It’s not easy to stock your skincare repository with gentle formulas that are crafted with ingredients that don’t trigger your temperamental skin. Finding a product that doesn’t harm the skin for each step of the routine isn’t easy, is it? We’re sure you’ve experienced redness, inflammation, itchiness, and other indications of an allergy after experimenting with a new serum that promised not to disrupt your skin. And because serums are so beneficial for the skin, you must choose the correct one to address your concerns without setting off another skin-related issue. Or you’re just self-sabotaging. And that’s exactly why we’ve rounded up some of the best serums for sensitive skin - along with tips on which ingredients to avoid, which serums to use at night, and how to apply a serum to maximise its effectiveness.
- The best serums for sensitive skin
- How to choose the best serum for sensitive skin?
- What’s the correct way to apply a serum for sensitive skin?
- Which ingredients must you avoid in a serum?
The best serums for sensitive skin
We’ve identified some of the best serums for your skin type. Here’s a lowdown on each of them.
- Simple Booster Serum - 10% Hemp Seed Oil + B3
This anti-ageing serum contains no alcohol, fragrances, parabens, added colours or dyes - which are the known primary irritants for sensitive skin. Fortified with hemp seed oil, the Simple Booster Serum - 10% Hemp Seed Oil + B3 doesn’t just hydrate your skin, it has anti-ageing properties that protect the skin from collagen degradation and prevents wrinkles, fine lines, and other signs of premature ageing from surfacing. Hemp seed oil penetrates the deepest layers of your skin to support ceramide production and enhances the strength of the skin barrier. Apart from acting as an antioxidant, vitamin B3 is associated with hydration and elasticity, and wards off hyperpigmentation, blotchiness, and redness with the aim of restoring your glow.
- Dermalogica Ultracalming Serum Concentrate
Formulated for sensitive skin, the Dermalogica Ultracalming Serum Concentrate is an expert at soothing redness caused by reactive skin, and reducing irritation and inflammation to prevent sporadic flare-ups in the future. It contains no artificial colours or fragrances - and it’s gluten-free, vegan, and cruelty-free!
- Simple Booster Serum - 10% Niacinamide
If you are looking to ward off pigmentation on your skin, and even out your skin tone, this is the formula you need to add to your repository. The Simple Booster Serum - 10% Niacinamide serum is enriched with vitamin B3, aka niacinamide. This ingredient doesn’t just reverse the damage your skin has endured, but also defends it from future threats. It strengthens the barrier of your skin to retain moisture along with promoting an even skin tone without pigmentation. It is also enriched with vitamin B5 to hydrate your skin and revive its radiance. A one-stop solution for all your concerns, the serum enhances the elasticity of your skin, prevents signs of premature ageing, and restores the skin to its natural youthful glory.
- Lakmé 9 to 5 Vitamin C+ Face Serum
Enriched with kakadu plums - which contain a hundred times the amount of vitamin C than oranges - the Lakmé 9 to 5 Vitamin C+ Face Serum is another option on the list. Dermatologically tested, this serum improves the texture of your skin, and hydrates and moisturises your face instantly - apart from reducing the visibility of scars caused by acne.
How to choose the best serum for sensitive skin?
Just make sure you’re not using serums infused with harsh ingredients. Ensure that the product you’re massaging into your face doesn’t contain irritants like alcohol, colours, dyes, parabens, or fragrances. Look for milder substitutes for ingredients that are known to trigger reactions on the skin. If retinol isn’t suiting your skin, try out an alternative like bakuchiol, for instance. Before you pick a new product, though, consult your dermatologist - and conduct a patch-test on your hands to rule out any chances of an adverse reaction.
What’s the correct way to apply a serum for sensitive skin?
Regardless of the condition of your skin, you must adhere to a structured skincare routine. Layer your skin with a serum after cleansing and toning, and follow it up with a moisturiser. That’s the general rule of thumb. If your skin-care regimen has a series of serums, always compare the consistencies, and start with the thinnest. Layer your skin with a water-based serum before an alcohol-based one. If the consistency is the same, opt for the one that addresses a major skin-concern. A vitamin C serum delivers optimum results during the day, while a retinol-based serum - the holy-grail of skincare - works well in the evening. Don’t rub or massage the formula into your skin. Pat it in, and let the formula seep into your skin on its own. Just pat a few drops onto your skin, and smooth it outwards gently.
