Skin-Care Tips

‘I’m a Dermatologist, and This Is Exactly How I’d Treat Sensitive Skin for Under $175’

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Crafting a solid sensitive skin routine can often feel like walking a tightrope: It's all about balance. If your complexion is prone to irritation, you have to be just as thoughtful with what you keep off of your face as what you put on it—and there are all kinds of rules that derms suggest you follow in order to get it right. Gentle cleansers and soothing, hydrating ingredients are a must, for example, while fragrances and intense acids remain strictly on the "do not use" list. And as for retinol? Well, it depends.

Keeping track of all of this can be challenging, and a single misstep can leave your skin raw and uncomfortable. To help you navigate the process of crafting a regimen that won't mess with your complexion, we tapped Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City to round up the best Sephora products for sensitive skin. Shop her haul, below, and rest easy knowing the entire thing won't cost more than $175.


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Innbeauty Project Green Machine Vitamin C + Green Superfoods Jelly Serum — $32.00

Vitamin C can be irritating on sensitive skin (it is an acid, after all), but this one is gentle enough that you can use it on any complexion without having to worry. “It contains a highly stable form of vitamin C, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, as well as other antioxidants and brightening ingredients like pomegranate stem cells and azelaic acid,” says Dr. King. “The gentle formulation also includes hemp, chia and quinoa oils to support the skin barrier.” It’s got brightening and soothing properties, and will leave skin looking like a dewy glazed donut after you apply.

The Ordinary "Buffet" + Copper Peptides 1% — $29.00

“This formula combines several peptide complexes with a probiotic complex in a base of hyaluronic acid and amino acids, as well as glycerin, allantoin, urea and castor oil,” says Dr. King. “Urea and glycerin are great humectants to hydrate the skin, allantoin heals, soothes and protects and stimulates the growth of healthy skin tissue, and castor oil, rich in fatty acids, is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, hydrating and moisturizing.” She adds that the peptides have anti-aging benefits, and help to promote the production of collagen and elastin, and the formula’s 4.5-5.5 pH makes it non-stripping for sensitive skin.

Ilia Lip Wrap Treatment Mask — $26.00

Though you may not realize it, many lip balms are formulated with drying ingredients, like menthol, that keep you coming back for more (aka, re-applying all day long). That’s not the case with this nourishing treatment, which Dr. King recommends for people with sensitive skin. “It contains hyaluronic acid to hydrate, a sea succulent called salicornia to support the skin barrier, and papaya enzymes to gently exfoliate, leaving the lips smooth and moisturized,” she says. Apply it before bed or all day long (it’s particularly great to wear underneath your mask), and the skin on and around your lips will thank you.

Photo: Charlotte Tilbury
Charlotte Tilbury Charlotte's Magic Serum Crystal Elixir — $80.00

This “magic” serum really does live up to its name. “It contains glycerin, lactic acid, hyaluronic acid and polyglutamic acid, which are all humectants that help create an immediate plumping effect that makes the skin look younger and smoother,” says Dr. King. She explains that because hyaluronic acid and polyglutemic acid have different-sized molecules, they penetrate your skin at multiple levels and help to provide hydration at different levels. “It also contains shea oil, which helps to lock in moisture, but it doesn’t overall feel oily; niacinamide, which is great for tone and texture, as well as vitamin C. ” It leaves behind a subtle, iridescent finish that will leave skin luminous (but not sparkly), and is great for layering on under moisturizer or makeup.

For more tips on how to deal with sensitive skin, check out this video: 

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