The Moisturizers Derms Swear By For Sensitive Skin

If your skin is so sensitive that you have to move out of the way when your desk neighbor starts spritzing her essential oil face mist, and a gentle sleeping mask leaves you red, itchy, and bumpy by morning, we understand how frustrating it is to go moisturizer shopping. Without guidance, an aisle full of creams can look like a straight shot to acne and irritation.

That’s why we called in the pros: Dermatologists Dendy Engelman and Elizabeth Tanzi know a thing or two about what to do — and what not to do — when it comes to skin sensitivity and allergens. It’s important to start with clean skin to prevent transference of bacteria or other irritants before patting on light moisturizers geared toward sensitive skin, says Dr. Engelman.

For Dr. Tanzi, it’s all about picking your battles. She suggests avoiding chemical sunscreens, physical scrubs, fragrance, parabens, sulfates, dyes, and anything “hot and steamy” (which is code for saunas, hot water, or steam rooms). All of these could be abrasive to the skin barrier and end up causing inflammation.

Ahead, check out their picks for sensitive-skin moisturizers that won’t break you out, cause rashes, or make your skin crawl (you know the feeling). If you’re still experiencing discomfort, talk to your derm about getting a prescription for a clinical treatment.


“I like this tinted moisturizer because it will not only offer sun protection, but neutralize any appearance of redness that comes from sun exposure,” says Dr. Engelman.

Cetaphil Redness Relieving Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 20, $11.49, available at Amazon


If you’re looking for something a little more natural, Dr. Engelman suggests First Aid Beauty. This moisturizer is free of fragrance, alcohol, pthalates, sulfates, and parabens.

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Face Moisturizer, $24, available at Sephora


On the other hand, if you still want a subtle refreshing scent, Dr. Engelman swears by this one from Garnier. It’s packed with antioxidant-rich goji berries and won’t overwhelm panicky skin types.

Garnier Moisture Bomb The Antioxidant Super Moisturizer SPF 30, $8.99, available at Target


“Technically this is a gel,” Dr. Engelman says, “but it’s super-hydrating and perfect for warmer weather.”

Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum, $52, available at Drunk Elephant


According to Dr. Engelman, those with sensitive or damaged skin should search for products with vitamin C. “It works to neutralize free radicals that weaken the skin barrier and supports collagen synthesis to strengthen skin,” she explains.

Sunday Riley C.E.O. C + E antiOXIDANT Protect + Repair Moisturizer, $22, available at Sephora


If your skin is currently acting up (or always acting up), Dr. Tanzi suggests Vanicream. “It’s a dermatologist-created line made specifically for people with skin sensitivities,” she says.

Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream, $13.39, available at Amazon


“This has a patented peptide that helps gently rejuvenate the skin without any irritation,” Dr. Tanzi says.

Olay Micro-Sculpting Cream Face Moisturizer, Fragrance-Free, $24.93, available at Walmart


Created as a more natural alternative to the usual sensitive-skin favorites you’ll find at the drugstore, this minimalist moisturizer is the only thing you’ll need to keep finicky skin happy and healthy. The shea butter, aloe, and jojoba formula is a touch more expensive than your standard CeraVe, but a little goes a long way — and the peace of mind (and complexion) is totally worth it.

Peet Rivko Daily Moisturizer, $48, available at Peet Rivko


Those with sensitive, dry skin should consider adding a serum to their routine, too. This one from SkinCeuticals is a potent antioxidant blend that helps with hyperpigmentation and prevents skin damage, Dr. Tanzi says.

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, $132, available at DermStore


Give your skin a little TLC while you sleep. Dr. Tanzi suggests this vitamin-infused night cream from Neutrogena.

Neutrogena Naturals Multi-Vitamin Cream, $15.99, available at Ulta Beauty.

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