Sensitive skin? Soothe it with products that will improve its tolerance with these top picks from the people in the know

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A sensitive skin is one that has a thin or impaired skin barrier - the uppermost layer, designed to protect what’s underneath - and the secret to experiencing fewer reactions and less irritation is to fix it. But how?

I’ve written before on how to build up your skin barrier , and while being more aware of food, ingredients and wearing sunscreen are essential for a healthier stratum corneum (that’s barrier to you and I), we sensitive skin sufferers need products that will really, truly improve our skin.

So what would a dermatologist or leading facialist reach for and apply to your skin to build up your barrier? I asked, and the experts delivered…

Dr Sam Bunting

Cosmetic Dermatologist

“They are both Elta MD products. The first is their AM Therapy , £26 and the second is their UV Clear SPF46 sunscreen , £26. Both are enriched with niacinamide, my favourite barrier-boosting ingredient. It helps minimise blemishes, reduce pigmentation whilst preserving barrier function through boosted ceramide production, so is one of my top ingredients. As an added bonus, they make retinoids more tolerable for sensitive skin."

Imelda Burke

Founder of Content Beauty & Wellbeing

Lina Hanson Global Treasures , £86 A nurturing combination of botanical butters (cacao and camellia) and antioxidant rich matcha green tea, gold and pearl, make a great combination for building up the skin’ds natural barrier. I use it as an overnight treatment but it can be used as an eye balm also.

RMS Beauty Oil,  £74 - This blend is free from essential oils so ideal for sensitive skin, but contains some of the best oils for the skin’s barrier. Two of my favourites are buriti oil, rich in essential fatty acids, vitamin E and beta-carotene and tamanu oil which is ideal for hydrating and building the barrier on sensitive skin types.”

Debbie Thomas


"My favourite product at the moment is PCA Skin Dual Action Redness Relief , £91.27. It instantly calms and soothes the skin, reducing immediate redness while over time improving the skin’s barrier function, which gives long term relief from discomfort.

"Another is NeoStrata Dermal Replenishment , £63, which is very hydrating and targets the signs of ageing; the Prodew complex strengthens the barrier function, helping to keep the vital moisture in.”

Dr Terry Loong

Aesthetic Doctor 

"SOS Rescue Oil by phFormula - It’s a light-weight dual-phase oil that helps provide a natural barrier and hydrates the skin. It contains a beautiful blend of argan, sweet almond, jojoba, sesame and olive oils, making it smell heavenly! It also contains vitamin C, vitamin E to help fight against free radicals and peptides to boost the skin’s integrity. Suitable for dry, sensitive skin.” Available from clinics and specialists only.

" Paula’s Choice Redness Relief Moisturiser for Normal to Dry Skin , £25- A great product to soothe and hydrate while providing nourishment to the skin.  Contains natural plant oils and antioxidants to reduce redness and sensitivity."

Dr Anita Sturnham

GP and Skin Expert  

"Much research has been done to establish the exact ratio of lipids in the epidermal layers, and most studies suggest a blend of approximately 50% ceramides, 25% cholesterol and 25% fatty acids. These essential lipids are required to reinforce the delicate membranes and regulate the moisture content of the skin. My top tips are to look for restorative ingredients that support these natural lipid barriers. For example Nuriss Skin Renewal Serum, £120.00, contains a blend of naturally derived fatty acids, ceramides and cholesterol. This advanced lipid formulation replenishes the skin’s natural lipids, which are lost due to cleansing, environmental exposure and the natural ageing process of the skin. Available at Nuriss clinics and  online 

"I also love Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore , £127.00 for the same reason, however, this is a different formulation and a different balance of lipids. This offers barrier repair in a cream formulation rather than a serum. This product has a 2% ceramide, 4% cholesterol and 2% fatty acid blend."

Lorraine Dallmeier

Director of Formula Botanica 

“My top products for barrier repair are both anhydrous and contain occlusive agents which form a barrier over the top of the skin. These types of ingredients increase moisture levels in the skin by providing a physical barrier to epidermal water loss.

" Gingerstone Skincare Face Serum for Sensitive Skin  (one of Formula Botanica’s graduates), £15: This facial serum by Formula Botanica graduate Gingerstone Skincare contains luxurious botanical ingredients to help soothe and moisturise your skin, leaving it looking soothed and revived. Red raspberry seed oil provides a lipid barrier that enhances moisture retention in the skin. Its high levels of phytosterols can also help with sensitive skin. All of Gingerstone’s formulations are fragrance-free which is also great for sensitive skin, particularly if you react to essential oils or synthetic fragrances.

" Okoko Cosmétiques Sublime Balm , £52.16 - This facial balm contains natural phytosterols and bisabolol for barrier protection and regeneration. It is made with exotic oils and butters, including rare and precious tomato oil which is rich in lycopene and can moisturise, soften and protect the skin."

What are your favourite products for boosting your skin when it's feeling irritated? Let me know in the comments or tweet me @JudyJourno