So many questions about sensitive skin-friendly products! Which means I need to create a new list for you (I love lists, don’t you?). And while I share all of the products that I’m currently using here, this is a complete and up-to-date list of all clean skincare products that I’ve loved and have found to be safe for my extremely sensitive skin. More than just a quick test-drive, everything here is something I’ve used for a decent period of time (minimum of 6 months). As I’ve mentioned many times, if I can use it, there’s a good chance you can too, because my skin FREAKS OUT at the drop of a dime.
Also providing several of my favorite places to shop for each (if available) so you can best work any available sales/promos.
So here we go, a curated list of the best clean skincare products for sensitive skin, Tracey-approved. Comment below with any questions!
Jump to: CLEANSERS | MISTS | SERUMS/TREATMENTS | MOISTURIZERS | SPF | MASKS
LIVE BOTANICAL | Nourishing Cleansing Oil
This oil cleanser is nothing short of stellar. When I was battling PD, this was one of the key elements to recovering my skin barrier. For me to love an oil cleanser it needs to wash clean WITHOUT double-cleansing, and this does that while removing makeup, sunscreen, the works. Won’t be without it.
LOVINAH | Dragon’s Blood Vitamin C Cleansing Oil
Ooooh does this smell good. And the color!! Definitely feels luxurious on, and like NCO it washes everything away without double-cleansing. Vitamin C can be tricky on my skin, so I was super excited that this cleansing oil didn’t cause me any issues. It is definitely a splurge (luckily I grabbed it with a sale), but I used it in rotation with my other oil cleanser to stretch out my time with it and not overdo on the C.
MAKE | Succulent Skin Wash
This is the first non-oil cleanser I was willing to try after 2 years of using only a gentle oil cleanser (thank you, perioral dermatitis). The niacinamide was what drew me to this. It’s a serum-weight cleanser is great for those days when I just need a lighter cleanser (not that it couldn’t tackle a full face of makeup), or if I’ve used a cleansing balm that requires a $%&# double-cleanse. Gentle, doesn’t dry me out. And I really dig their packaging.
TWELVE BEAUTY | Dara’s Water
2021 was all about keeping my skin’s barrier strong (and keeping the PD away!). I’d been relying on oil cleansers that washed away clean (meaning no double-cleanse…too harsh for me). But I missed having something that wiped away eye makeup before cleansing, and while I’ve tried to be as gentle as possible (no manual exfoliants), I needed some sort of gentle sloughing action, especially when using heaver sunscreens. Enter Dara’s Water. I’d seen it mentioned a few times in Ayla’s newsletters, but this interview finally pushed me to try it. It truly is a wonder for us sensitive-skinned gals. No irritation (I used a super-soft cotton ball), and immediately after use my skin feels hydrated and plump. And I only use it when removing makeup or beach/pool-level sunscreen, so the bottle has lasted a long time. I’ve liked everything I’ve tried from Twelve, but Dara’s Water is truly a gem. UPDATE: made my Best of Clean Beauty finds for 2021!
If you’re a first-time shopper at Ayla Beauty, follow this link to get $10 off your order!
LIVE BOTANICAL | Radiance Elixir
Another mist that has proved it’s effectiveness! Described as a “hydrating mist with serum-like qualities”, it definitely helps with hydration AND I kid you not, makes pores appear to shrink and give an overall look of smoothness. She has several seasonal offerings, and while I’ve blown through 3 bottles of the rose & tulsi blend, I can’t wait to try others.
MARIE VERONIQUE | Pre + Probiotic Daily Mist
I was not a believer in toners/mists until I tried this. This is truly the one item I have to use whenever it looks like I may be starting a perioral dermatitis episode again (Marie Veronique’s line in general saved my skin after trying so, so many ‘remedies’…I wrote about my experience here!). Much easier than a greek yogurt mask, and just as effective if not more so. Won’t be without it.
