How To Exfoliate Sensitive Skin

When your skin is delicate, easily irritated or frequently tight and uncomfortable, it can be tempting to avoid exfoliation all together. If you have a medical condition that affects your facial skin, like eczema or rosacea, you might be right to avoid it. However you just have sensitive, delicate skin, not only are you really missing out, you might even find that exfoliating helps your skin to become less reactive! Yes indeed – removing all that dead skin can better allow your natural skin oil and your added moisturisers to work better, which has an amazingly soothing effect on sensitive skin.

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However, there are a few secrets to successful exfoliating when you have sensitive skin. The first is to pick the right kind of exfoliator. Chemical exfoliators, scrubs, face brushes and sponges are all popular ways to slough away dead skin, but for delicate skin you have to choose carefully. Personally I would avoid exfoliating sponges like konjac sponges because they create a lot of friction, even with a creamy product on them. They feel lovely, but I find my skin to be red and irritated after using them, and not very well exfoliated. Face brushes like the Magnitone or Clarisonic are a good option but they are expensive and it’s hard to know whether or not your skin will get on with one. Unfortunately they don’t make testers of these, so it’s a bit of a risky investment whenyou have temperamental skin! Chemical exfoliators can be a good option but you must be very, very careful with them. I’ve written a post already about how to use a chemical exfoliator when you have sensitive skin, you can read it here.

Finally, we get to scrubs. I find that when you choose the right scrub, they are the easiest, most convenient way to exfoliate delicate skin. You can easily control how deeply you exfoliate by the way you use it; how much of it, when, where, and even how you massage it onto the skin. I thought I’d tell you about my favourites and then give you a few general tips and tricks on using them; that way even if you find a different scrub that you’d prefer, you can still benefit from these exfoliation hacks for sensitive skin!

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Caudalie Gentle Buffing Cream – £20

This is undoubtedly the richest scrub I have ever come across – the thick, creamy consistency contains small jojoba beads to very gently lift away dead skin and grime. The thickness of the cream protects delicate skin from the exfoliating particles, making it super gentle! It contains grape seed oil and honey to hydrate and soothe the skin, and it’s also perfect for dry skin types because of it’s nourishing, oil based formula. Tip: If you really want the gentlest exfoliation possible, try mixing a scrub with a creamy cleanser (like Caudalie Gentle Cleansing Milk). I was amazed the first time I tried this – I was expecting it to achieve absolutely nothing! But my skin was left super soft, clean and nourished. Get it here

Mario Badescu Botanical Exfoliating Scrub – £23

This is my favourite scrub ever. It’s not quite as gentle as the other two, but I only exfoliate twice a week so my skin can tolerate it really well. The exfoliating particles are made from finely ground palm seeds, and the super-thick gel texture creates a buffer between the granules and yours skin, meaning that they aren’t nearly as abrasive as theysound. The gel itself is very calming and hydrating, it’s an aloe and coconut base infused with gingko and green tea. It smells utterly delightful, and leaves the skin perfectly clean and unbelievably soft. Tip: if there are areas of your skin that are more sensitive than others, try using your exfoliator only the places that actually need it – for me that’s places like my hairline, jawline and nose, whilst I tend to avoid my cheeks which are very delicate. Get it here

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant – £48

This is a total cult product, and I absolutely love it. It comes out as a powder that you apply to wet skin, where it transforms into a beautiful milk with very soft exfoliating granules. It contains a whole host of exfoliating ingredients, including rice enzymes and papain as well as salicylic acid. There’s also gingko, colloidal oatmeal (which you can totally smell when you use it!) and green tea to soothe the skin as you exfoliate. I know so many people with sensitive skin who love this, and I have never had an issue with it because the exfoliating enzymes are rinsed off (I can’t use any of them in products you leave on, but my skin loves them here). Tip: Massage your exfoliator in small, slow circles over your skin, applying light pressure. This means that your scrub will be less abrasive, because you will reduce the amount of friction between the granules and your skin, but it will still be just as effective. Get it here

I hope you found this little guide to exfoliating sensitive skin helpful! Let me know if you have any questions, or your own holy grail scrub to recommend!

