There are so many ways to aggravate your skin. Did you get overzealous with exfoliation? Dry out your skin with harsh cleansers or clay masks? Fall asleep in the sun? Try a prescription retinoid or chemical peel?
No matter which one you said yes to, you're likely dealing with skin that feels uncomfortable and shows signs of irritation: redness, dryness, and flaking.
Alright, let me shift out of infomerical-before-shot mode to tell you I’ve totally been there. I used to have a bad habit of picking up a new product and thinking, Well, if this much is good, then more must be better! Cut to a few too many lactic acid peels later and my skin is rough, red, and flaking off in sheets.
Here's how I make it better.
Lay Off The Actives
Unless you are dealing with irritation from a prescription topical (in which case, talk to your dermatologist), back off any products that make serious changes in your skin with the risk of possible irritation. Anything with AHAs, BHAs, retinol, enzymes, or even non-exfoliating actives like vitamin C and benzoyl peroxide can get your skin in a bother, especially when it’s already compromised. Give your skin a rest for now--the big hitters will still be there when you’re healed.
Now is the time to baby your skin with the most neutral products possible. I like a fragrance-free, gentle cleanser like Fresh Soy Face Cleanser or Lush’s aptly named Ultrabland. Follow it up with lots of hydrating products, too. Look for ones with glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and carrier oils that agree with your skin. You need sun protection now more than ever, so try a physical sunscreen (the kind made with zinc and titanium dioxide) to protect without stinging or burning. EltaMD’s UV Clear is a non-irritating, cosmetically elegant SPF that also contains anti-inflammatory niacinamide.
Finally, seal everything in with an occlusive agent. I love plain old Vaseline when my skin needs extra TLC. (No, it won’t break you out, but it will prevent moisture from evaporating from your skin.) EltaMD Intense Moisturizer is a less-gloopy version of petroleum jelly that’s worth trying, too.
Build Up A Protective Barrier
The last step in treating irritated skin is to repair the layer of lipids that form a protective barrier over your skin. A main component of that lipid layer is ceramides. Using products that contain ceramides can accelerate barrier repair and get your skin back to normal. Check out Dr Jart+ Ceramidin Cream or drugstrore favorite CeraVe Lotion to fast track your skin’s recovery.
Have you ever seriously irritated or damaged your skin? How did you nurse it back to health?