There are times when even the best-behaved skin can act out of character, whether it’s caused by a product, travel, the weather or a procedure, and suddenly your skin feels tight, sore and reactive. For many people, ‘sensitive’ is fast becoming their new skin condition – increasingly, it’s the most common issue that aestheticians are seeing, and both acne-prone and extra-dry skin can be very sensitive. Often, it’s unknowingly self-inflicted and the result of just ‘too much’: too many peels, too much micro-needling, too many actives, or even over-enthusiastic cleansing (think double- or triple-cleansing). This is when the comfort creams come into play; like a cashmere blanket for your complexion, they are calming and cocooning and take the sting out of sensitive skin with soothing anti-inflammatory ingredients. Even better, they support a damaged skin barrier – the key contributor to sensitive skin – against future aggressors.
These are not necessarily the creams you reach for twice a day, every day, but you should have them ‘on call’ for when needed. I slather one on overnight after traveling or use it every morning and night (over a hydrating serum) for a week after a vacation to deep-treat sun-exposed skin. For those who use retinol, these creams can be a game changer during those early weeks of retinol-induced redness, flaking and peeling. Wait 10 minutes after applying retinol and follow with a comfort cream on top to get to the benefits of your retinol (glowing, evenly toned skin) without having to endure the early side effects.
Soothing and cosseting does not have to mean heavy and greasy – as these new-gen creams prove. That said, the luxuriously rich, classic Crème de la Mer is a miracle worker for many (myself included) whose desert-dry skin needs serious nourishment. My tip is to apply it generously, wait a few minutes and then reapply and repeat as your skin needs. It’s quite amazing just how much dry or jet-lagged skin can soak up – and using it like this guarantees a healthy and plumped-up complexion. Sarah Chapman’s excellent Skinesis Comfort Cream D-Stress is equally soothing but in a lighter texture – a pot of this is now a permanent fixture on my bedside cabinet. It takes down redness or post-peel/laser reactions fast, and I also find it excellent to use over a retinol or Retin-A.
Creating a protective barrier is key for compromized skin, and Natura Bissé’s Diamond Cocoon Ultra Rich Cream and Kypris Beauty’s wonderfully named Puff of Love Nurturing Anytime Moisturizer both build up your barrier while deeply hydrating and protecting the skin.
We know that skin repair takes place while we sleep, so using a calming cream at night makes sense – Doctor Rogers’ plant-based Restore Healing Balm is excellent for treating red and reactive skin overnight. Alternatively, Sisley’s Velvet Sleeping Mask works to gently calm, soothe and nourish the skin while you sleep.
The instant calmers
Some of the best beauty products are created out of personal need, and it was her own experience with skin flare-ups that led to aesthetician Kate Sommerville formulating her DeliKate Recovery Cream. Initially used in her LA clinic to calm down post-peel skin, it can be used daily by those who need to ‘take the fire out’ of their skin. With an incredible light but cocooning texture, it is ideal for those who want the comfort without the richer coverage. Similarly, Pai Skincare’s beautiful Sea Aster & Wild Oat Instant Calm Redness Serum was created by the brand’s founder Sarah Brown to treat her own sensitive, acne-prone skin.
It’s a misconception that breakout skin needs aggressive cleansing and peeling; in fact, quite the opposite. “I always advise treating acne as though it is the most sensitive, delicate skin,” explains dermatologist Dr Nick Lowe. “It is reactive and inflamed and needs calming down – not aggressive treatments.” If your skin flares up after using a product or shows an allergic reaction, Chantecaille’s fast-acting Healing Emulsion is a brilliant lotion to have on hand to take down anything from windburn to the hot, red bumps of a skin reaction.
The soothing serums
Inflammation is the main cause of skin aging, so using an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich serum as part of your daily regimen should be a given. Dr Barbara Sturm’s Calming Serum and Estée Lauder’s super-hydrating Advanced Night Repair are two of the best to use daily – plus, they are excellent to treat anything from sunburn (even a cooking burn) to a skin rash – I repeatedly hear from women how Advanced Night Repair helped rebalance their breakout-prone skin. Dr. Dennis Gross B3 Adaptive Superfoods Stress Rescue Super Serum does the same soothing job, but also uses adaptogens (including the stress-soothing herb ashwagandha) to calm the redness of an acne flare-up.