Expert tips to soothe irritated skin

One of the best and worst things about skin is that we can see it. We can tell when it’s happy, healthy and plump, when a new product is doing the thing and showing results. But we can also very easily tell when it’s not happy…and we’ve all done something to make our skin angry – overdoing the acids, attacking a new pimple with five different spot treatments or even just trying a new product that disagrees with our skin. Whatever the reason, we’re all familiar with the common signs, like dryness, redness, flakiness, itchiness, burning and bumps. So let’s talk about what to do the next time you inevitably make your skin upset. 

First things first, don’t freak out! Your skin is meant to withstand a lot. The stronger your skin barrier is in the first place, the faster your skin will be able to heal when problems do arise.

If there’s something irritating still on your skin, wash it off with a gentle cleanser and lukewarm water. Avoid hot water near your face! Ice or a cool washcloth can help reduce discomfort. 

Next, pare back to a simple routine. The surest way to get your skin back in balance is to be gentle and allow for healing to happen. For the most part, stick to a gentle cleanser, fragrance-free moisturizer and sunscreen. Avoid any acids, exfoliants, retinoids or even things like Vitamin C, which can be irritating. Continue this simple routine until the irritation is completely gone – if you reintroduce too soon, you’ll go back where you started. Remember: consistency is key. 

Add in repairing, barrier supporting products (just one or two, you don’t want to overload your skin!) While you mostly want to keep your routine simple, you can aid the healing process by using soothing and reparative ingredients such as panthenol, beta glucan, green tea, centella (tiger grass), chamomile, ceramides, oat, copper peptides and allantoin. You can find these ingredients in a variety of serums, moisturizers and balms. If acne or milia-prone, be mindful when using thick occlusives, like Vaseline or Aquaphor, which may trap dead skin cells and bacteria. It’s a good idea to have at least one barrier supporting product on hand in case you need it. 

LED can also help promote healing, as red and near-infrared light reduce inflammation and stimulate your skin’s wound healing response. Even when your skin is not irritated, daily LED can help support your skin’s barrier strength, making it less prone to irritation overall. 

Once your skin is healed, you can slowly start to reintroduce your active products one at a time. Pay attention to your skin and listen if it starts showing signs of anger again. No need to push it too soon! If your skin doesn’t seem to respond to a simple routine or the irritation gets worse, make an appointment with your doctor.