It’s hard to exaggerate the misery of sensitive skin.
Redness, itching, dryness, inflammation, razor bumps - these are all the problems that guys with sensitive skin have to deal with on a regular basis … and it’s even worse when you shave!
But there are ways that you can drastically improve the way you feel about your skin.
Below we’ve set out a program to calm and soothe your troubled skin.
How do you know if you have sensitive skin?
From a dermatological point of view, sensitive skin is defined by how you report the sensations of your skin. A man with sensitive skin will typically have facial redness, dryness, inflammation and itching to various different degrees.
If your skin is easily irritated, either by environmental elements - like the sun, wind, and cold - or after application of lotions or fragrances, then you have sensitive skin.
Anybody can have a one-off reaction to certain irritants, but if your skin often shows signs of redness and irritation, it could also be an indication that you have an underlying skin condition, such as:
- Eczema – dry, inflamed, itchy skin
- Rosacea – red skin, with swelling and noticeable blood vessels
- Psoriasis – rashes with patches of scaly, dry skin
In which case it’s best to seek advice from a dermatologist. They can diagnose and treat the condition effectively. Or reassure you and look for potential allergens which are causing the irritation so that you can avoid them.
On the other hand, you may just have skin that has a heightened sensitivity to possible allergens.
For many men with sensitive skin there really is no obvious skin disorder…
What causes sensitive skin?
If you’ve already eliminated the possibility of a medical condition, then there could be many reasons why your skin reacts the way it does.
Irritation can occur anywhere on your body but since your face gets the most exposure to the elements - and to your razor – it’s the place most likely to show the unpleasant signs of redness, itching and dry, flaky skin.
Potential causes of sensitivity include an allergic reaction to household products, dust or pet fur. It could also be the weather, your skincare products, stress, diet or temperature changes, sweat after a gym session, being too forceful with your razor, not cleaning your face properly, dehydrated skin… or skincare ingredients which are too strong for your face.
Sensitive skin can easily react to almost anything, so you need to stay alert!
How do I stop sensitive skin?
If your skin is sensitive, the protective fatty outer layer of your skin – the lipid barrier - may be weaker and more easily damaged. This makes it easier for irritants to penetrate the skin and cause inflammation.
So your sensitive skin will require a lot more care and attention than normal skin types to keep this outer barrier intact and working well.
You need to develop a smart approach.
Firstly, it helps if you can identify your triggers – food, stress, certain ingredients – in order to avoid them. But this is not easy! It can be hard to tell what has triggered a reaction. And you can also develop a reaction over time to something that was previously safe for you.
Secondly, keep everything very simple, and when you find a skincare routine that works then stay consistent – but always vigilant! As we said, reactions can develop over time.
Following the program below will help to lessen the chances of any reaction occurring, and also reduce the effects if it does.
A DAILY SKIN CARE ROUTINE FOR SENSITIVE SKIN
#1 WASH YOUR FACE GENTLY
It’s really important to keep your face clean. But one of the worst things you can do to sensitive skin is to wash it too frequently. This is something that dermatologists see all the time in men with sensitive skin.
Don’t even think about using a bar of soap to wash your face! Because it’s going to dry out your skin and have the opposite effect of what we’re trying to do here.
Instead use a gentle face wash. One that will clean your face but without drying out your skin.
If your face feels tight after washing with a particular face wash, then stop! This is not a good sign. Your face should not feel like this.
What is the best face wash for sensitive skin?
And Glycerin too, which is an excellent ingredient for keeping your skin hydrated and making sure that it is not stripped of essential moisture.
All of these can be found in our Daily Face Wash.
Of course, if there is a specific ingredient that you have had a reaction to in the past then always check the ingredient list to make sure it’s not included.
How often should I wash sensitive skin?
You only need to wash your face twice a day.
In addition, if you have sensitive skin it’s important to wash your face after a sports session too.
AFTER SPORTS – to clean away the sweat that can sit on your skin and act as a breeding ground for bacteria.
The salts from sweat can be drying and irritating so you need to clear them away as soon as possible before your complexion suffers.
How do I wash my sensitive face?
The most important thing is not to be too aggressive on your skin!
