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Skin that reacts to everything? Red patches or bumps that are not regular spots? Very dry or irritated skin? You have come to the right place.

I like to divide these into two groups – one is where you’ve always been sensitive, or have a long-standing (chronic) skin problem like rosacea, and the other is skin that appears to have undergone a personality transplant over a short period of time (this could be anywhere from a week to 7 or 8 months) which is an acute problem.

Chronic Sensitivity

Very common in paler Irish skins, redheads and people with food allergies, managing this is all about finding a routine that works for you in the longer term and introducing new products gently and gradually (eg. anti-aging ones like retinols and peptides).

  1. Cleansers: Kiehls Ultra Facial Cleanser 150ml For All Skin Types, Sensicalm Cleanser, Cetaphil cream Cleanser.
  2. Toner: My homemade ACV toner is always my first and only choice. Dilute down further if it is stinging at all.
  3. Exfoliant: if your skin is a bit rough and dry, one of the best gentle exfoliants out there is Bright and Clear. I would start with application every second morning, and you can pump a little onto your hands and pat it gently on your face instead of using a cotton pad, which can be a bit too abrasive. The key to this guy is that it contains lactic acid, which is hydrating and exfoliating at the same time. If you have dry skin on your body this is a great lactic acid option too.
  4. Hydrating spray: any of the ones from the pharmacy, and you might even have some lying around the house. These are amazing for hydrating sensitive skin, just make sure you lock it in with your moisturiser straight after.
  5. Calming serum: Calm-R from Alumier MD is specially formulated to calm skin down, and it’s not heavy so even sensitive skins that are prone to congestion tend to suit it very well. One of the best for rosacea that I’ve ever come across.
  6. Moisturiser AM and PM: Hydracalm works well with the Calm-R serum to reduce general reduces and pacify inflamed skin. Lancôme’s Hydrazen gel is great if you feel you’re a bit too oily for a thicker moisturiser. And I would recommend Cetaphil from your nearest pharmacy or Hydrate for a slightly thicker texture that tends to be favoured by dry skin. (Hydrate Luxe is for those older skins craving a luxurious deep moisturiser).
  7. Sunscreen: VIP to protect your poor sensitive skin at all times – Sheer Hydration (dry skin) or Clear Shield (oily skin) are two fantastic options, and the Sheer Hydration also comes in a tinted version.

Bonus points: Dermalogica Barrier Repair is an excellent investment for anyone exposed to wind, extremes of temperature or harsh weather (if you cycle to work, this is also you!). It is named slightly incorrectly though, as you put it on before you go outside, not after. It’s not too thick, and I wear it if I’m running early in the morning before the sun is up (in the winter – I don’t manage to get up early enough in the summer, don’t worry!) and I don’t need sunscreen.

Acute Flare Up

This happens to me when I’m stressed/not sleeping/travelling a lot/just to catch me out. I get red bumps that are not acne, skin goes crazy with anything active and generally just looks unhappy.

  1. Cleanse: Sensicalm Cream Cleanser, Cetaphil cream Cleanser. I tend to go with Cetaphil (available from your nearest pharmacy most likely) as it can’t be beaten on price and I don’t need a gentle cleanser most of the time.
  2. Tone: Apple Cider vinegar toner diluted down a bit further.
  3. Hydrating spray: sometimes, if I need more hydration. A lot of the time when I switch to a regime like this, my oily skin has plenty of hydration so it’s not necessary – if you have any way oily skin you’re unlikely to need it either. And the whole point here is paring it back!
  4. Moisturiser: Cetaphil, Hydracalm, this one from Avene. Once again I tend to go with Cetaphil as I generally don’t like a moisturiser like this for very long.

If your flare up hasn’t settled down after 3-4 days of this (and ensuring you’re not living on sugar, and getting enough sleep), you might want to book an appointment with someone like me or your GP.