TOWER28 | SOS (Save. Our. Skin) Daily Rescue Facial Spray
I thought my PD (perioral dermatitis)-fighting arsenal was pretty solid, so as much as I’d already come to love this brand, I didn’t immediately pull the trigger on trying this. So dumb. The glowing reviews are all well-deserved as this mist is something special. If you have any type of skin sensitivity, jump on this. You’ll see redness start to dissipate IMMEDIATELY. It has become my daily routine to spray this on and let it dry while I get dressed, before I begin layering on my other products. Definitely one of my top picks in clean beauty for 2021!
ACTIVIST MANUKA | Green Botanical Face Serum
They had me at “healing, and anti-inflammatory”! Honey is well known for both its antibacterial and moisturizing properties, and when I saw this was included in a Beauty Heroes Discovery box earlier this Spring, I had to try it. Smells good, feels good, and definitely moisturizing. I know it’s labeled a serum, but just a heads’ up that this feels more like a light oil.
KHUS + KHUS | D DROP Humectant Factor
Hydrated skin = less-aged-looking skin. And more importantly hydrated skin keeps your barrier strong. I began using this (along with the Activist Green Serum above) this winter when my skin gets incredibly dry. It was a HUGE help, layered well with all of my other favorite products, and of course causes no irritation. I’d also venture to bet that the peppermint (yes, wee bit of peppermint) helped to get rid of a bit of dermatitis. Super refreshing, especially in hot weather…I wish I could use it whole-body! If you’re looking for a hydrator, this is a great one.
MARIE VERONIQUE | Barrier Restore Serum
Have I mentioned that Marie Veronique’s line completely saved my skin from perioral dermatitis? This is one of those products that I get really antsy about getting low, because it literally stops a PD break-out in its tracks when I see it coming on. Absolutely phenomenal at re-balancing barrier function. Magic in a bottle.
MAYA CHIA | The Straight A™
If you’re looking to add a gentle, clean retinol treatment to your routine, this is the one. I can use this every night without any issues, but I typically insert a moisture-bomb night once or twice a week, plus a night or 2 of Altreno (tretinoin). In the warmer months this is plenty moisturizing for me, but in the winter I layer with a cream.
MAYA CHIA | The Super Lift Vitamin C-More
I’ve finally found a vitamin C serum that doesn’t freak my skin out! This really does have a lovely, immediate firming effect on the skin, and I’m really interested to see the long-term results. And the smell…it’s like walking through an orange grove. Totally love that I can now use a topical Vitamin C, and it was one of my top clean beauty loves of 2021!
TRUE BOTANICALS | Chebula Active Immunity Serum
Another great hydrator and maxed out with antioxidants! I’m tickled I can use this as I’d all but given up on TB…much of their line contains essential oils, which I love but my skin doesn’t. And while this does smell of honey, I haven’t experienced any irritation (though full disclosure, I rotate this in with my other hydrators, so I’m only using a few times per week). Layers beautifully, skin looks and feels plump and healthy. Love it!
CV SKINLABS | Calming Moisture
This is one moisturizer I think everyone should have in their arsenal. This is a light-feeling lotion, but boy does it hydrate. It also soothes irritated skin and calms redness. Fragrance-free and safe for the most sensitive of skin. It’s been a lifesaver for times when I couldn’t use anything else, and has also been great on my teenagers’ skin when dealing with irritated acne flare-ups…hydrated without causing more acne. Another one I won’t be without!
LE PRUNIER | Plum Beauty Oil
I’m proud to say that I started using this oil not too long after it launched, and waaay before all the hype. But know this…the hype is real. My skin loves this, and in fact it was one of the only oil moisturizers I could use for a long time (thanks again, PD). Pure plum oil, from my home state! And delivers on plump, moisturized skin. Just can’t beat it.
LIVE BOTANICAL | Ambient Moisture Liquid
This is a lovely lightweight moisturizer…a cross between a lotion and a serum. I love this in the summer on its own underneath my SPF, and in the drier months I mix this in with an oil for a bit more moisture oomph. It gives the skin a velvety, moisturized feel. And somehow it’s a bit magical in that it works for drier folks like me, but my oily friend loves it too! Great for the sensitive-skinned and acne-prone. Truly a workhorse.