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Murad Sensitive Skin Soothing Serum

Murad is a brand I’ve always been curious about, and on my seemingly endless hunt for the perfect serum this one jumped out at me as a perfect way into the brand. I’ve tried Avene’s Hydrating Serum, Weleda’s Pomegranate Serum and Caudalie’s Hydrating Serum and while I loved the Caudalie one, but the bottle didn’t seem to last very long. Long story short, I don’t recommend any of them. REN’s Omega 3 Serum was good for a while but a few months ago it completely stopped working for me. So I went back to the drawing board, and decided to give Murad’s Sensitive Skin Soothing Serum a try…

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The Sensitive Skin Soothing Serum is part of their Redness Therapy range, which is formulated to tackle the causes of irritated redness, and soothe the effects of it too. By intensely hydrating the skin with hyaluronic acid and glycolipids the Soothing Serum helps the skin to maintain its protective barrier. There’s also chamomile, cucumber and camellia extracts to soothe and calm any redness or irritation. Mallow extract provides an invisible protective shield to support the moisture barrier, and there’s also goji berry extract for, I assume, antioxidants. I was really surprised to see all these plant extracts in the formula (there are even more than I’ve mentioned here; ginseng, elderberry, ivy, arnica, seaweed and yeast extract all feature) because it looks like such a plain, basic product on the outside!

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I am so incredibly impressed with this Skin Soothing Serum. The texture is a bit like hair gel, but without being sticky. It leaves my skin super calm, it sinks in immediately and my skin is soft and plump all day, and it lasts for ages (I’ve been using it for months and it isn’t even half gone). It was nothing like I was expecting – I think Murad have struck the perfect balance between pharmaceutical and plant based skincare, and even though this serum is really simple, it’s amazingly effective. It’s perfect for anyone who’s skin gets tight after cleansing, or blemish prone skin types that can get dry patches (as these are usually caused by dehydration so you need to hydrate your skin rather than add oil to it). It’s also perfect for anyone with red patches or sensitive skin, and according to Murad you can even use it to soothe razor burn, sunburn and after waxing so you know it must be gentle!

I really like Murad’s Sensitive Skin Soothing Serum. If you’re looking for a good starter serum because you aren’t sure where to start with them or you have sensitive skin, this is definitely the one for you! Get it here for £47.

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Avene Tolerance Extreme Emulsion

If you have sensitive skin, Avene is the only brand you need to know. They are the brand. The ultimate. No brand knows sensitive skin like Avene does. So when they launched a new range for all skin types with no more than seven ingredients per product, I was so excited. I was particularly excited by the new Tolerance Extreme Emulsion, and was immediately convinced that it would become my new holy grail moisturiser.

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Preservative and mineral oil free, with only 6 ingredients, this is a pretty incredible product from the start – a facial moisturiser with so few ingredients is practically unheard of!  A moisturiser will usually have anywhere from 20 to 50 ingredients, sometimes with three or four different preservatives that could irritate or leave your skin unbalanced.

So what does it actually do? The idea behind Tolerance Extreme Emulsion is that it soothes the skin whilst providing protection and all day hydration. The oil free formula doesn’t actively mattify the skin, but it does sink in without a trace, thus making it a wonderful base for makeup. The Emulsion gives normal to combination skin everything it needs to function healthily, with nothing that could be potentially irritating. It’s perfect if you have sensitive, redness prone or combination skin, or if you just want a light moisturiser that doesn’t have any hidden nasties in it. It’s also 98% natural!

Since I’ve been using this moisturiser, my skin has been quite simply amazing. Before when I was using a cream with mineral oil in it, I felt that my complexion was getting a bit dull (mineral oil is great for protecting irritated skin while it heals, but isn’t ideal for long term use.) After using Tolerance Extreme Emulsion for three months, my skin was radiant, calm and clear. I didn’t have any blocked pores, dry patches or redness. Makeup would sit happily on my skin all day. And I found that I was able to use a wider variety of products on my skin without it reacting – the formula had actually made my skin less sensitive!

