Could be something in the air -- like pollution -- or in the high-intensity products we slather on ourselves, but skin sensitivity is on the rise. Here, the simplest, most soothing solutions.
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For starters, forgo the candy-store approach to cosmetic counters — this is no time to sample every colorful potion you can afford. You always pay a price for overindulgence, so switch to a bare-bones regimen of mild cleanser, chemical-free sunblock (look for a mineral formula containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide), and an unscented moisturizer, as additives like fragrance and preservatives can further aggravate sensitized skin. In cases of extreme redness, some derms will also prescribe a topical like cortisone — but be sure to use sparingly, because steroids can weaken the epidermis and trigger new allergies. Stick to this scaled-back regime for two to four weeks — generally enough time to bring skin back into balance — and then gradually reintroduce one product at a time. "Before you can do a workout with 30 pounds at the gym, you have to do it with 10 first," says Gross. "Skin abides by the same principle."
Sensitive-skin-friendly formulas are now available at all price points — from posh brands like Darphin and RéVive to Walgreens standbys like Cetaphil and Eucerin. The key is to pamper with the fewest possible ingredients. "You want to avoid any product that boasts vitamins, antioxidants, alpha hydroxy acids, and sunscreen all at the same time," says Dr. Diane Berson, adjunct assistant professor of dermatology at New York University.