Think you’ve got it? If your face feels tight and has a sandpapery texture, it could be dry—or simply dehydrated. Dehydrated skin is exactly what it sounds like: a complexion lacking water, says Karen Kim, MD, a dermatologist in Chesnut Hill, Mass. It could be a result of your diet, the weather, or the products you’re using. (Too much alcohol in a product is a common culprit.) But dehydrated skin is a temporary condition, whereas dry skin is a type—the one you’re born with. Dry skin doesn’t produce enough oil, so it’s always in need of a dose of moisture. And when dryness peaks, skin cells can start to lift, causing irritation and itchiness.
What to do: If you wash your skin twice a day, consider doing so just at night, with a gentle soap-free cleanser. And keep your skin-care regimen simple, says Dr. Kim: “No toner, astringent, or products that contain alcohol.” Don’t attempt to scrub away any flakes; harsh exfoliants can worsen the problem. Instead, layer on a mega-hydrating cream that has ceramides, a peptide complex, and niacinamide. And be generous, advises Dr. Kim: “I tell my patients with dryness to apply emollients two or three times a day.” Overnight masks—used once a week—can also pack a potent hydration punch.
Sensitive skin complaint #4: Breakouts
Think you’ve got them? Even though you’re well beyond puberty, pimples pop up the way they did before the prom. What gives? Acne occurs for a number of reasons, including stress, lack of sleep, overactive oil glands, and exposure to comedogenic (pore-clogging) products—but sensitive skin types are particularly susceptible because they’re naturally prone to inflammation.
What to do: Take note of when you break out—are there situations or products that bring on blemishes? If you get pimples after wearing a specific makeup product, say, stop using it (obviously) and scrutinize the ingredient list for suspects that could be to blame. Stick with a mild cleanser, then spot-treat with salicylic acid—it not only helps unplug clogged pores but is also less irritating than benzoyl peroxide, which can be harsh on sensitive skin. Treatments with sulfur, which draws oil out of blocked pores and inhibits breakouts, can also be worked into your regimen. Don’t forget to moisturize, and be sure to follow with SPF. Finally, consider spacing out your trips to the sushi bar: “Eating a lot of iodine, found in shellfish and spinach, can lead to acne by clogging hair follicles,” says Dr. Schultz.