Sensitive and Red Skin

Dear Readers - Many of you write to me on the blog about problems with reactions to skincare products. These reactions are mostly due to the many chemicals used in skincare products. Some of you are also easily irritated by scrubs, acidic products (mostly antioxidants and glycolics), and retinoids (Vitamin A cousins). Here are some well tested ideas. Still not all of you will tolerate all of these, so use your good judgment.

When trying new products, always start one at a time about 3-7 days apart, so if you have a problem, you know which product it is!

1) Gentle cleanser - over scrubbing makes pigment worse
2) Gentle antioxidant - they have been proven to decrease inflammation when tolerated
3) Moisturizer for sensitive skin - dry skin is more easily irritated
4) Hypoallergenic sunscreen
1) Gentle cleanser
2) A gentle Vit A cousin (retinoid)   - most of the prescription versions (Renova, Retin A, tretinoin, etc) irritate sensitive skin.  Here is the most gentle version I've found.  If you tolerate this well, you may be able to move up to stronger ones. 
3) Moisturizer for sensitive skin - use the moisturizer first if retinoids tend to irritate you.
*Remember that cell growth factors, peptides and other heavily marketed products have not been shown to help with sensitive skin and are just marketing.
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  • moisturizing antioxidant cream
    Power of Three Cream

    Size: 1 fl. oz

    Who It's For:

    Normal to dryer skin types and a good choice for sensitive skin.

    Dr. Irwin's Product Review

    As antioxidants go, I still think the higher quality SkinCeuticals products or the high quality Vitamin C serums are more effective.   But not everyone tolerates those or likes the serum formulation.  This is a good option for those who don't like the serums or gels or just need an antioxidant that's quite gentle.  Contains reservatrol and polyphenol (plant-based antioxidants) isolates.  Also, this is more affordable than the SkinCeuticals ones.

    How to Use

    Apply in the morning under sunscreen or at night under your Vit A cream. 


    Purified Water, Squalane, Cyclomethicone, Glyceryl Stearate, Behenyl Alcohol, Caffeine U.S.P. Palmitic Acid, Stearic Acid, Lecithin, Lauryl Alcohol, Myristyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Polyphenols, Resveratrol, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Bisabolol, Chamomilla Recutila (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Polysorbate-20, Carbomer, Caprylyl Glycol, Triethanolaine, Sorbic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Tetrasodium EDTA

  • organic moisturizer for aging skin
    Blueberry Soy Night Recovery Cream

    Size: 2 fl oz

    Who It's For

    Mostly for dry, 40+ or estrogen-challenged skin

    Dr. Irwin's Product Review

    Organic. This rich moisturizer contains blueberry extract as an antioxidant and soy which has some estrogenic effects (helps plump the skin). Great for extremely dry skin. Smells wonderful and a very nice consistency.  You don't need much and it's a very popular gift.

    How to Use

    Apply once or twice daily.   You can thin it a little with water in your palm to make it a lighter consistency or if travelling to a more humid climate.   I love this on airplanes to rehydrate hands and face and put it in a small container in my flight bag.  It doesn't have a lot of preservatives, so if you haven't used it in 3 months after opening, throw it out.


    Blueberry Juice, Blueberry Pulp, Corn Germ Oil, Cetearyl Glucoside, Shea Butter, Soy Yogurt, Raspberry Juice, Bramble Juice, Glyceryl Stearate, Grape Seed Oil, Calendula Oil, Glycerin (Vegetable Based), Xanthan Gum, Biocomplex (Vitamins A-C-E, Coenzyme Q10, Alpha Lipoic Acid), Evening Primrose Oil, Glycine Derivative, Salicylic Acid, Lactic Acid

  • powder sunscreen,
    SPF 30 Powder Sunscreen

    Size: 0.21 oz

    Who It's For

    Everyone, nice for kids and men, and for double coverage over a lotion or cream sunscreen.  Especially key for those with melasma or other pigment problems.

