Your skin-care routine may be the culprit.
You have your daily regimen down pat: wash, exfoliate, moisturize, repeat. So why is your face suddenly red and inflamed? To fix the issue, New York City-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner , M.D., recommends laying off of your normal products for a bit and calming flare-ups with Vaseline or Aquaphor.“If the problem isn’t improving, visit your dermatologist,” he says. “If you see improvement, add back products to your regimen, one every few days, to determine which may be the culprit.”
In the meantime, here are some reasons your skin might be freaking out.
1. You Overdid It with the Scrubbing Exfoliating can bring more glow-y, softer-looking skin…but a little goes a long way. “While exfoliating can help remove dead cells from the skin’s surface to give a brighter complexion, overdoing it can cause cracks in the outer skin layer,” says Zeichner. “This leads to inflammation and sensitivity.” Be sure to exfoliate using a soft, circular motion rather than a scrubbing one. Follow with moisturizer to help soothe skin.
2. You Applied Too Much Retinol Used to combat wrinkles, lines, and dark spots, retinol has some seriously good qualities. But Zeichner explains that a little goes a long way. “Think of using retinol like training for a marathon,” he says. “You need to pace yourself or you won’t finish the race.” Using it too frequently, especially in the first two to four weeks of the treatment, can be associated with burning, stinging, and sensitivity. “Start out every other night, and advance as tolerated,” says Zeichner.
3. You Used Too Many Products Skin care is one situation where more isn’t automatically better. “Using more than one potentially irritating anti-aging product can make your skin sensitive,” says Zeichner. “Common offenders include salicylic and glycolic acid.” Before you add a new product to your lineup, make sure your skin is good with your regular routine. Then, proceed with caution, taking notice of whether any new products irritate your skin.
4. You Skipped the Post-Shower Moisturizer Lotions and moisturizers can help prevent dry, irritated skin, and Zeichner says that the best time to apply them is after you step out of the shower. “Hot water can strip the skin of essential oil, making it sensitive to the environment,” he says. “Replace hydration and repair your skin barrier by applying a moisturizer with ceramides after showering.”
5. You’re Using the Wrong Cleanser Some soaps and cleansers contain an alkaline pH that can be harsh on your skin, stripping it of natural oils and leaving it feeling dry or irritated. Check your labels, and avoid products with ingredients that will disrupt the skin barrier, such as fragrances and preservatives. Zeichner recommends Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Foaming Cleanser ($8, amazon.com), which is made with hydrophobically modified polymers that prevent the cleanser from causing irritation.
6. You Have an Untreated Skin Condition Feel like you’ve tried everything and your red, sensitive skin still isn’t calling it quits? Zeichner recommends a visit to your dermatologist to see if an undiagnosed skin condition like rosacea might be the cause.
“Rosacea is a condition characterized by facial flushing and redness, burning and stinging, and bumps and pus pimples,” he says. “Genetically, the skin is more sensitive to the environment and overreacts to triggers like spicy food and changes in temperature. If you think you have rosacea, visit your dermatologist to discuss treatment options.”