The Products I Use to Care for Sensitive Skin in My 30s
I recently posted a selfie to Instagram on a very good skin (and lighting) day.
A friend reached out almost immediately to ask what skincare products I use, and I told her I would write a blog post about it.
I’ve shared my skincare routine a few times over the years. I’ve been operating StyleWise since I was 24 years old, so parts of my skincare routine have changed or become less effective as my skin has aged. Moving further north has also impacted my skin’s needs.
I have very sensitive skin that has become increasingly dry with age. I avoid most essential oils, artificial fragrances, and heavy-duty anti-aging products because they often make me break out in hives. I also avoid “full spectrum” chemical sunscreens because I’m allergic to the active ingredients (if I need sunscreen, I stick to mineral-based ones. Baby sunscreen is readily accessible and typically only contains titanium and zinc oxide.)
Skincare in your 30s doesn’t have to be much different than skincare in any other decade unless you have significant damage from sun or prescription medications. The big difference for me is that I focus more on moisture and fine line maintenance.
I always want to write a disclaimer on skincare posts because what works for me might not work for you. What calms my skin might irritate yours. Check ingredient lists before purchasing!
This post will only concern skincare products. I shared my makeup routine in this Glossier review a few weeks ago.
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (or 365 Brand)
I actually prefer the Whole Foods version of this because it’s slightly less drying. It’s a very simple product that effectively cleanses without any fragrances or irritants.
Note: I linked to online listings, but these are available locally and run a little cheaper depending on where you shop. Also, I avoid any of Cetaphil’s products marked specifically for the face – they’re inferior products compared to the “skin” products.
The Body Shop Tea Tree Clearing Mattifying Toner
I’ve been using this for years, and even as my skin has gotten drier, I find it keeps black heads and acne flare-ups on my forehead at bay. I apply this to my T-zone with a clean washcloth after cleansing in the evening.
Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion
This is a gentle product that is neither too thin nor too thick (it can also be thinned out with a bit of water, and mixed with a bit of foundation to make a tinted moisturizer). Again, I avoid all of their “fancier” products. I use this product morning and night after cleansing.
A reader once informed me that Cetaphil tests on animals. That is not true – their parent company, a pharmaceutical company, is required by law to test some medical products on animals, but the Cetaphil line is not included. The issue for me is that my very sensitive skin will not tolerate a number of products (including Cerave), so I stick with what works.
S.W. Basics Cream
I apply this around my eyes, on my tattoo, and on dry spots, like elbows, nightly before bed. It also works as a lip balm in a pinch. (You can buy this product at Target, too.)
S.W. Basics Serum
Currently sold out on the SW Basics site (and not sold at Target), this is my favorite product. I add four drops to lotion before spreading on my face at night for extra moisture. It balances my skin, and I noticed a difference in texture and brightness when I first started using it years ago. (I hope it hasn’t been discontinued – had to link to Walmart because they’re the only ones who had it in stock.)
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion
I did a lot of research on retinols and other anti-aging products before choosing this one. I wanted to find something I could use regularly to reduce fine lines around my eyes, but heavier-duty retinols can be irritating even to generally non-reactive skin. I mix this product with my lotion at night, and only use it once a week, as I’ve found my skin feels itchy and irritated otherwise. Still, it really softens my skin and makes it feel moisturized, even when used sparingly. (currently out of stock)
A couple of years ago, I broke out in a painful rash/open sore near my lips that wouldn’t go away with cold sore treatments, hydrocortisone cream, or moisturizer. I thought it was a cold sore at first, so one of my thrift shop volunteers, a retired nurse, recommended L-Lysine tablets. While what I had turned out to be perioral dermatitis, the supplement did the trick! I take one tablet every night, especially in colder months when I’m more likely to break out.
Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.
Wednesday 4th of March 2020
I have perioral dermatitis too (it flares on my chin and around my lips every winter) and the best thing I've ever tried for it is plain over-the-counter lotrimin (yes, the jock-itch cream!) I read about it on a health and beauty blog years ago and was skeptical, but it absolutely works for me--usually overnight--in drying up the blisters and calming the redness of perioral dermatitis.
Also, husband has recurring cold sores and he also swears by L-Lysine!
Monday 23rd of March 2020
interesting! Thanks for letting me know. I haven't had a major outbreak since I started taking L-Lysine, but I will keep this in mind!