Sensitive skin is not really a skin type, it’s more of a skin condition, so to care for it properly, you want to adapt your regimen to be less irritating while still addressing the needs of your particular skin type. Sensitive skin is highly reactive, and thus, ingredients like fragrance, preservatives, exfoliants, etc, as well as botanical extracts may cause a reaction, generating redness and irritation, hives, eczema patches, and/or dermatitis. Similarly, skin with rosacea is easily irritated and can erupt into red patches when it encounters an irritant.
The one thing all skin reactions have in common is the process of inflammation. Inflammation is the skin’s nonspecific immune response to an irritant or infectious agent. It is ‘nonspecific’ because no antibodies are involved in the process, so the cellular events that occur during inflammation are the same regardless of the causative agent. So no matter how or why your skin is sensitive, you are dealing with inflammation when you have a reaction to something. Rosacea occurs due to tissue damage caused by long-term inflammation in the skin. Another effect of long-term inflammation is premature aging of the skin.
Redness, pain, edema, and flakiness are characteristics of inflammation in skin. To reduce the severity of the symptoms, you need to apply topical products that contain anti-inflammatory ingredients. Reducing inflammation will reduce the symptoms you are experiencing. Even if your skin is not reacting to something, it is a good idea to use products that contain anti-inflammatory ingredients, as they will help keep your reactive skin calmed down. Anti-inflammatories in skincare include allantoin, panthenol, cucumber extract, calendula extract, chamomile extract, oatmeal, aloe vera, tea extracts, and antioxidants, to name a few.
Even if your skin is very sensitive, it is still important to exfoliate regularly. If your sensitive skin is more on the dry side, you only need to exfoliate once a week. If your sensitive skin is more oily, exfoliate 2-3X a week. Find an exfoliation method that works for your skin without causing a reaction-it can even be a rough washcloth if that is all your skin can handle. If you are dealing with rosacea, I suggest exfoliating everywhere except the affected area.
If your skin is red and painful and angry, I suggest using Skin Zen face wash, any of my toners, Barrier Repair Serum, and if you are still dry after Barrier Repair, I suggest using Skin Zen night cream over it. Once your skin calms down, you can trade Barrier Repair for Skin Zen or Mega Antioxidant serums. You can try Five Fruit for exfoliation, but patch test it first to make sure your skin can handle it. I recommend getting fragrance free versions of everything too, just to be extra cautious.