin.

2. Look for common irritants

Various irritants like sulfates, alcohol, preservatives, artificial fragrances and others are common irritants for skin. Look out for them and ensure that your products are free from these skin irritants. 

3. Ensure there are no acids used

It is agreed that common acids like salicylic acid, lactic acid, and glycolic acids are commonly used in skincare products since they provide instant radiance and glow to the skin. However, for people with sensitive skin, these can do more harm than good. 

The acids can cause skin barrier disruptions if you have sensitive skin. 

4. Prefer the ones with skin soothers

It is recommended by dermatologists to include ingredients that boost hydration when looking for moisturizers for sensitive skin. 

Various ingredients like hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, colloidal oatmeal, Vitamin E, have healing and soothing properties which are wonderful for skin sensitivity. 

5. Listen carefully to your skin

Even after you’ve carefully selected a product, it can take many weeks after you start using it to start showing signs of irritation on your skin. Similarly, if you already had rashes on your skin, it could take some weeks for them to subside after starting a product. 

Pay attention to how your skin reacts to the product and look for small signs instead of big changes happening overnight. 

6. Do a sample test

If you are someone with sensitive skin, it is better to try out the product before purchasing it.

Apply a bit of the product on your face and wait for a few minutes to let the product sink in.

Check for skin irritation or allergic reactions. If there is none, you are free to purchase the product.

7. Check out the reviews

This point cannot be stressed enough. Irrespective of what the product claims to do, the real test of its work is the consumers using it. Make sure that you carefully go through the reviews of other users before pulling out the cash from your wallet. 

What should an ideal moisturizer for sensitive skin do?

An ideal moisturizer specifically picked for sensitive skin should be able to provide intense hydration without any greasiness. It should contain ingredients that help in neutralizing free radicals and protect the skin from damage. 

Furthermore, a moisturizer should be able to regenerate the skin’s natural ability to produce glycosaminoglycans and hyaluronic acid. It needs to work towards strengthening the skin’s barrier function to prevent moisture loss. 

Finally, an ideal moisturizer should enhance the overall structural integrity of the skin while restoring the elasticity and suppleness. 

moisturiser for sensitive skin
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

When to moisturize?

The following are some quick tips to moisturizing your sensitive skin, once you’ve chosen the perfect product suitable for your skin. 

1. Moisturize after washing your face

The best time to apply a moisturizer is when your face is damp after washing. This will help to lock water molecules within deep dermal layers. 

2. In the mornings

Best results can be achieved by using the moisturizer in the morning before you start the day. This will ensure that your skin has ample levels of hydration to last it through the day. 

3. Before going to bed

It is equally important to apply skin moisturizer at night to ensure your skin is protected and locked with moisture while you are sleeping.

Studies have shown that your skin repairs itself at night. To hasten the process of natural skin repair, it is necessary to make sure that you have enough moisture content in your skin. 

Bottom Line

The number of people who are suffering from skin diseases is on a constant rise. By having an understanding of your type of skin and the possible allergens which trigger an adverse reaction, you will be able to maintain your skin in a young and healthy state.

Make sure to choose a moisturizer that comes from a reputed brand and is clinically approved and best suited for your sensitive skin in the long run.




Coreenna Ong

Head of Research

Coreenna Ong has more than 20 years of extensive experiences in research and development, conceptualization, formulation, production process development and bring to market skincare products in the beauty industry. Ms Ong is currently the Director, Research and Development at Recherché skincare.

Recherché is a Singapore cosmeceutical skincare brand, with its products clean, green, plant-based and specially catered for Asian skin. It is also the pioneer in developing edible skincare actives to specifically address skin concerns.

Within just 2 years, Ms Ong’s research has led Recherché to win several awards and accolades for its products.

Ms Ong’s research focuses on harnessing the latest formulation technologies, knowledge and techniques to distil and extract nature's essence, and then apply them synergistically for maximum results.

She has authored 2 best-selling Beauty and Wellness books with Marshall Cavendish. The books had multiple runs and remained popular and in print circulation for several years. They are currently available in the Singapore National Library collection.

Ms Ong was also a Beauty columnist for Lianhe Zaobao, Singapore's largest Chinese-language newspaper publication, with huge regional presence. As its weekly expert contributor, she shared the latest research and technologies from the Beauty industry, and addressed the many skincare issues and concerns of the newspaper's readers regionally, including offering beauty tips, quick fixes and insider knowledge.

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