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Dry & Sensitive skin help with allergies! Best serums and moisturizers or face masks

Hi all!


Can someone pleeease recommend some good brands/ products for extremely sensitive & dry skin (especially in the winter months)? 

I react to lavender/lavendula/linalool/linalyl acetate/and limonene- which a lot of brands use (Dr Jart+, Caudalie, Summer Fridays).

So any brands or products you could recommend that are calming & hydrating, I'm open to anything at this point!




Re: Dry & Sensitive skin help with allergies! Best serums and moisturizers or face masks

Hi @CassyReilly! I just wanted to add that using only micellar water to clean my face has been helping to minimize the irritation. I use Bioderma Sensibio, it is the gentlest I’ve tried. Unfortunately the only mask I use when my skin is acting up is REN Clean Skincare Evercalm™ Ultra Comforting Rescue Mask 1.7 oz/ 50 mL, but it does have linalool as the last ingredient.

Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Caprylyl Caprylate/Caprate, Olus Oil, Lactobacillus Ferment, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Wax, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Cetearyl Glucoside, Propanediol, Algae Extract, Cetyl Alcohol, Lactobacillus, Alpha-Glucan Oligosaccharide, Parfum* (Fragrance), Tocopheryl Acetate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Panthenol, Carbomer, Vaccinium Vitis-Idaea (Lingonberry) Seed Oil, Xanthan Gum, Arnica Montana Flower Extract, Camelina Sativa Seed Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Extract, Tocopherol, Magnesium Carboxymethyl Beta-Glucan, Malachite Extract, Albatrellus Ovinus Extract, Laminaria Ochroleuca Extract, Glucose, Phenoxyethanol, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Rosmarinus Officinalis Leaf Extract, Citronellol, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool.

I also use a balm to, as @WinglessOne says, “bear hug” my face ☺️ A couple I like and use are Farmacy Honey Savior All-in-One Skin Repair Salve 1.6 oz/ 46 g 


Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Hydroxystearic/Linolenic/Linoleic Polyglycerides, Canola Oil, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Rhus Verniciflua Peel Wax, Echinacea Purpurea Root Extract, Aroma (Flavor)*, Honey Extract, Cera Alba (Beeswax), Propolis Extract, Royal Jelly Extract, Tocopherol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Wax, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax.
*Natural Flavor /Arôme Naturel 

and Bloomeffects Royal Tulip Nectar. This one is an unscented salve and is very comforting.

Glycerin, Propanediol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Sodium Acrylates Copolymer, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Aqua (Water), Panthenol (D), Phospholipids, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Polyglyceryl-10 Stearate, 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid, Isosorbide Dicaprylate, Benzyl Alcohol, Cocodimonium Hydroxypropyl Silk Amino Acids, Marrubium Vulgare Meristem Cell Culture, Butylene Glycol, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Hydrolyzed Verbascum Thapsus Flower, Tulipa Hybrid Meristem Cell Extract, Sodium Gluconate, Sodium Lactate, Rumex Occidentalis Extract, Nonapeptide-1, Dextran, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Hyaluronate (L), Phenethyl Alcohol, Potassium Sorbate, Caprylyl Glycol

Would love to hear any updates. I haven’t tried The Ordinary Buffet Anti-Aging Serum yet but it sounds like I need to!

Re: Dry & Sensitive skin help with allergies! Best serums and moisturizers or face masks

Re: Dry & Sensitive skin help with allergies! Best serums and moisturizers or face masks

Hi Cassy --

I have super sensitive skin and rosacea as well, so I feel you. Face Wash: Cetaphyl and Dr. Barbara Sturm. I've tried all the usual suspects in the clean arena. Drunk Elephant is ok for me, Clinique is typically a winner (any of the moisture surge), LXMI Crème du Nil Pore-Refining Moisture Veil is super thick and good for winter. I feel like I've tried them all. But hands down, my skin saviors have been anything Dr. Barbara Sturm. I know they are very expensive, but I saw a HUGE difference right away. I asked for a starter kit last Christmas so I could try out the basics from her line and they were all really good. This fall I was getting really red again, so I bit the bullet and bought the full sizes of the Calming Serum, Moisture Cream Rich, Face Mask, Face Scrub and Eye Cream. Literally, overnight my skin was calm, barely any redness, and moisturized. So could really be worth asking for some gift cards this holiday season.

Re: Dry & Sensitive skin help with allergies! Best serums and moisturizers or face masks

Hey @KimFNYC!


I recently bought the clinique moisture surge and am really liking it!

What daily sunscreen do you use? Any recommendations?? Thanks!! 

Re: Dry & Sensitive skin help with allergies! Best serums and moisturizers or face masks

Hi @CassyReilly ! Looks like you and I react to many of the same ingredients. Lavender in any form is my face's nemesis, but I also have to avoid the vast majority of perfuming essential oils and citrus peel extracts. (I can use them elsewhere on my body, but not on my face or neck.) There's no brand whose entire product line I can use, but I can recommend a few specific products—and some of these are available at your local drugstore. 


