The Ordinary product range can be tough to navigate for people with sensitive skin: many products feature high concentrations of active ingredients making them unsuitable for reactive skin. On the other hand, all The Ordinary products are fragrance-free, most do not include potentially irritating plant extracts and most formulas use a minimal number of ingredients - the features that are crucial for those of us with sensitive skin.
Here is an example skincare routine that suits sensitive skin with the best products from The Ordinary for dry, sensitive skin.
Q: My skin starts burning when I apply my moisturizer - even though it is from a brand recommended for sensitive skin. What is going on?
A: There are a few different reasons possible for why you experience a burning or stinging sensation during or after applying a moisturizer.
Your moisturizer might contain irritating ingredients. The most frequent culprits causing the sensation are essential oils and other natural fragrances. You, of course, can also have an individual sensitivity to any other ingredient in the product. The only way to stop the stinging and save your skin is to stop using the product and avoid the problematic ingredient going forward.
The product’s pH is too low (acidic) for your skin. There are two scenarios possible here.
You are using a product with high concentration of an acidic active ingredient - for example, vitamin C, glycolic acid or lactic acid. In this case, if the sensation is mild and goes away without any other issues, it might be OK to ignore the feeling and continue using the product - but not on an every day basis.
Your skin barrier is weakened to start with, and even an otherwise gentle product with a mildly acidic pH is too much for your skin. In this case, it is a good idea to pause using the product causing the sensation AND look for reasons why your skin barrier is compromised in the first place. Are you using retinoids in a concentration that is too high? Are you exfoliating your skin too often? Do you spend a lot of time in a very dry environment? Once the underlying cause is fixed, you might try the moisturizer again - if your skin barrier healed, it likely will not sting any more.
Before reading on, remember that it’s not because you discovered a new ingredient, that you absolutely need it in your routine! These posts are meant to guide you when reading labels (but it is true that ceramides are fabulous)
Ceramides represent a large percentage of the skin’s composition and help form the skin’s barrier. When you’re young, your skin produces a lot of it, but as you age, their quantity and quality decline, leaving your skin barrier more prone to environmental threats such as pollution and irritants
So what does it do? Typically found in moisturisers, ceramides help strengthen and hydrate your skin barrier, which in turn leads to smoother skin, reduced fine lines and wrinkles, and less irritation. They also pair very well with niacinamide, glycerin, peptides, linoleic acid, and hyaluronic acid!
When there is a new research trend in skin research, the beauty industry likes to surf on the wave and use these findings in their marketing. This makes sense, but it also has inevitable consequences for the consumer. The most recent craze has been the skin microbiome. What is it? Skin is colonised by a wide variety of microorganisms, most of which are harmless and even beneficial to the host. These include bacteria, fungi, archaea, viruses, and mites. On the individual level, many factors can shape the diversity of your skin flora. Your job, age, lifestyle, clothing, hygiene habits, and even how much time you spend in the sunlight can all affect the types and amount of microorganisms inhabiting your microbiome. Skin microorganisms are essential to your skin’s health. They protect it from invading pathogens and educate your immune system. The issue with the microbiome skincare trend: The relationship between your skin’s APPEARANCE and microbiome isn’t completely clear yet. That’s partially because the vast majority of skin microorganisms haven’t been cultured or extensively studied yet. On top of that, products available on the market that claim to be “probiotic” do not have evidence behind their effectiveness (from what we’ve seen). So even though probiotic supplements and skincare lines can seem new and exciting, it doesn’t mean your current routine is worthless - you achieve ’probiotic skincare’ for free by avoiding certain things like overcleansing.
Our conclusion There are limits in taking new scientific research and directly applying it to the market. Research around the skin microbiome is fascinating, and there are numerous innovative startups pushing boundaries, yet on the flip side are companies that immediately use these new terms in their marketing and misguide the consumer into thinking this new trend is the answer to all skincare issues. But from what we’ve seen, the microbiome skincare bandwagon is actually a part of a wider movement, skincare minimalism! And that it is way more exciting 😉
Misinformation has been a hot topic in many industries recently, and it certainly applies to the beauty industry as well. It’s so easy to go on Tik Tok and be spoon fed information without double taking. Or when you go on YouTube you’ll likely fall in the rabbit hole of binge watching videos from an influencer. Or even more subtle, on the explore page of instagram you’ll see a 10 second video on why you should apply lemon juice to your face, and one month later see a lemon on your fridge and think “why not” without remembering (where)/(from who) you got the tip. A mountain of information can seem wonderful, but information ≠ facts. Critical thinking has always been a valuable skills, and it’s important to keep it at the forefront of your mind when going through social media. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
Is your source ok with being wrong or corrected? Or do they portray everything as black & white?
