Navigating the complex world of skincare is no mean feat. Whether you consider yourself a skincare novice or aficionado, creating a perfectly tailored skincare routine that gives your skin the complex and ever-changing concoction of ingredients that it needs to say healthy takes a lot of work. In fact, if you ask me, I’d go as far to say it’s impossible.
You see, even skin experts and dermatologists, who work with skin every single day and know all there is to know about the way that it functions, admit that nailing your skincare routine is a process. More often than not, it requires ongoing trial and error. A product that works for your skin one day might not deliver the same results the next. And one skin issue we’re all likely to face is that of irritation.
Irritated skin can present in a number of different ways. “Affected areas may present as itchy, dry or have localised redness,” says aesthetic practitioner, Natali Kelly. “Skin irritation should not be confused with an allergy. Irritation is caused by an irritant, which is any substance that is otherwise harmless, but slowly damages the skin’s barrier function and triggers inflammation at the point of contact,” she adds.
When it comes to the causes of irritated skin, clinical aesthetician and co-founder of Mortar & Milk, Pamela Marshall reveals there are plenty of daily irritants around. “Pollution can take its toll on the skin, I have many clients that really struggle in London—the skin can only handle so much. Irritated skin can also just come down to having dirty sheets, so wash them weekly in hot water,” she says.
Very commonly, however, irritated skin can just come down to overusing actives—something I can be very guilty of. In my job, I try countless skincare products a year for research purposes, and you better believe a whole bunch of them will irritate my skin. “The number of times I’ve had to completely hone down someone’s routine and it’s solved the problem is uncountable,” says Marshall. “Remember the directions on the box are not the boss of you. Pull back on your actives if you’re feeling a bit inflamed. Underlying redness is a sure sign of inflammation,” she adds.
It is for this exact reason that some of my most cherished skincare products are ones that aim to reduce irritation. “The best way to treat it is to remove the irritant and your exposure to it. You can then use emollients to moisturise the irritated area and barrier creams to help restore some of the skin’s barrier function until the skin heals,” reveals Kelly. So, whenever my skin is feeling a little irritated, whether that be as a result of friction, overuse of actives or just London-living, these are the products I always reach for...
I don't condone spending £75 on a cleanser. However, if you are planning to spend the big bucks and are prone to irritated skin, this one is a fine choice. It provides a satisfying lather that offers a deep cleanse but also contains barrier-restoring lipids and omegas to help soothe.
This stuff is possibly one of the most recommended cleansers by dermatologists and skin experts thanks to its gentle nature. Marshall says that cream and milk cleansers are the way to go when your skin is experiencing irritation, and this is the crème de la crème.
Whenever my skin is seriously irritated, this no-rinse cleanser is usually my first port of call. Rather than micellar water, which can be drying and irritating by nature, using a cleansing lotion like this will help wipe away makeup and dirt without causing too much friction.
Few products are as good at removing potentially irritating bacteria from the skin as this one. It is a hypochlorus treatment that blitzes bacteria and maintains the skin's natural pH level to help aid recovery and reduce the risk of upset. I keep a bottle in my handbag at all times.
While I wouldn't apply this to my skin during peak irritation phase, I do find myself reaching for it regularly if I get irritation-related breakouts (this can happen when the skin barrier is compromised). It contains niacinamide to help soothe flare-ups and works a treat.
Marshall first introduced me to this product a few years ago when my irritated skin was experiencing some congestion. It delivers all of the hydrating nourishers that irritated skin requires but also contains polyhydroxy acids to reduce the appearance of blocked and enlarged pores without the irritation of other acids.
Few things speak to me more than pink beauty products, and what's inside this tube is every bit as beautiful as the exterior. Containing hyaluronic acid, grape water and centella asiatica to soothe, hydrate and plump, a thick layer will calm skin down in minutes and leave your complexion looking plump and dewy.
Often, products that help to calm irritation can feel boring to use, but this stuff is little a little tub of luxury. With floral extracts and vitamin C, I won't reach for this when my skin is at its most irritated but rather when it's starting to calm down a little and needs a glow-boost.