MAYA CHIA | The Advanced Response Complex Face & Neck Firming Cream
Miracle worker. I almost didn’t try this because my skin was so reactive this winter, but I’ve been hunting for something that’s great for the neck area, and the initial reviews were so fantastic. I have great luck with this line and couldn’t pass up a good deal, so I jumped in. So freaking glad I did!! I’ve tried too many anti-aging creams in the past decade, and this one right here is truly the only one I’ve used that has visible results. Not only did my irritations go away, my skins just looks…younger. And it’s definitely firmed up my neck, whoopheeeeee!!! I wish I could afford to slather it over my entire body. Believe the hype, this one is a hero product!
VOTARY | Super Seed Facial Oil and Super Seed Nutrient Cream
Oooh Votary, you kill me. I got this duo from Boxwalla for a killer deal, and while I’m so glad to have found them, when I run out of the stash I’ve acquired (thanks, Poshmark!) I’m not sure what I’ll do. These are spendy, folks. But the oil is fragrance free and fantastic…and on days my skin is super-reactive, it’s my go-to as I know it won’t irritate in any way. And the bottle is huge…since I rotate it with Le Prunier, it’s lasted forever. But the cream…ooooh the cream. It is so nourishing (think old school cold cream at night!), but somehow has this fantastic matte dry-down. It soothes and calms and hydrates like nothing else. I don’t need the cream as much in the summer (unless I’ve been a bad girl with my SPF), but in the winter, it’s a lifesaver for dry skin and what I reach for most nights. Hard to come by in the States…hoping more shops pick up this line!
for deep/treatment moisture…
LIVE BOTANICAL | Sanctuary Barrier Balm
This balm is just freaking gorgeous. And comforting. And a lifesaver in the winter. I don’t know how Carolyn works her magic, but this essential oil free balm is not only amazing at sealing in hydration, it’s also somehow very breathable. Typically anything labeled a ‘balm’ will break me out, but not this little beauty. Fantastic as an overnight treatment to lock in hydration and deliver serums/treatments. And the smell is straight out of a walk in the forest…a bit of divinity. While it’s superb on the face, I’ve also used it on my lips, winter hands and cuticles, heels and even a teeny bit on the ends of my hair when my curls were frizzing. I don’t use it often in the warmer months, but after a day at the beach I’ll mix a bit in with a hydrating serum and it restores and soothes my face instantly. Another staple, so well done.
MARIE VERONIQUE | Barrier Lipid Complex
I pondered placing this in the ‘Serums’ section, but it truly does belong here as it’s a killer of a moisturizer! Again, it’s one of the products that saved my skin during bouts of perioral dermatitis. As you’ll read in reviews, it does not smell great. But it also doesn’t have any essential oils, which makes it great for us sensitive types. And it just feels so damn good when you put it on. In the summer I don’t need this quite as much…maybe once a week, or just if I can feel any dry patches (or PD) coming on. But in the winter, every 2 nights keeps my skin happy. Can’t be without it, I stock up during sales!
MOISTURIZERS with SPF
I did a big breakdown on the best clean moisturizers with SPF for sensitive skin…check it out if you’d like some additional scoop, including why sunscreen can actually reverse aging. Yes, reverse.
FITGLOW BEAUTY | Vita Shield SPF 30
I have been through some sunscreens, y’all. And when it comes to a clean, mineral-based sunscreen for everyday, this is by far the best. Not shiny (shiny is no bueno on mid-40’s skin IMHO) – I’d say it dries down to demi-matte/satin on me, no white cast if rubbed in properly, plays nicely with serums/oils/moisturizers (no pilling) and best of all no break-outs or irritation. Yes the newest formula is just as fantastic as the previous, and still my #1!
ERIN’S FACES | Peptide SPF 30
This one is right up there with the Honua Malu (next up). I almost didn’t give it a try because it has titanium dioxide (alongside non-nano zinc oxide), and I’ve found that titanium dioxide in higher concentrations causes my skin to freak out. But I’m so happy to say that I haven’t had any reactions to this! It’s sublimely lightweight while still being hydrating and moisturizing. In fact it’s so lovely to put on that I’ve put it not only on my face, neck and chest, but also my hands and arms, so easy! No noticeable whitecast after rubbing in well, plays nicely with all the things, reef safe, no fragrance, totally clean (Think Dirty rating of 1!) and has a satin finish.
