How to Deal with Unpredictable Skin

Natasha Burton


According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 50% of Americans have skin sensitivities, which can include acne, stinging, allergies, and other unpredictable conditions.

“Anyone can experience unpredictable skin that is reactive to an out-of-whack environment, daily stresses, illness, medications and even hormonal changes,” says Teresa Stenzel, the director of education for Bioelements. “So it’s important to pay attention to how your skin looks and feels, and make adjustments in your routine as necessary.”

When your skin’s feeling a bit out of whack, here’s what you can do to figure out the root cause, then reset and refresh your face, stat.

MORE: Everything You Need To Know About Sensitive Skin

Calm It Down. If you’re having a flare-up, help your skin get out of distress by using products that contain natural ingredients with calming properties, like probiotics, chamomile oil, carrot seed oil, and grapeseed oil, suggests skincare expert Cecilia Wong. “They balance the skin’s pH while calming and reducing inflammation,” she says. “I recommend a serum to hydrate, calm and balance, like my Black Currant Serum, which features a blend of 12 precious oils, including carrot seed oil and grapeseed oil, as well as the ultra anti-inflammatory black currant seed and red raspberry seed oils.”

Soothe Yourself. If you slather on a product and your skin starts burning, act fact. “Stinging is a sign of inflammation,” Wong says. “When skin is inflamed, the best thing to do is wash with lukewarm water, removing the product at the root of the irritation.” Make a note of the product that you reacted to, not only so you can avoid using it in the future but so you can eventually see if there is a pattern of ingredients or types of products that make your face freak out.

Determine What You’re Sensitive To. “Pinpointing the origin of a reaction or irritation can be difficult because it could potentially be a product or how one product interacts with another,” Wong explains. That said, she advises getting an allergy/sensitivity test to see what ingredients might not be working for your skin. “Often the source of a reaction is an allergy or sensitivity to a specific ingredient or combination of ingredients and they are very specific to each individual,” she adds.

Continue to narrow down the products you’re using and track how your skin reacts. Also, remember that using too many “active” products at one time can cause irritation. “Using multiple skincare products at the same time can create a reaction between the active ingredients, leading to skin aggravation,” Wong explains.

Watch Out for These Irritants. Wong says it’s “imperative to avoid using products that contain fragrances, synthetics, alcohol, methol, or toxic chemicals.” Also be sure not to use too hot (or too cold) water when cleansing, avoid icing or steaming, and don’t use loofahs or harsh scrubbers on your face.

Get Your Routine Down. “Unpredictable skin will become more resilient and more predictable by twice daily cleansing, toning, moisturizing and regular exfoliation,” Stenzel says. She recommends Bioelements Sensitive Skin Cleanser, for its “complexion-calming olive, kissi seed, hazelnut and safflower oils which will gently cleanse without irritating side effects, and help protect against moisture loss and visible irritation.” Toning is another important step: “Oftentimes dehydration is the main culprit behind unpredictable skin,” she explains. “Saturate it with a soothing and hydrating mist that will comfort upset skin.”

When exfoliating, choose a gentle scrub (no scratchy apricot pits!) that’s natural (no microbeads, which can irritate due to their chemical make-up) and be sure to protect skin with sunscreen after your cleansing routine. Once you figure out which products work for you—stick with them!

MORE: Beauty  Treatments That Irritate Sensitive Skin