Here’s my skin:

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You might be thinking ‘Oh my god no, I need this, this and this in my moisturiser otherwise my skin will look awful!’ and that’s true if you have a skin problem like acne or extreme dryness. But here’s something a lot of people don’t understand; the thickness of a moisturiser prevents a lot of ingredients from penetrating deep into the skin, where things like micro-hyaluronic acid, retinol, anti-oxidants and collagen boosters can make the most difference. For those, you need to use a serum. Everyone should use a serum tailored to their individual needs, and when you do, follow it with Tolerance Extreme Emulsion to give you the perfect hit of moisture and protection without another unnecessary load of ingredients.

Ready to try this innovative, game changing yet uniquely simple moisturiser? Click here to buy it at Boots for £13.50!

Eve Lom Rescue Mask Review: Does it live up to the hype?

A while ago, my skin was in a bad, bad way. One or two new spots would crop up every day, with older ones taking forever to heal and fade away. My skin was so dull, but even with all these spots, it wasn’t oily enough for me to use traditional spot-fighting skincare. I was at a total loss. After reading multiple glowing reviews of Eve Lom’s celebrated products, I decided to invest in a tub of Rescue Mask.

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At £55 this was a pretty bold move for me I must admit, but my skin was the worst it had ever been. I wanted to invest in something that had to work. So I started using it twice a week, applying a thin-to-medium layer over my entire face. The mask has a smell that you might not be familiar with – it contains camphor, a herbal ingredient known for its blemish-healing qualities. I don’t see it in many products and I get the impression it can be an irritant if used incorrectly, so it shows the quality of this mask that I’m able to use it on my sensitive skin. Along with camphor, the mask contains kaolin clay to absorb impurities, and honey to purify and soothe.

Once you apply the mask, leave it to dry, and then when it’s dry, you slowly rub your fingers all over your face, creating exfoliating beads that slough off dead skin and pore build up (do this over the sink!!!). It’s a really gentle process, but you won’t believe how effective it is until you touch your face afterwards. It leaves your skin so silky smooth and radiant – I’ve never used a mask that has such an immediate effect.

One thing to note it that this mask contains straight up alcohol – so if you have very red, irritated skin it may sting. However I believe that the alcohol is there to make the formula dry out when it’s applied (the alcohol is liquid in the pot, thus allowing it to keep the mask spreadable, but evaporates once it’s spread onto the skin). One of the things that makes this mask so incredible is that it exfoliates your skin SO well, but it can’t do that unless the mask is dry. Anyway, my point is, don’t let that put you off. As long as you apply a serum and moisturiser after the mask, you’ll be fine.

So how did Eve Lom’s Rescue Mask work on my out-of-control skin? Well…it’s one of three products I credit with saving it. After a couple of weeks I started to see a dramatic improvement in my overall skin condition, and I know that it helped my skin to become healthier, as well as fading scars and reducing the redness of current blemishes. Nowadays I save it for hormonal/stress related skin crises. It really does rescue your skin, so if you’re in a similar situation to me, give it a go if you possibly can. Get it here

If you want to read more about my skin transformation, click here

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Pixi Glow Tonic Review

Let’s get this out of the way first: my skin is sensitive. Like, really sensitive. Most moisturisers, toners, SPFs and anything with salicylic acid in it are totally off limits for me. So when I first started hearing of the hype around Pixi’s world famous exfoliating toner, Glow Tonic with 5% glycolic acid, my first thoughts were ‘definitely not for me’. That was until a friend (who has far more severe skin problems than me) and I wandered into Pixi’s Covent Garden shop, and she told me that her dermatologist has got her on a glycolic acid serum to treat her sensitivity. 

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It makes sense if you think about it – by gently exfoliating your skin with an acid toner you make the skin healthier – less dead skin to block it up, more chance for it to successfully regulate itself. As we spoke, I started to think it might be worth a go. After all, I have a boyfriend who loves to receive my skincare cast offs when a product doesn’t work out! So, I picked up a bottle of Glow Tonic, and tried it out that night.