Just take your time. I know this can be difficult when you’re rushing around in the morning trying to get things done but be careful not to rub your face too hard.
- Avoid using facial brushes and face cloths. They can be too harsh and can harbour harmful bacteria.
- Use lukewarm water. Avoid using very hot or extremely cold water. The hot water will leave your skin dry and irritated, while the cold is less effective at removing oils from your skin. On the other hand, comfortably lukewarm water will open up your pores while also soothing your skin and make for an effective clean.
- Pat your skin dry gently – no rubbing.
Keep a separate small towel just for your face. Don’t use the one that you use for your whole body – that’s gross. And don’t let anyone else use it – only you. Women know to always do this, but you guys are not taught this and it’s really important.
Wash the towel at least once a week – and use gentle, non-biological laundry detergent.
For full step-by-step instructions on how to properly wash your face see – "CLEAN: The Best Way to Keep Your Skin Looking Fresh and Healthy"
#2 EXFOLIATE WITH CARE
Exfoliating away dead, flaky skin cells can instantly reveal brand-new, smooth, clear skin. It’s one of the most beneficial things you can do for your skin.
But…..for sensitive skins you need to proceed with caution.
Steer clear of any rough, grainy scrubs at all costs!
A natural, gentle ‘chemical’ exfoliant, and a policy of ‘little and often’ is a much kinder way to go.
Gently exfoliating everyday using a very mild Alpha-Hydroxy Acid, like Glycolic Acid or Lactic Acid, is the best option for sensitive skins. These can be found incorporated in a face wash, like our Daily Face Wash, or as a separate exfoliating lotion.
Natural chemicals tend to exfoliate in a much more uniform way. On top of that, Alpha Hydroxy Acids also act as antioxidants, which stimulate the skin’s natural repair mechanisms and collagen production, helping to keep your protective lipid barrier strong.
How often should I exfoliate sensitive skin?
If you opt for an exfoliating lotion you may need to experiment to see what your skin will tolerate without it becoming too dry.
However, if you use our exfoliating Daily Face Wash this can safely be used every day, even on sensitive skin. The hydrating Glycerin and soothing Aloe Vera that are included make sure that it won’t leave your face looking red, or feeling tight and dry.
We’ve got more on exfoliation here: "A Man's Guide to Exfoliation: FAQ's"
#3 SHAVE SMARTLY
Shaving can cause irritation in any type of skin, but with sensitive skin it’s even worse. It can show up as redness, razor burn and painful bumps, especially on the neck, so extra care is needed.
How do I shave sensitive skin?
- Prep well – the easiest way to shave is when your skin is warm, moist and relaxed. So try to shave after your shower, or apply a warm, wrung-out face cloth to your face to relax the skin beforehand.
- Always shave WITH the grain. Shaving against the grain might feel like you get a close shave, but it comes at a cost – causing the hair follicles to be distorted and the hairs to grow back into the skin so that a painful bump forms – an Ingrown hair.
- Use smooth, easy strokes, applying minimal pressure.
- Pat dry with a towel afterwards, no rubbing.
The right products can make all the difference
A nourishing shave cream is essential for guys with sensitive skin. It will create a rich barrier between your skin and the razor. This will protect your skin as well as providing lubrication for the shaving process itself, softening your beard and helping maintain your skin’s hydration level too.
Our Protective Shave Cream is based on moisturizing Glycerin and enriched with Shea Butter to nourish and protect your skin and Apricot Stone Oil to soften your beard for easier shaving. We’ve also added Aloe Vera to soothe your sensitive skin and purifying Tea Tree Oil to help reduce any redness and irritation.
If your beard is particularly tough, a good pre-shave oil can also help. It will soften even the toughest hair making for an easier, smoother cut.
We’ve got more on preparing your skin well and correct shaving technique here: “SHAVE: 9 Tips For a Pain Free Shave”.
#4 MOISTURISE AND SOOTHE
One of the keys to reducing sensitivity is to keep your skin well-hydrated. This means moisturizing your face and your body both morning and night.
Which cream is best for sensitive skin?
Choose a comforting light, yet effective, moisturizer which will increase hydration as well as helping to heal the protective lipid barrier of your skin. It should absorb easily so that you don’t have to use pressure to rub it in - and won’t leave your face feeling greasy.
