I Have Sensitive Skin, and These Are the Hardworking Products I Swear By

Having sensitive skin isn’t easy for anybody. However, as a beauty editor who is constantly chopping and changing her routine in order to try new products, it’s exceptionally difficult. Receiving news of a new skincare launch is a bit like a game of roulette for me. You see, if a product contains note-worthy amounts of retinol, vitamin C, alpha-hydroxy acids, essential oils or fragrance, you better believe my skin is going to have something to say about it.

The difficult thing about coming to terms with such truths is that I really do want to reap the benefits from such wonderful ingredients. But at what cost? While using potent retinol or vitamin C will help in reversing and preventing signs of ageing, the chances are they will leave my skin red, sore, dry and usually susceptible to breakouts too. And it would seem I am not alone in this. My DMs on Instagram are full of people asking what they can do about their sensitive skin.

So considering I am no skin expert, in a bid to make sense of our sensitive-skin nightmares, I reached out to someone that is a little more in the know. Keep scrolling for everything you need to know about what your sensitivity might mean and to shop all of the sensitive-skin heroes I swear by.

The Signs


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Those that deal with sensitivity will know the symptoms all too well, however, One Aesthetics Studio’s Jonquille Chantrey, surgeon and international beauty lecturer warns, "Most people that believe they have sensitive skin, in fact do not. Usually the case is that is it just sensitised.”

The difference here is simply that sensitive skin is usually genetic, whereas sensitised skin is caused by the environment. Both show similar results in the form of irritability, redness and inflammation, but knowing what to look for is imperative in figuring out the cause. For instance, those with naturally sensitive skin may have a thin epidermis and are prone to redness due to visible blood vessels or may even have other skin issues such as eczema. "Certain skin types and skin diagnoses such as eczema do have true sensitivity and often require specific medical products,” explains Chantrey.

The Causes


(Image credit: @FONGMINLIAO)

Although we have touched on this a little bit above, it’s crucial that if your skin is prone to sensitivity but is not necessarily de facto sensitive, you understand the reasons it might be irritated. "Sensitivity is due to the skin barrier not functioning properly. The barrier, which is comprised of lipids and proteins, protects by allowing what is needed through and blocking things that may do harm. When it’s dysfunctional, the skin becomes irritable,” says Chantrey.

So what causes this to happen if it isn’t a genetic predisposition? Well, simply put, Chantrey says it’s usually down to using the incorrect product. "The majority of sensitised skin occurs due to incorrect use of topical products on the skin which irritate the surface barrier and cause inflammation. The most common factors influencing this is using inappropriate topicals. For example, using overly stripping toners or acids, then using heavy moisturisers which then cause the hyaluronic acid production to become sluggish, creates a false dryness which leads you into thinking you have actual dry skin.” Getting into a vicious skincare cycle like this only leads to barrier confusions, she warns.

What to Do


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First and foremost, it’s imperative that you stick to a well-considered routine and avoid chopping and changing your skincare as much as possible. "When the right products are used and the surface barrier repairs, sensitivity is resolved. True, dry, sensitive skin can consider a product that contains certain lipids to help reconstruct the skin barrier,” advises Chantrey.

While sensitised skin can be improved within a few weeks with the correct lineup, sensitive skin may take longer. If you’re ever unsure, it’s worth booking in for an expert consultation (many clinics are now offering these online until they are back up and running again).

Shop My Top Sensitive-Skin Products 






Next up, the 12 specific beauty products I buy from & Other Stories.

Freelance Beauty Editor

Shannon Lawlor is a renowned beauty journalist and has contributed to Who What Wear’s beauty content since 2020. As a leading beauty editor, expert and brand consultant, she has over eight years of experience working for some of the industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear (of course), Glamour UK, Stylist, Refinery29 and Fabulous. Having also worked behind the scenes with some of the industry’s biggest brands and retailers, Shannon has a unique insight into what people really want from their beauty routines. Understanding that beauty lovers seek honest, open and responsible advice, she has it made her mission to demystify the intimidating world of beauty, taking a no-frills approach to the most relatable topics. While Shannon is the first to admit she doesn’t hold the answer to every beauty question out there, she is dedicated to sharing her expert insights in a bid to help. As a self-proclaimed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for easy-to-use, foolproof beauty products and has made it her mission to scope out the best of the best. When she’s not working, Shannon is likely soaking in the bath or giving no-holds-barred beauty reviews on Instagram from her bathroom floor.