Which ingredients must you avoid in a serum?
If your skin is easily triggered, you must steer clear of serums containing harsh ingredients. We’ve listed a few you must avoid incorporating into your routine.
Despite packing a multitude of benefits, retinol might not suit your skin. It can result in irritation, dryness, peeling, and redness. Try reaching out for a bakuchiol-infused serum instead. This all-natural ingredient triggers the same receptors in your skin, and performs the same functions as retinol - it boosts collagen production and cell turnover, controls acne, and evens out the skin tone.
- Salicylic acid
Just like retinol, acne-fighting salicylic acid can lead to dryness and irritation if your skin is too sensitive. Reach out for gentler alternatives like azelaic acid, allantoin, or glycolic acid to ward off acne safely.
- Vitamin E
Vitamin E, too, can cause redness, itching, rashes, and a burning sensation. Try investing in a melatonin-based serum instead. The ingredient improves your skin’s ability to fight damage caused by free radicals, and combats signs of ageing and pollution, and protects you from U.V radiation.
A lightening agent, hydroquinone treats acne, pigmentation, melasma, spots, and marks caused by pimples; but it's notorious for causing itchiness, stinging, inflammation, and redness on the skin - especially if your skin is reactive. And exposure to the sun is a no-no because it makes your skin more sensitive when exposed to the sun - in other words, your skin is more susceptible to sun damage. Go the natural route by trying botanical lightening ingredients like kojic acid.
Even though AHAs are known to combat signs of ageing by encouraging cell turnover, and ward off acne-related concerns, they exfoliate the skin, and peel off the uppermost layers to reveal new skin. And if your skin is sensitive, and you choose to step out of the house during the day, any exposure to the sun might hurt your skin.
1) Do I need both serum and moisturiser?
A serum benefits your skin in a different way than a moisturiser. Serums are, essentially, concentrated shots of nutrients, antioxidants, and hydrators that address anti-ageing, brightening, and acne-related concerns - amongst other things. If your skincare regimen fashions a series of serums, always compare the consistencies, and start with the lightest and thinnest. Layer your skin with a water-based serum before an alcohol-based one. If the consistency is the same, opt for the one that addresses a major concern. A vitamin C serum delivers optimum results during the day, while a retinol-based serum - the holy-grail of skincare - works well in the evening. Moisturising is an unavoidable step - and it comes right after the application of a serum. A moisturiser hydrates, replenishes, and revives the barrier of your skin, increases hydration, and locks the rest of the formulas underneath it. And it has a thicker consistency than a serum. In other words, a moisturiser fortifies the barrier of your skin, and a serum penetrates multiple layers to deliver targeted actives to your skin. If your skin is excessively oily, though, you might realise that you’re reaping adequate hydration from your serum - and don’t need a moisturiser at all.
2) What serums should I use at night?
You always want to use ingredients that repair, renew, and deliver anti-ageing properties to your skin at nighttime - because your body repairs itself during this time, and these formulas work in sync with your body’s circadian rhythm. Look for serums infused with restorative ingredients that boost your skin’s natural repairing process. Retinol, for instance, is effective at night. The vitamin-A derivative increases cell turnover, brings new cells to the surface, and reduces the appearance of wrinkles, lines, and pigmentation. If your skin’s sensitive, you can try a milder alternative called bakuchiol instead. In other words, look for formulas that encourage cellular turnover and collagen production.
3) Can I use serum without a toner?
As long as your skin is free of dirt, grime, makeup, and other impurities - yes. Just ensure that you’re starting your routine with a cleanser before diving into skincare.
4) Is a hyaluronic acid-infused serum safe for sensitive skin?
A serum with hyaluronic acid is suitable for all types of skin - even if you’re prone to acne or have particularly sensitive skin. It doesn’t trigger any reactions when applied topically.