    Dr. Irwin's Product Review

    Powder Sunscreen. This is a great invention.  I love this product and use it all the time. The Medium shade is pretty clear and good for all sites.  The Tan shade is the tinted version and is nice for the face.  Especially great for outdoor sports because it can be reapplied without getting your hands greasy. It's also fast to apply due to the built-in brush applicator. Even better over a lotion sunscreen base.  I often use this product over a lotion/cream sunscreen base especially for athletics and high sun situations.

    Good for golf, cycling, hiking, open-water swimming, rock climbing, long distance running, rowing, and many other situations where grease doesn't cut it. It's lightweight and small to carry. Men and kids like this product usually.

    Great for a humid climate (or oily skin), because it goes on dry and leaves no oily, greasy sheen. Expensive but worth it, and it lasts a long time. Layer it over a sunscreen lotion for maximum protection at altitude or in intense sun. Men like this product usually.  Make sure to apply it in a well-ventilated area.

    Use this SPF 30 for everyday use.  Use the SPF 50 for outdoor activities or occupations or if you want extra protection. 

    How to Use

    Apply this in a well-ventilated area, and do not breathe in the powder.  Brush on skin that has some moisture or lotion on it (i.e., not on dry skin) before sun exposure, repeat application after perspiring, immersion in water or toweling.  It comes in a small tube, with a self-contained brush. You just shake the powder down, and brush on the powder. The powder stays on your skin, and the high zinc and titanium content gives you great UVA and UVB blocking.


    Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide (21%), Zinc Oxide (11.8%) Inactive Ingredients: bismuth oxychloride, calcium, cilicate, corallina officinalis, dimethicone, dimethicone/vinyldimethicone crosspolymer, iron oxide, manganese, violet, mica, titanium dioxide

  • Organic hydrating sun screen
    Tropical Vanilla Day Cream SPF 32

    Size: 2 fl. oz

    Who It's For

    Great for dry to normal skin.  Too chalky for the darkest skin types or oily skin.

    Dr. Irwin's Product Review

    Organic. Great product on the the neck and chest because it's very hydrating (remember very few oil glands on the neck especially), doesn't stain clothing and contains zinc 5% which blocks UV through the full spectrum.  Subtle fragrance and a little chalky at first but absorbs well after a few minutes.

    How to Use

    Apply a generous amount to facial skin about 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. Massage until product is fully absorbed and reapply as necessary after excessive sweating or swimming.


    Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 5%, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate 6% Ingredients: Linden Tea, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Cetearyl Alcohol & Sodium Cetearyl Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Vegetable Glycerin, Shea Butter, Aloe Juice, Corn Germ Oil, Biocomplex™ (Vitamin A, Vitamin C Ester, Vitamin E, Coenzyme Q10, Alpha Lipoic Acid), Naturally-Derived Glyceryl Stearate, Natural Moisturizing Factor, Sodium PCA, Glycine Derivative, Corn-Derived Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, Xanthan Gum, Caprylyl Glycol, Vanilla Extract, Lecithin

  • Soothing Sensitive Skin Cream
    Soothing Sensitive Skin Cream

    Size: 1.7 oz

    Who It's For

    Those with sensitive skin. Allergic problems with this product are rare. Not for acne.

    Dr. Irwin's Product Review

    For sensitive skin. Hydrating and soothing. Much silkier than drugstore products. Good for those with product allergies. Has NO fragrance. Stlll try in one area first if you are extremely sensitive. We use this post-laser on most of our patients.

    How to Use

    At least twice a day.  More is even better if dry.


    Water (Aqua), Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Cetearyl Glucoside, Propolis Cera, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Sorbitol, Titanium Dioxide, Panthenol, Glycerin, Bisabolol, Allantoin, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Dimethicone, Ceteareth-20, Glyceryl Stearate, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hexylene Glycol

  • Eye cream for wrinkles and fine lines
    Evolutive Eye Cream

    Size: 1 oz 

    Who It's For

    For all skin types.

    Dr. Irwin's Product Review

    My personal eye cream.  Gentle and helps with early fine lines and crepeyness.  Contains hyaluronic acid, Vitamin A (Retinyl Palmitate), Vit E, Glycolic acid (low concentration for the eye area), a little sunscreen, and a Vitamin C ester.  It has enough low strength actives (better for the eye area) to be effective.  Results evident at 30-60 days.  I love the NeoCutis Lumerie Riche too, but I Iike to try new products and change things up sometime.

