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Soothe Your Skin: Solutions for Sensitive Skin

Redness, peeling, stinging -- ouch! Give your fragile complexion the TLC it craves with these dermatologist-tested solutions.
Avoid rough scrubs Treat Flaky Skin

Sure, a rosy glow is a sign of a kick-butt workout (go you!), but if you're still sporting that flush long after you've left the locker room, you're probably among the 60 percent of people in the United States who say they have sensitive skin -- a number that's doubled during the past 30 years, according to Jessica Wu, MD, a dermatologist in Los Angeles. Why the increase? Derms suspect that one of the main reasons is product misuse. "Women are choosing the wrong products for their skin," says Howard Sobel, MD, a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City. That can lead to inflammation, the root of all redness. If you don't treat it, the condition may affect your complexion, making it more vulnerable to wrinkle-inducing damage, Dr. Sobel says. But now, help is on the way! We identified the five most common sensitive-skin complaints and asked top docs to share their best soothing secrets.

Treat Flaky Skin
If you're experiencing scaliness, your skin is sending you an SOS: "It's so inflamed that the cells are lifting, which results in peeling," says Debra Luftman, MD, a dermatologist in Los Angeles. The probable cause is an irritant in one of your products or an allergic reaction to an ingredient.

Calm the culprits
Treat inflammation with a 2.5 percent hydrocortisone cream and stop using scrubs, retinoids, and alpha hydroxyl acids. Also, fortify your skin with a moisturizer that contains niacin, like StriVectin-SD for Sensitive Skin ($79, strivectin.com). You should see a difference in just three days, notes Leslie Baumann, MD, a dermatologist in Miami.

Fight future flare-ups
If it's an allergic reaction, which is characterized by a swollen rash, go to your derm, who can ID the allergen with a patch test. (Preservatives and fragrances are two biggies.) Choose products that are labeled "fragrance-free" and avoid those with a laundry list of ingredients. "Fewer ingredients mean fewer chances to react to something," says Jeanine Downie, MD, a dermatologist in Montclair, New Jersey. Reconsider your cleanser, too. Foaming washes can strip away protective oils. Opt for a milky formula and make sure alcohol isn't one of the first ingredients. We like Burt's Bees Natural Skin Solutions Sensitive Facial Cleanser ($10, burtsbees.com).