Sensitive Skin Problems

For some time now I’ve had a problem with dry and flaky skin on my forehead – the infuriating type of situation where you so much as lightly touch a makeup brush to it and the flakes multiply. A few years ago, I saw a fancy DC dermatologist who shall remain nameless and her advice was that I wasn’t washing enough, instructing me to double-cleanse every morning and night with a gel cleanser as part of the routine in order to get rid of the flakes and “start fresh” each day. Being the rule-follower that I am, I did this for quite a while before realizing that it was way too aggressive for my sensitive skin and that it was definitely making things worse. The state of affairs was particularly bad last winter when the effects of the cold weather were no doubt exacerbated by the stress and the very late nights from my job at the time (like, very late – my Oura ring often clocked my nights’ sleeps as “naps”). I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get a handle on this issue before my wedding and the thought was making me quite self-conscious. However, after a lot of trial and error, below is a comprehensive list of what finally allowed me to be (almost) flake-free:

— Thanks to a dermatologist on TikTok (board-certified, she believably claimed), I started “skin-cycling.” You can read a lot more about this here and here but basically the idea is to encourage light exfoliation without messing up your skin barrier. You follow this four-day cycle: (1) exfoliation night, (2) retinoid night, (3) recovery night, (4) recovery night, and then repeat. My specific routine is as follows: Sunday Riley Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment on Night 1, Shani Darden Skin Care Retinol Reform Treatment Serum on Night 2, and Sunday Riley Ice Ceramide Moisturizing Cream on Nights 3 and 4. I also use a light layer of the same moisturizer on Nights 1 and 2, and sometimes top the moisturizer with SkinMedica’s HA⁵ Rejuvenating Hydrator for extra moisture on Nights 3 and 4. (I know Sunday Riley has gotten some mixed reviews over the years but I’ve been through a few jars of this cream and I really like it – it works better for me than many more expensive ones I’ve tried.)

– I’ve dabbled with the cult-followed EltaMD sunscreen for a number of years but I started using it religiously every day instead of other sunscreens and I think the Niacinamide that it contains has helped my skin to heal.

– I stopped washing my face with hot water in the shower. I think it was Kathleen Jennings mentioning this in an Instagram story that finally gave me the lightbulb “duh” moment I needed to stop doing something so obviously drying (!).

– I don’t wash my face in the morning at all. Just a splash of water before putting on moisturizer and sunscreen.

– Bought a humidifier: the Dyson Purifier Humidify+Cool PH03 is now purring along in the bedroom all night.

– I’m a serious devotee of the NuFace and have been using it weekly for a few years now. However, I think the NuFace-branded gel was contributing to my skin being a bit upset/dried out, so for the conductive gel I switched to the Peter Thomas Roth Rose Stem Cell Anti-Aging Gel Mask and I think it’s much better for sensitive skin (another shoutout to Kathleen Jennings for this recommendation).

– I got one of those creepy Jason Voorhees LED masks, specifically the The Light Salon Boost LED Mask, and I’m definitely a believer in its healing benefits.

TikTok derms >> gleaming boutique K Street derms?

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