My Square-One Routine for When My Sensitive Skin Freaks Out

If I'm forced to go back to basics, these are the basics I pick.

I recently had a run-in with a new facial cleanser that my skin just didn’t like. (And by run-in, I mean I deliberately put the stuff on my whole face and neck, and by didn’t like, I mean I was left with painfully sore skin covered in tiny little bumps. Cute.) So I added orange oil to my long list of essential oils that destroy my skin, locked away my foundation, and brought my skincare routine back to square one.

This is my most simple, soothing skincare routine for when my face is too sensitive for my beloved Glycolic Fix infused routine. It’s so basic that it loves pumpkin spice lattés, Ugg boots, and Barefoot Moscato. Seriously.

The winning lineup stays the same both morning and night. A simple hydrating cleanser taken off with a washcloth, a hydrating serum, and a light moisturizer, plus mask options if I’m feeling like painting my face.

My gentle cleanser of choice is the CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser. It isn’t flashy or pretty, it doesn’t even come in nice packaging, but the stuff just works. I have to owe this discovery to browsing the R/skincareaddiction sub-Reddit. This cleanser doesn’t have an irritating scent, and is non-foaming so it doesn’t dry out my skin while it gets off all the oil and gunk of the day.

I use this in the morning and evening with a dampened washcloth to remove. When my skin is being as sensitive as it is right now, I find that the little bit of exfoliation from the washcloth is as much as I can handle, and I save the chemical exfoliation for later.

The more I try, the more I find that my skin does not love “natural” skincare. I mean obviously, this whole article came to be because I tried a facial cleanser that although smelled amazing, really messed with my skin. So I’ll have you know there is a great amount of trust I have in this product to use it on my skin in this condition.

The Lush BB Seaweed mask is both cleansing and soothing. The seaweed makes it look like you fell face first into a papier-maché disaster once it has dried, but it is so worth it for the end result of calm, smooth skin.

If I’m feeling on the dry side and I still want to do a little pampering, I’ll toss on the Elizabeth Arden Hydrating Mask. From the queen of the Eight Hour Cream it is no surprise that Elizabeth Arden makes a mean moisture mask. Lightly cooling, pink tinted, and quick, this mask plumps your skin in ten minutes flat.

The cure to nearly all my skin ailments is the Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair II serum. It is chock full of hyaluronic acid that is perfect for getting your skin nice and hydrated without feeling loaded down with product. Just a dab will do you for a whole face application, and bonus: it helps to calm down acne as well.

My moisturizer of choice is the Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel. This moisturizer keeps my skin in tiptop levels of moisture without being greasy or making my face kick up oil production (in which case, you could probably fry an egg on my forehead). It’s just enough to keep my skin in balance so drier skins may need something with a little more gusto.

Finally, after a week of feeling like I was wearing a Bloody Face mask from American Horror Story, I am starting to feel like my skin is back. Just the power of being basic! Also, moral of the story, ALWAYS patch test new skincare. Always. Lesson learned.

  • What does your most pared down skincare routine look like?
  • Maybe even more fun, what does your all-out, lavish skincare routine look like?