    Mid weight, hydrating and good for sensitive skin.

    How to Use

    Morning and night - entire eye area and eyelids


    Water (Aqua), Squalane, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Sorbitol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Cetearyl Glucoside, Elastin, Glyceryl Stearate, Retinyl Palmitate (Vit. A), Glycerin, Tocopherol (Vit. E), Panthenol, Glycolic Acid, Superoxide Dismutase, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vit. E), Allantoin, Titanium Dioxide, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hexylene Glycol, Dimethicone

  • Retinol for Wrinkles and Skin Care
    Retinol Complex .25

    Size: 1 oz

    Who It's For

    For sun-damaged skin and for those wanting to prevent the appearance of wrinkles and aging.

    Dr. Irwin's Product Review

     This is SkinMedica's updated version of the old Tri-Retinol Complex, and it is still an excellent over-the-counter retinol.  At this percentage, the effects are similar to Renova/tretinoin, etc. Use at night. If you can use the prescription version of tretinoin (like Renova), do so - but many people don’t want to be bothered with a prescription and the two retinols listed on this site are almost as good. This retinol also has vitamin E in a base that will not clog pores and is still compatible with moisturizers and sunscreens. Also see the Neocutis Nouvelle+Retinol Correction Cream.  Start with this one though if you have never used a retinoid before.

    Retinoids are repair creams that have 20 years of science and experience behind them. They build collagen and normalize sun damaged keratinocytes (skin cells) and help to prevent precancerous growths and skin cancers if used regularly. 

    How to Use

    Apply one pump to the face at night. Always use at night - light inactivates it. Begin using twice per week, then increase gradually.  If this product irritates your skin a little, try applying your moisturizer first, then wait 10-20 minutes, then apply this. You must use a sunscreen every morning if you use a retinoid because your skin will be just slightly more sun sensitive.  Stop this product a week before sunny vacations and consider not using it if you can't be consistent with sunscreen or truly are outdoors constantly. 


    Water/Aqua/Eau, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Niacinamide, Polyacrylate-13, Squalane, Retinol, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-8, Dunaliella Salina Extract, Magnolia Grandiflora Bark Extract, Tocopherol, Tocotrienols, Ceramide 3, Bisabolol, Phytosterols, Squalene, Tocopheryl Acetate, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Wax (Oryza Sativa Cera), Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Polysorbate 20, Butylene Glycol, Cetyl Palmitate, Laureth-23, Trideceth-6 Phosphate, Sodium Hydroxide, Dicaprylyl Ether, Lauryl Alcohol, Polyisobutene, Dextran, Potassium Sorbate, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin

  • Redness Relief CalmPlex
    Redness Relief CalmPlex

    Size: 1.6 fl oz

    Dr. Irwin's Product Review

    The niacinamide, the squalene, and the Palmitate help sooth and decrease redness.  You'll still need your treatment for rosacea and flushing from your dermatologist.  Also try adding a refrigerated (higher quality) probiotic daily.

    Key Ingredients:

    Water/Aqua/Eau, Glycerin, Squalane, Isocetyl Stearate, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Isostearyl Palmitate, Mineral Oil, Glyceryl Stearate, Niacinamide, Phenoxyethanol,

    Allergy Alert:  parabens

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

Ask me your skincare question!

Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin, and I believe that consumers need and deserve a medically trained and unbiased skincare advocate.

  • All our content is written and researched by myself and my trained staff.
  • My medical office in Seattle has experience treating thousands of patients.
  • This site is not affiliated or financially tied to any product line.
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SkinTour's Philosophy:
Skincare is your best
One of the best investments in your skin is your daily skincare. Why? Because you can prevent many problems with blotchy skin color, lack of glow, texture, some types of acne, and fine lines with good skincare products. You can also correct some of these problems with effective skincare products. Great skincare is often more expensive because quality ingredients are expensive. Some companies spend on research/development which benefits all of us and adds to the cost. Are they worth it? In general - yes!

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