Do they have any professional training? Or are they just sharing a personal 'hack'?
My product doesn’t carry a cruelty-free label or certification, does it mean that it was tested on animals? No. “Cruelty-free” is not a regulated term. It fact, it is a vague term: it usually means “not tested of animals” but there are many different types of cruelty involved in the product production (e.g hurting animals while farming). Each brand can have their own understanding of what the term means and use it accordingly. When it comes to certifications, remember that all of them cost companies money. Small, young brands might not have the resources to go through the certification process. Decisions to carry a certified label is not an ethical, but a marketing decision for a cosmetic brand.
But, it is possible that a product with a “cruelty-free” label was tested on animals when imported to China, or that ingredients in the product were tested on animals in a recent past. Cruelty-Free around the world:
The EU is at forefront of the cruelty-free movement. Animal testing of cosmetic products and ingredients, as well as selling products in the EU that have been tested on animals elsewhere is banned.
Why care about whether your skin reaction stems from an allergy or irritant reaction? Because the course of action is different in either case. If you have a suspected irritant reaction, one of your best shot is to go on a product-elimination diet (developed by Dr. Sandy Skonicki): you stop using your old products and switch to non-irritating, low-allergenic products. Then, once your rash/ irritant reaction has cleared up, you can begin reintroducing one product from your old skincare regimen at a rate of one per week🤍
If you have a suspected allergic reaction, you need to see a dermatologist and do patch testing which can be tedious and inconvenient. Nonetheless, while you wait for the results to come through, you can go on the product-elimination diet to help you avoid potential allergens. You will also need to avoid the ingredient at all costs.
This is not medical advice, solely a point of view to expand your horizons on how to approach your skin reaction
We didn’t pick the most outrageous bunk claim per se, but these ones are very sneaky. An average consumer will pick a skincare product based off of advice from a store clerk or based off of product labels. The terms listed on the post can be found on an increasing number of skincare product labels these days. And yet, few of them actually mean anything.
The claim we will mainly focus on is “hypoallergenic”. Anyone can add this label on a product without fear of retribution from regulators—because there is no binding definition of the term. A lot of these products actually contain fragrances. Fragrances are among the top allergens in cosmetics
Years ago, a team of researchers surveyed products sold by California retailers and marketed as being for “sensitive skin”. Of the 187 products surveyed, 167 contained at least one contact allergen. That’s 89 percent. And 11 percent of them contained five or more allergens
If you have dry skin, you’re familiar with the uncomfortable tightness and rough aspect that can come from it. Although one can be more prone to developing dry skin or have dry skin since a young age, it is a skin condition, not a skin type
The uppermost layer of your skin, your skin barrier, helps fight against UV light, infection, irritants, pollution, and locks in hydration. It is made up of skin cells, lipids, and natural moisturizing factors like amino and fatty acids
In dry skin, your skin's barrier function is weakened and adding moisture to the skin with serums/lotions is not enough. You need to help restore the skin's ability to retain this water. This is why a healthy protective barrier on the surface of the skin is so important to prevent dryness
If you have oily skin, you’re probably familiar with the persistently shiny or greasy appearance of your skin and the blemishes
Oily skin is a skin condition (not a skin type) characterised by overactive sebaceous glands, meaning they overproduce sebum on the skin. These sebaceous glands are most abundant in the T-zone (forehead, nose and chin), but also more frequent around the neck, chest, head and back. Oily skin is usually genetic, though the condition can be exacerbated by the use of unsuitable products, stress, diet and lifestyle
You need to be especially wary of irritating ingredients in your skincare and treat your skin as if it’s extremely sensitive even though you may not have visible reactions to products. Irritation and signs of skin sensitivity come from an inflammatory response which leads to further disruption in the skin barrier, which can make your skin more acne-prone