One of the best ingredients to look for is Hyaluronic Acid (the gold standard of moisturizing agents). It will give you long-term hydration and keep your skin smooth and supple, at the same time as reducing fine lines and wrinkles, restoring elasticity and improving skin texture.
Due to a weakened lipid barrier, sensitive skin is also more prone to signs of premature aging. So choose a moisturizer that includes gentle, anti-aging ingredients like Vitamin E, Jojoba Oil and D-Panthenol.
Our Hydrating Daily Moisturizer includes all of these excellent ingredients as well as an ingredient called Matrixyl. This is a peptide which stimulates collagen production, improves skin elasticity and smooths fine lines. It basically has the same effect as retinol, but without the redness and skin sensitivity that retinol can cause.
And of course it’s super-light and effective at always keeping your skin well-hydrated.
#5 PROTECT FROM THE SUN
Sensitive skin can show extreme reactions to the sun, so it’s vital that you use a sunscreen every day, whatever the weather.
Opt for a mineral-based sunscreen. These are ones that contain zinc or titanium. Rather than those with chemical filters that have the potential to increase the sensitivity of your skin.
Lifestyle changes that will help
As well as adopting a regular skincare routine, there are small lifestyle changes that you can make which will make a huge difference to the comfort and condition of your skin.
Keep everything simple – The smaller the number of products that you use, the smaller the number of ingredients… and the less chance of a reaction to one of them.
Use a gentle deodorant - Always choose an alcohol-free deodorant with no added fragrance. Many deodorants contain aluminum and alcohol - these two ingredients can both cause irritation.
Check product ingredients – as well as checking for things that you already know will irritate your skin, also look for products that have no alcohol, heavy fragrance, or natural oils.
Always use lukewarm water on your skin – never hot (and this includes your shower) Hot water will make most skin dry and flaky. Lukewarm or cool water is a much gentler choice and won’t contribute to unnecessary irritation.
Do a patch test - If you’re using a product for the first time then do a skin test first to determine that it will be safe for you to use. Test on a part of your skin that isn’t on display and wait at least 24 hours to check for a reaction.
Hydrate with water – Drinking plenty of water all day will make sure that your skin is well-hydrated. And well-hydrated skin is stronger and less prone to developing a reaction or irritation.
Reduce stress – Stress hormones are known to cause inflammation in your skin. This can be a vicious cycle of course, because the more inflamed and irritated your skin is, the more stressed you become…. So whether it’s meditation, yoga or mindfulness, try to find a method of introducing calm into your life.
And if you’re starting to feel that your sensitive skin is making it hard to keep stress under control, then please ask for help. You shouldn’t have to feel like this and talking to a mental health professional can give you immense support.
Also try to keep to a healthy sleep schedule too.
Watch out for harsh detergents – clothes, towels and bed linen that have been washed in harsh washing detergents can all lead to a reaction. Stick to a gentle, hypo-allergenic laundry detergent, especially on items that come into close contact with your skin. You can find a list of the thirteen best ones here.
Use a gentle shampoo – your shampoo can also aggravate skin sensitivity, and not just on your scalp, but any residue that goes onto your face in the shower too. So look for gentle shampoos with a low PH value. These products will clean your hair effectively, but won’t dry out your scalp.
You may not know the causes of your sensitive skin, but you can develop a smart approach to dealing with it.
Adopt a consistent daily grooming routine to lessen the chances of a reaction occurring and reducing the effects if it does.
- Wash your face gently
- Exfoliate with care
- Shave smartly
- Moisturise daily
- Protect from the sun
And introduce these lifestyle changes to continually improve the comfort and condition of your skin.
- Keep everything simple
- Use an alcohol-free deodorant
- Check product ingredients
- Always use lukewarm water on your skin – never hot (and this includes your shower)
- Do a 24 hour skin test on any new product
- Drink plenty of water
- Reduce stress
- Avoid using harsh laundry detergents
- Use a gentle shampoo
Sensitive skin doesn’t have to ruin your life. With attention and care, you can prevent irritation and always look your best.
And if there’s anything that we’ve missed, or you have a question, just leave a comment below.