When it comes to skin concerns, you’ve got your series of regulars: dryness, breakouts, and oiliness. Sometimes, though, things can get more complicated. For instance, certain skin conditions, treatments, or product formulations may leave your complexion red and inflamed, extra sensitive, or even painful to the touch. In those cases, your face would best be served by the addition of soothing skin care products.
For the expert intel on the ideal skin calming routine, Bustle called on a couple of board-certified dermatologists. Spoiler alert: Incorporating products that will offer some relief to your stressed-out skin doesn’t need to be a big to-do. Keep scrolling for the scoop on how to deliver some calming TLC to your complexion.
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When To Reach For Soothing Skin Care
If your skin is dry, irritated, or visibly red, you should consider reaching for soothing skin care products, says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, M.D. “Soothing skin care is also helpful for skin conditions like eczema and rosacea, which are skin conditions where the skin may be more reactive to traditional products,” she adds. As board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jenny Liu, M.D. explains, eczema can cause dry, itchy, and inflamed skin and rashes, which can lead to rawness and sensitivity. And among other symptoms, rosacea can lead to affected areas on the face that feel hot and tender — a ripe environment for soothing skin care products to go to work.
Other reasons to reach for more gentle product formulations? If you’re suffering from a sunburn or you’ve just had a chemical peel, says Liu. Soothing skin care can also help counteract the effects of potentially harsh or extra-active products, adds Woolery-Lloyd. “If you are using an aggressive skin care regimen with high-potency retinoids or acids for acne or fine lines, then a gentle cleanser and liberal use of a soothing moisturizer are also helpful to improve tolerability,” she explains.
How To Incorporate Soothing Products Into Your Routine
For a soothing skin care regimen, Liu says you’ll mainly want to focus on gentle cleansing, nourishing hydration, and repairing the skin barrier, the shield that locks in moisture and keeps pollutants and potential irritants out. And don’t forget the SPF (of course). The more minimal and streamlined your routine, the better — and less potential for your skin to come across any irritating ingredients.
As for ingredients, look for the calming MVPs of the beauty world. Some examples: niacinamide, an ingredient known for controlling redness and oil production while strengthening the skin barrier; centella asiatica, aka cica, a K-beauty staple that quells inflammation; green tea extract, a gentle antioxidant; aloe, an OG hydrator; peptides, which strengthen the skin; caffeine, an anti-inflammatory antioxidant; chamomile, a botanical that combats free radicals; and oat extract, which brings soothing relief to irritation.
To break it down even further, Woolery-Lloyd recommends cleansing with a suds-free wash or micellar water that’s designed for sensitive skin. If you’re going to use a vitamin C or other antioxidant-rich serum in the morning, she says to opt for a gentler cream or oil-based formula for added hydration. Follow that up with a ceramide-based moisturizer that will support your skin barrier, and then top it off with a mineral (physical) sunscreen as it’s less likely to cause irritation than a chemical formula. And if you want to tackle fine lines and wrinkles at night, Woolery-Lloyd advises using less harsh retinol alternatives like bakuchiol.
Don’t think you need to adopt a whole new skin care routine to soothe your complexion, though. If your skin is in need of a complete overhaul, then go for it. But switching out one or two products for soothing formulations can make all the difference and nudge you closer toward calming relief. Liu says that a serum or moisturizer with high-quality soothing ingredients or a fridge-stored sheet mask may be all your complexion needs for restorative TLC.
As is the case when adding any new products to your routine, Woolery-Lloyd stresses the importance of only incorporating one at a time to avoid potential irritation. With that in mind, shop calming beauty products below.
Shop Soothing Skin Care
The Hydrating Sheet Mask
Liu recommends this sheet mask for its ability to calm and soothe complexions stressed by dehydration. It contains a slew of hydrating and soothing staples — including aloe vera — to help relieve discomfort and support the skin barrier.
The Gentle Facial Cleanser
For a gentle cleanser free of fragrance, dyes, and other potentially irritating additives, Woolery-Lloyd points to this face wash that’s designed for sensitive and dry skin. It cleanses and removes oil and makeup without drying — a must-have weapon in a skin-soothing arsenal.
The Soothing Serum
This niacinamide and cica-spiked elixir is a godsend for red, angry complexions, says Liu. Its gentle formula helps support the skin barrier while it helps restore your complexion back to its healthy, optimum state.
The Cleanser & Makeup Remover
For a super gentle way to cleanse and remove makeup, Woolery-Lloyd recommends micellar water, which uses micelles to attract dirt and debris from your skin. This buzzy beauty liquid is also formulated with vitamin C and triple-purified water to clean, refresh, and hydrate without irritation.
The Antioxidant-Rich SPF
Sun protection year-round is non-negotiable, and for sensitive skin types, Liu likes this tinted mineral SPF. It’s rich in antioxidants to protect against free radical damage, is non-comedogenic, and has a hypoallergenic formula, making it a perfect choice for a calming regimen.
The Hydrating Booster
If your skin’s on the dry, irritated side of the spectrum, revive it back to its supple state with a booster like this one. With green and white tea extracts, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide, it helps deliver an instant dose of hydrating nourishment — all while being super gentle.
The Gentle Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a multitasking powerhouse — it protects, brightens, and boosts collagen production... but certain types and concentrations can be harsh on your skin. For a soothing alternative, try something like Eadem’s Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum, which uses an encapsulated form of the antioxidant for a more gentle delivery.
The Calming Overnight Mask
Liu is a fan of this vitamin-rich overnight mask — which contains antioxidants, safflower seed oil, and thermal water — to soothe and calm overstressed and damaged skin while it hydrates and strengthens the skin barrier, all while you sleep.
The Prebiotic Moisturizer
Both Liu and Woolery-Lloyd point to this moisturizer as a must-have for sensitive types in need of soothing skin care. “It helps to restore the skin’s microbiome,” Woolery-Lloyd says of the oil-free creamy concoction, which features prebiotic thermal water, ceramides, and niacinamide.
The Inflammation Treatment
Liu also recommends this face cream that promises to soothe, firm, and improve skin tone. Its star ingredient is 50% centella asiatica extract, known to soothe and reduce skin inflammation while also helping to heal wounds. It absorbs quickly and is free from the most common allergens, making it safe for sensitive skin types.
The Hydrating Cleanser
Woolery-Lloyd calls this hydrating cleanser one of her favorites. It’s free from harsh surfactants but uses three different ceramides plus hyaluronic acid to cleanse without removing the skin’s natural oils, she explains.
Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, M.D., Miami-based board-certified dermatologist
Dr. Jenny Liu, M.D., Minneapolis-based board-certified dermatologist