Ok…I didn’t try it out that night. It took me about three days to pluck up the courage to sweep a cotton pad sprinkled with the tonic over my skin! I was so convinced that I’d have the same experience as I do with salicylic acid. Yet when I woke up the morning after, my skin was totally fine and calm. And it was fine the next time I used it too. So I carried on – slowly at first, only twice a week. Over the course of a couple of months I built it up to about five or six times a week, which is how often I use it now.

I have to say that Pixi Glow Tonic lives up to every hype ever created around it. My skin is radiant, soft, smooth, clear, scars and redness are reduced, plus I swear my skin is less sensitive now! I went through a bit of a purging period to begin with where some blocked pores came to the surface, but now practically every pore on my face is empty and invisible. Honestly I cannot believe what a transformation my skin went through! I’ve been working hard on my complexion for a long time, but this is without question the thing I was missing. Just look at my face now!

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This is how my skin looks 90% of the time now. I used to always have at least one spot hanging around, or a blotch of redness or a dry patch. Now my skin’s default position is this, which is amazing! For someone with such sensitive skin, it’s an absolute revelation to be able to use a product like this. I suspect there must be witchcraft in the formula – that or Petra Strand is a skincare genius.

I recommend that literally everyone gives Pixi Glow Tonic a try – pick it up for £18 – link

The products that transformed my skin

I’m so excited to share this post about my skincare journey. It was a long time coming, but I wanted to wait until my skin wasn’t just going through a temporary good patch. It took a lot of product, a lot of experimenting and a lot of perseverance, but I finally have GOOD SKIN. Read on to see how I got there!

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Since I hit puberty I’ve pretty much always had spots, but I never acne. Genetically, my skin is great, it was just these constant painful spots that I couldn’t shift. This carried on until my early twenties, when I started working in the skincare industry, and learned that my skin is actually sensitive. It took me two years to get my skin looking like this and I used a lot of products along the way! I want to share with you all the products that really helped make a visible difference to my complexion. Obviously I didn’t use them at the same time – this is a long journey we’re talking about!

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After I realised that my skin was sensitive, I thought the most important place to start would be my moisturiser, considering that it was the only thing I was leaving on my skin at that point. I switched to pure rosehip oil and everything was looking up. My favourite was Fushi Organic Rosehip Oil, which is great quality, super cheap, and lasts foreverHowever, after a while my skin started to get congested. I had blackheads and blocked pores which began to turn into spots. So I switched to the only moisturiser I could think of – preservative free, super calming Avene Skin Recovery Cream
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Again, this was great for a long time (over a year!) and my skin was clear, calm and comfortable. I added in REN’s Omega Skin Oil for added hydration and a bit of nourishment, which really helped me to smooth my skin out. But then my skin started to look dull and a bit rough. I thought it might be the mineral oil in the Skin Recovery Cream – while mineral oil is great for protecting irritated skin, it’s too heavy to be a long term option. So when Avene launched their 99% natural, super light, preservative free Tolerance Extreme Emulsion I switched straight away. My skin went from ‘ok’ to RADIANT. Seriously, I’ll do a blog post on this one soon, as it’s probably one of the best products I’ve ever used on my face.

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As for cleansers – I hated cleansers. I find them SO easy to get wrong as most either don’t clean properly, or totally strip my skin, and I don’t realise until my skin is either spotty or dried out. There are only two cleansers I’ve ever loved, and those are Jurlique Balancing Foaming Cleanser for spring/summer and REN Gentle Cleansing Milk for autumn/winter. I had tried so many others, but these worked for me so incredibly well. A lot of people favour no-rinse products when they have sensitive skin, but personally this tap water has never been an issue for me. If you’re struggling with your skin though, make sure you keep this in mind. I’m picky about make-up removers too – when I was first using the Avene Skin Recovery Cream I really needed to clear my skin out somehow (after using rosehip oil for ages!) so I used their Cleanance Micellar Water. This was great – it’s a very effective make-up remover and it really cleared my skin out. But it wasn’t something I could use in the winter, or for an extended period of time. I didn’t find another make-up remover I liked until I tried Trilogy Make-Up Be Gone Balm, which changed everything. It’s so gentle and soothing, but more importantly, so effective.

