Finding an Exfoliator for My Sensitive Skin Felt Impossible—Then I Discovered This Derm-Beloved Mask That Gives Me a Luminous Complexion

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Sensitive skin can be a pain to look after, especially when it comes to using harsher skin-care ingredients like salicylic acid or retinol. Speaking from experience, I find that if I’m not careful about the products I use on my skin, I get red and splotchy fast. And let’s be real: That’s really not the vibe you’re going for when it comes to skin-care.

While there are certainly some staples I rely on when it comes to picking out my skincare (Tata Harper is full of non-irritating ingredients for one, and so is Ilia Beauty), I still couldn’t find a product that exfoliated my skin without irritating it. And exfoliating is important, you guys: Several studies have indicated that regularly exfoliating the skin can help improve the appearance of acnehelp with photo aging, and even reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. It’s also meant to help the appearance of the skin, improving tone and texture.

Experts In This Article
  • Jeanette Graf, MD, board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine
  • Reid Maclellan, MD, director of Proactive Dermatology Group and founder of Cortina

I really needed to get on the exfoliating train, especially in the summer, when clogged pores were the norm for me. I wasn’t a fan of how rough and oily my skin had become, and I was desperate for a solution. Then, I discovered Dermalogica Hydro Masque Exfoliant ($64), and my life was forever changed.

The Hydro Masque Exfoliant is essentially a face mask, but it has both hydrating and exfoliating properties, making it ideal for sensitive skin like mine. All you need to do is massage it in and keep it on damp skin for five minutes (until it dries), and then rinse off: Voila! You’re left with hydrating, glowing skin in the same amount of time it takes to make a cup of coffee in the morning. (In fact, I’m often wearing this face mask while I make my morning coffee, but that’s a different story altogether.)

Upon using the mask about twice a week for two weeks, I found that the texture of my skin vastly improved, my pore size (and therefore my blackheads) visibly reduced, and my face was left feeling plump and luminous. And the best part was the fact that there was absolutely no redness whatsoever, despite the slight tingly feeling I felt when I put this mask on. The tingles went away within a minute or so, so it didn’t bother me much, regardless.

The magic behind these results lies in the brand’s formulation and choice of ingredients: Instead of relying on harsher chemical exfoliants, this product uses several unique ones, including bamboo, snow mushroom, aloe, spirulina, and jojoba oil, which all work together in tandem to remove dead skin cells and hydrate the layer below at the same time. This unique formula felt soothing to my skin, but still did its job of removing the dead skin cells as needed.

What derms think

“I would recommend this product for anyone looking for a mask that exfoliates without drying out the skin,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jeannette Graf, MD. “It has a lot of skin-nourishing ingredients that are also effective in what they do, which soothes the skin, while the exfoliating ingredients are more on the gentle side.” According to Graf, the major ingredients that make this product unique include the bamboo (helps to brighten the skin and exfoliate in a gentle way), jojoba oil (it’s anti-inflammatory and brightens the skin’s barrier), and snow mushroom (which both fights inflammation and hydrates).

“The exfoliation is gentler than traditional BHAs or AHAs, so it should be safe for sensitive skin, although it’s always a good idea to test patch first,” adds Dr. Reid Maclellan, MD and founder of Cortena. “The amino acids found in the sugar beets help to hydrate the skin and repair its moisture barrier, and it also contains cucumber extract, which provides a cooling effect on the skin.”

Putting the mask on basically feels like you’ve stepped into a freezer, with a slight tingle that quickly goes away. And while the results are simply amazing, I would caution against using this product more than a couple of times a week: Exfoliation still takes off dead layers from the top of the skin, and this can have a damaging effect and leave the skin completely unprotected if done too much. Also, be sure to top off with a great sunscreen for added protection, especially if your skin is on the sensitive side. All in all though, I’m so in love with the results from this product, especially since my blackheads have all but gone away. So sensitive skin friends, rejoice: We can finally exfoliate with ease.

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Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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