Moisturizers: since October, I've tested a few moisturizers to replace my former favorite (which now contains hexyl cinnamal, another fragrance component my face hates). 4 weeks of my testing happened while my skin was in terribly bad reaction mode, complete with a broken barrier. These are the moisturizers that helped the most. 



  • Aveeno Eczema Therapy Daily Moisturizing Cream - contains petrolatum for great occlusivity (prevents skin moisture loss), plus a ceramide and soothing colloidal oatmeal. I wish it felt more emollient, but I can mix in (or layer under) a facial oil like e.l.f. Nourishing Facial Oil (a blend of beneficial plant oils, with no essential oils) to compensate. My face loves this as a moisturizer, especially at night. This will likely be my new go-to daily moisturizer. 
  • The INKEY List Peptide Moisturizer 1.7 oz/ 50 mL - its occlusive is shea butter and it contains a couple peptides. It was fine during warmer weather, but now it's not moisturizing enough for my face. Eh, I have that issue with shea butter facial moisturizers in general. But if your skin's a big fan of shea butter, you might enjoy this moisturizer. 
  • Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin - its main occlusive is squalane, and it contains hyaluronic acid and several ceramides. My skin loves this stuff, and I'd buy more of it if I could figure out why the heck it pills like crazy over and under certain products. I can't use it on retinol nights because it pills under my retinol serum. If I use it during the day, it pills under some sunscreens. 😒 Kinda drives me nuts. But Vanicream is a brand several dermatologists recommend for sensitive skin, so you might wanna take a look at their offerings. 

Sometimes I use thick petrolatum-based balms as moisturizers, or in addition to (layered over) my usual moisturizer, especially when my skin barrier's damaged or I want to protect my face from windburn during winter's deep freeze. My favorite for that is Aquaphor Ointment, but CeraVe Healing Ointment is also great for this. (If you're sensitive to lanolin, avoid Aquaphor.) I recently tried Aveeno Eczema Therapy Itch Relief Balm which contains no petrolatum (relies instead on dimethicone for occlusivity), and my face likes it a lot. 👍 

If you want something pricy from Sephora: Drunk Elephant Lala Retro™ Whipped Moisturizer with Ceramides 1.69 oz/ 50 mL is one of the only 2 Drunk Elephant products my skin tolerates. It's a very good moisturizer that relies on marula oil as the main occlusive. 

Serums: these are my 3 favorites for calming inflammation and boosting hydration. 

  • COSRX Pure Fit Cica Serum - I have inflammation issues that respond very well to centella asiatica, aka cica. This serum's loaded with cica, plus sodium hyaluronate (the salt form of hyaluronic acid, my skin's favorite humectant). 
  • It's Skin Power 10 Formula Li Effector - this is primarily licorice root extract, another great soothing ingredient. Also contains the humectant polyglutamic acid. 
  • The Ordinary Buffet Anti-Aging Serum 1 oz/ 30 mL - contains peptides and hyaluronic acid, which are both great for hydration—plus, peptides do lots of behind-the-scenes skin strengthening work. This serum's more for hydration than soothing irritation/inflammation. 

If you've seen a dermatologist about your skin, what products did they recommend? I'm always curious about what various derms suggest, aside from derms who have their own in-house line or retail brand of skincare. 

Re: Dry & Sensitive skin help with allergies! Best serums and moisturizers or face masks

Hi @WinglessOne!


Can I ask what daily sunscreen you use as well?? Any recommendations?! Am loving the inkey list moisturizer & recently bought the first aid beauty one and e.l.f holy hydration. 


Re: Dry & Sensitive skin help with allergies! Best serums and moisturizers or face masks

@CassyReilly  One of my favorites sunscreens, Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Sheer Mineral Sun Spray SPF 50 4 oz , has apparently been discontinued in the US. 😞 So I'm back to testing various mineral/physical sunscreens, searching for a worthy replacement that works with my skin tone. According to my dermatologist, I should really use a tinted mineral sunscreen as part of my ongoing hyperpigmentation treatment. I haven't tried DDG's newer tinted sunscreen, Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Instant Radiance Sun Defense Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 40 Medium/Deep (there's also a light/medium version which might also work for me, I dunno), but I see limonene and orange oil in the ingredients so I probably won't bother with it. 


My usual chemical sunscreen go-to is Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 PA+++ , but I'll warn you: it contains olibanum, aka frankincense, a fragrance ingredient your skin might not like. My skin's surprisingly okay with it in this product. You could try other Supergoop sunscreens... some folks love Supergoop! Zincscreen 100% Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 40 PA+++ 1.7 oz/ 50 mL . If I could figure out my best shade match in Supergoop! CC Screen 100% Mineral CC Cream SPF 50 PA++++ , I'd try it. 


