How To Calm Irritated Skin


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This time of year, our skin can feel aggravated by the change in temperature. From cold weather outside to high heat indoors, the extreme shift in climate can cause redness, dryness, itchiness, and flaking. All of this can make taking care of your skin more difficult now than in other months. However, irritated skin is not limited to just temporary seasonal changes. “It can be caused by a damaged barrier, using the wrong products, over-exfoliating, or stress,” celebrity esthetician, Shani Darden tells ESSENCE.  

Irritated skin may be fighting multiple aggressors– but finding the cause is only the first step. “Depending on your sensitivity level, skin can be easily irritated by harsh ingredients and even some of the most gentle ingredients as well,” Darden says. “The best way to calm irritated skin is to focus on hydrating and nourishing it.” 

Below, Shani Darden lets us in on the best practices to calm irritated skin– from her top three tips, to her recommended step-by-step skincare routines. 

Hydrate and nourish the skin

“Keep your skin hydrated overall through the use of hydrating serums and moisturizers,” she says. Nourishing your skin can help support and rebuild your skin’s barrier to effectively soothe and protect from irritation. Ingredients like peptides and ceramides can help strengthen, plump, and replenish your skin without congesting your pores. 

Use a gentle cleanser

A facial cleanser is the foundation of any skincare routine. However, “make sure you’re using a gentle cleanser that doesn’t strip the skin,” she says. A harsh cleanser can dry your irritated skin out more, stripping your skin of the remaining moisture. But a concentrated, yet gentle cleanser can effectively remove makeup and dirt, while soothing irritation and inflammation. 

Don’t use actives while healing

Active skin treatments like retinol, chemical peels, and other exfoliants are often recommended to help target common skin concerns. However, if you use these ingredients while your skin heals, they can exacerbate your irritation instead so it’s best to wait until after your skin is healed. “When it’s time to reintroduce any active products, introduce them slowly to allow skin time to acclimate,” she says. “Make sure you’re alternating nights with your active products as well.” 

Adjust your routine


Step 1: “In the morning, start with a gentle cleanser such as my Cleansing Serum that will thoroughly cleanse the skin without stripping it. It contains Olive & Chicory Leaf Extracts to lessen inflammation and calm stressed skin along with Oat Bran Extract to support a healthy barrier.”

Step 2: “After cleansing, you can apply a hydrating serum such as iS Clinical’s Hydra-Cool Serum, which has menthol to cool the skin and reduce redness.”

Step 3: “Follow up with a hydrating sunscreen such as Supergoop’s Play Everyday which has an SPF of 50.” 


Step 1: “At night, the routine will be very similar, cleansing again with Cleansing Serum.”

Step 2: “Follow up with a hydrating serum, and a deeply hydrating moisturizer such as Hydration Peptide Cream which is an oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturizer that replenishes skin with moisture—without clogging pores.” 

Step 3: “Weekly or as needed, add in Signature Nourishing Facial Mask to your routine, which is clinically proven to soothe skin.”


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