HONUA HAWAIIAN SKINCARE | Malu SPF 30
This daily clean sunscreen is an extremely close runner-up to the Fitglow. In the summer, it’s a bit too glowy for me and has a wee bit of whitecast, but it’s perfection in the dryer months (saved me this winter!). If you stay on the drier side in the warmer months or just prefer a bit of a glowy finish vs the satin, get this! The glow is the only thing that keeps this at runner-up status for me. Reef safe, hydrating, beautiful but light smell, plays nicely with makeup and doesn’t irritate my crazy skin.
KINFIELD | Daily Dew SPF 35
I’m not sure what magickery Kinfield used to create this, but they changed the SPF game with this one. Oh, I was so excited when I found this last summer. Finally, FINALLY, a clean, non-nano zinc-based face sunscreen that breathes! You know when you exercise with your mineral-based sunscreen on, and it feels like your whole face is a wet sloppy mess (because it is)? Not the case with Daily Dew! No mess, no crazy sweating, smells great, very little white cast, not hard on the budget, water-resistant and reef-friendly. I will say it’s a bit glowy for me (I prefer a more satin finish), but honestly I’m really only using it for workouts and beach/pool time anyway. For those that do like some glow, Daily Dew did seem to play nicely with makeup. Doesn’t irritate my sensitive skin, plays nicely with my other skincare products, this, my friend, is a GAME. CHANGER. Best of 2021!
KINSHIP | Self Reflect SPF 32
Glow lovers, this one is for you! I discovered this when I was battling perioral dermatitis, and it was a lifesaver in that not only did it not further irritate my already pissed-off skin, but I’m sure it’s probiotics helped in the healing (the probiotics is what drew me to it, even though I knew it would be a glowy finish). It’s also blue light protective and hits all of the big checks. A stellar product, and should I ever have to deal with PD again, I’ll go back to it!
LEAHLANI SKINCARE | Mermaid Mask
I fell in love with Leahlani back when she was still on Etsy…a bit over 5 years ago. The Mermaid Mask has continued to be one of my favorite products, and luckily has been safe on my crazy skin. This emerald green pot of goodness is truly a superfood smoothie for your skin, and once again honey comes through for hydration and healing (bit of a theme going on, yeah?). Skin is left soft, plump, glowy and moisturized. How can you not love a green face mask??
LIVE BOTANICAL | Tidal Moon Moisture Mask
I’ll be honest, I love all of the Live Botanical masks that I’ve tried. But I’m a sucker for the gorgeous blue color of Tidal Moon, and it’s so good for not only hydrating and moisturizing, but also calming any sort of irritations, including acne. In fact my daughter and I had a girls’ night recently, and she was worried this would worsen a little hormonal break-out she was dealing with. She was surprised when it actually made things much better! True magic. Unlike a lot of other honey-based masks, this one isn’t sticky at all…the texture is almost like a whipped gel. Once a limited edition, I’m so happy it’s now a permanent part of the line!
LIVE BOTANICAL | Glowing Honey Mask
Raw honey is fantastic for hydrating, along with being anti-bacterial. Combine that with whole herbs, botanical extracts and fruit enzymes and you have a mask that cleans, moisturizes and brightens your skin. This does contain rose and chamomile essential oils, but luckily these calming oils have not caused me any problems. The herbal grains provide the gentlest bit of exfoliation on removal (which is about all the manual exfoliation my skin can do), and afterwards my skin feels lovely…clean, nourished and moisturized!
M PICAUT | Hydra Lagoon Overnight Mask
This is hands down one of my favorite products. It truly delivers on its promises, and I’ve experienced very few products that provide such immediate, significant results. Moisture-replenishing, soothing, firming, healing…and it’s somehow super rich without being greasy or overly thick. Perfect after a day in the sun or any time your skin feels depleted. I’m itching to go put some on just writing this! It’s simply magic.
more coming soon…under construction!
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