If CoTZ sunscreens are available in Ireland, those are generally good options for mineral sunscreens. They make a tinted sunscreen called CoTZ Face Prime & Protect... I don't think I've never tried that one. I do like CoTZ Sensitive Non-Tinted SPF 40, though it can sometimes feel too greasy on my face. I use it often on my exposed arms and legs when I'm outside all day. 

Re: Dry & Sensitive skin help with allergies! Best serums and moisturizers or face masks

Hey @WinglessOne,  I found this post on reddit to be pretty helpful (the parts I could make sense of) hope some of it can be of use to you too! 


Re: Dry & Sensitive skin help with allergies! Best serums and moisturizers or face masks

Hi @WinglessOne

Wow thank you so much for all that information, it was truly really helpful. Good to know I'm not the only one!

I was wondering, do you use any cooling/calming mists if you experience any flare ups, hot tingles? 

I haven't gone to a dermatologist yet but it's absolutely on my list to do to get my skin under control. Once I do, I'll be sure to share my experience. 

I haven't been able to find Vanicream here (I'm in Ireland), but CerVe products seem to be similar. 

I use the Ordinary Buffet already under a plain rose water toner & use their face wash & moisturizer. 

Thanks again for all your help!!

Re: Dry & Sensitive skin help with allergies! Best serums and moisturizers or face masks

@CassyReilly  No problem, glad I could help! 


When my skin flares up, I usually apply a cold compress for a few minutes. If the flare-up includes a bumpy rash, I also take an antihistamine pill. If that's not enough to calm down my inflammation, I apply one of my calming serums or sometimes a CBD oil—either Herbivore Emerald CBD + Adaptogens Deep Moisture Glow Oil 1 oz/ 30 mL or Flora + Bast Age Adapting CBD Serum 1 oz/ 30 mL , neither of which are very strong CBD products (for something stronger, I'd have to visit my local dispensary; I assume neither of those products are available in Ireland... is CBD oil—non-THC—legal at all in Ireland?) but my skin seems to respond well to them. When in flare-up mode, I don't use any exfoliants (not even salicylic acid or PHA), vitamin C, or anything else that might cause even the slightest irritation. 


I do use a couple of mists, but mostly for hydration: COSRX Centella Water Alcohol-Free Toner, which comes in a spray bottle so I use it as a hydrating mist to keep my skin damp throughout my routine; and Youth To The People Adaptogen Soothe + Hydrate Activated Mist with Peptides 4 oz/ 118 mL which does soothe my skin a bit. I like to use the YTTP mist during colder seasons, especially after I've used The Ordinary Buffet. I find that Buffet's hyaluronic acid bearhugs this mist and really pulls it into my skin for maximum hydration. (Sounds like you do something similar with your rosewater toner.) Then I quickly apply a moisturizer over it to seal in that hydration. 


If you try CeraVe products, I hope they work well for you! I also hope you have a good derm experience when you're able to see one. I haven't been able to see my derm in months, thanks to our pandemic situation, and that's driven me a bit nuts. Anyway, be sure to take a list of any questions you have about your skin to the derm. I always say everyone should get their money's worth from any doctor they see—especially here in the US where we still have no universal healthcare (sigh)—plus, docs generally like it when patients aren't afraid to ask questions. 🙂 

Re: Dry & Sensitive skin help with allergies! Best serums and moisturizers or face masks


So took your advice and went to a dermatologist that came highly recommended at one of the top hospitals here. I got a hydro facial done, it was a 6 step process. We talked through my skin care routine and she didn't have any issues with what I'm currently using. I've tried your suggestion for the Inkey peptide moisturizer & I'm really like that.

She did say she thinks I have a bit of roasacea. It comes out mostly at work when I'm exposed to a lot of cleaning products--so she suggested a ipl laser treatment for that. I was given some samples of skinceuticals spf and their 0.3 retinol to try out.

Hopefully I'll notice a difference having gone to get a hydrating facial.

Any suggestions for a daily spf moisturiser? 


Thanks again for your recommendations. 

Re: Dry & Sensitive skin help with allergies! Best serums and moisturizers or face masks

@CassyReilly   I have really sensitive skin with a lot of allergies, and I do fine with Biossance.  Their Biossance Squalane + Omega Repair Deep Hydration Moisturizer 1.69 oz / 50 mL  is very soothing, unscented, and doesn't have the ingredients you mentioned that cause you problems.  I like using a tiny bit of their Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Firming Oil Original  during the day for a moisturizer; not sure if you can use that. 


Drunk Elephant Protini™ Polypeptide Firming Moisturizer 1.69 oz/ 50 mL  is another one I use regularly.  It's unscented, doesn't have the ingredients you mentioned but it does have a lot I'm not familiar with.  This moisturizer makes my skin feel really smooth and calms my redness.


I use #Kiehls Since 1851 Ultra Facial Cleanser every morning.  It does a great job of gently cleaning my skin.


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