Anti-Aging for Sensitive Skin

Expert advice on how to stop the clock--minus the sting

Burberry Prorsum Fall 2012

Photo by Anthea Simms

Anti-Aging-Sensitive Skin

Photo by Ivan Engler

If you’re anything like me, you’re waging a war against wrinkles and age spots and assembling an arsenal of potent ingredients to firm and plump. But if you’re one of the 58 per cent of women with sensitive skin, such aggressive measures may irritate or cause damage. Is your only option to wave the white flag? Definitely not, says Dr. Mark Lupin, clinical instructor of dermatology at the University of British Columbia. “Although sensitive skin requires delicate management, there are [treatments] you can use that are just as advanced as those intended for normal skin.” Consider this your battle plan.

Is your skin sensitive or sensitized? The difference is that a sensitized complexion stems from using the wrong products, says Dr. Lupin, also director of Cosmedica in Victoria. “It’s often a cleanser that is stripping, or a combination of lotions that irritate. Once we identify and remove [the trigger], the skin isn’t so susceptible.” Avoid drying soaps, glycolic acid–based products and anything fragranced. If you have what Dr. Lupin calls “true skin sensitivity,” such as eczema or rosacea, start with a gentle cleanser and an unscented, non-irritating moisturizer, and introduce one new anti-aging fighter at a time. FLARE pick: Simple Moisturizing Facial Wash, $8.

Although exfoliation promises minimized pores and a brighter, more even complexion, microdermabrasion scrubs are usually too harsh for sensitive types. A better option: Invest in an ultrasonic cleansing tool, with feather-light bristles gentle enough for daily use on rosacea-prone skin. FLARE pick: Clarisonic Mia 2 Skin Cleansing System, $175.

Keeping sensitive skin well hydrated is often half the battle. “Dry skin typically doesn’t have enough of the lipids and proteins that form the skin barrier,” says Dr. Tom Mammone, executive director of biological research and development for Clinique. “A healthy skin barrier is essential to keep things out that might irritate or cause a reaction.” To restore its shield-like function, top up with a serum and moisturizer that contain ceramides or hyaluronic acid (since these ingredients help cells retain moisture). FLARE picks: VBeaute´ Undercover Agent Anti-Wrinkle Protecting Serum, $148. Clinique Moisture Surge Intense Skin Fortifying Hydrator, $43.


To combat blotchy dark areas, swap hydroquinone (the traditional go-to prescribed by derms) for a non-bleaching alternative such as Lumixyl, recommends Dr. Lupin. It contains a special peptide that effectively inhibits the production of excess melanin pigment, without any irritation. Available at beauty counters, vitamin C is also an effective skin-brightener, but introduce it gradually since it can be acidic on delicate complexions. FLARE pick: Perricone MD Vitamin C Ester 15, $120.

Prescription retinoids such as Retin-A are the gold standard for wrinkles, sagging skin and uneven tone—but because they cause dryness, they can be hard to tolerate. Instead, choose over-the-counter retinol in a 0.5 percent concentration and use it twice a week at nighttime, says Lupin. “It can be just as effective at restoring thinned skin, improving collagen and evening out discolourations.” The bottom line? Sensitive complexions don’t have to retreat from the war on aging. Just be sure to attack with the right weapons—and a gentle touch. FLARE pick: SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.5 Refining Night Cream, $64.