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Next up; toners and exfoliators! The Mario Badescu Botanical Exfoliating Scrub might not be for everyone – I know loads of people with sensitive skin who shudder at the thought of using a physical exfoliator, but I love it. Its gel consistency soothes the skin, while the small, gentle particles lift dead skin off without being too abrasive. It smells divine, and a tube will last you 6 months at least. I’ve tried millions of scrubs and this is the only one that leaves my skin soft but not traumatised. Around the same time as I started using the scrub, I added soothing Avene Water into my routine. After I finished cleansing I would spray this on and pat dry to remove the mineral compounds in London tap water. When my skin was raw and recovering, this was an essential. I still use it after I do intense face masks, but I’m happy to report that my skin is strong enough now to be able to skip this step for everyday! And finally…everyone’s favourite Pixi Glow Tonic. I have a friend with astonishingly sensitive skin, who’s dermatologist got her on a different glycolic acid product a few months ago. So when we wandered into the Pixi shop in Covent Garden, she convinced me to try it. I took it very slowly, once every three days at first, until now, I’m using it almost once a day. After the normal adjustment period, my skin looked incredible. And I even feel that it’s become less sensitive?! I really recommend giving this stuff a try, literally whatever your skin type.

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Last but certainly not least, face masks! I use a lot of face masks, but these are the ones that really helped me achieve blemish-free skin. The first one I bought, two years ago, was the Eve Lom Rescue Mask – thinking that the expense would make it a good choice. I have to say, it really did help when my skin was very spotty and I even repurchased it because I loved it so much – but I had to stop using it after everything calmed down. Now my boyfriend uses it instead. It’s a great option for blemishes, but it’s not the gentlest product in the world. Instead, a few months ago I opted for Origins Original Skin Mask, which is a gentler, cheaper version. I highly recommend this if you’re looking for deep cleansing and radiance. However, the mask that really, really made all the difference was Lush’s Rosy Cheeks fresh mask. With calamine and rose to calm and soothe redness, as well as kaolin clay to draw out impurities, this is everything that sensitive, red and spotty skin needs. I’ve been using it for over a year and I love it so much!

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I know that not everyone has skin that responds to conventional cosmetics, and have a much harder time with blemishes and sensitivity than I do. It’s also true that diet and lifestyle play a huge part in the condition of your skin – at the moment I’m happy and healthy, but I haven’t always been. My skin won’t always look like this, it’s completely unrealistic to expect to have perfect skin forever, and you should never feel bad if your skin isn’t completely flawless. That being said, I hope reading about my approach, and the things I did to improve my skin might inspire you to try a different method, or at least give you a few ideas about what to do next!

Here are links to all the products I mentioned:

Fuschi Organic Rosehip Oil – £14.50

Avene Skin Recovery Cream – £16.50

Avene Tolerance Extreme Emulsion – £13.50

REN Omega 3 Skin Oil – £25

Jurlique Balancing Foaming Cleanser – £28

REN Gentle Cleansing Milk – £16

Cleanance Micellar Water – £16

Trilogy Make-Up Be Gone Cleansing Balm – £20.50

Mario Badescu Botanical Exfoliating Scrub – £22

Avene Water Spray – £7

Pixi Glow Tonic – £18

Eve Lom Rescue Mask – £55

Origins Original Skin Mask – £23

Lush Rosy Cheeks Mask – £6.95

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Avene Tinted Compact SPF50

I’ve had a nightmare with SPFs over the past few months. I used the Benefit Dream Screen last year but I started to get the feeling it was drying my skin out, so this year I tried a couple of others, and WHAT a mistake. My skin was sore, red and itchy. It was a mess. Luckily, I found an alternative – a really perfect alternative. In fact I’ve started referring to Avene’s Tinted Compact with SPF50 as the ‘BB Cream for super sensitive skin’…

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