Sensitive Skin Part 2: What Should You Avoid & How Can You Combat It?

The ESK blog

Sensitive Skin Part 2: What Should You Avoid & How Can You Combat It?

06 October 2021

Continuing on from our Sensitive Skin Part 1 Blog (what it is, what causes it and symptoms to look out for) Doctor Ginni has put together her best advice to help you navigate through the world of skincare ingredients and get you the glowing skin you deserve. 

Skincare ingredients to combat sensitive skin


Dermatologists recommend mineral or inorganic sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, for people with sensitive skin. Chemical sunscreens tend to be more irritating. Mineral-based sunscreens primarily reflect ultraviolet radiation (and secondarily absorb UVR). Both zinc and titanium are coated with silicone to prevent secondary oxygen radicals being released as a result of ultraviolet absorption. 

Here at ESK our biggest advice is to wear sunscreen daily, especially those with sensitive skin. So we created our Zinc Shade; a broad-spectrum sunscreen and daily moisturiser containing zinc oxide to protect you from both UVA & UVB rays. 

Zinc Shade

Zinc Shade

Zinc Shade – UV Protection Skincare Product

Zinc Shade based daily moisturiser providing you with the protection you need from both UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays.

  • Protects from UVA and UVB protection
  • Can be used under make-up
  • Rated SPF15

Niacinamide AKA Nicotinamide/ Vitamin B3

This ingredient has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and skin barrier repair qualities. This is why it is recommended for inflammatory skin conditions including acne, rosacea and dermatitis. Most studies are done using Niacinamide at between 1 and 5% concentrations with good evidence. There is no good evidence for higher concentrations having any skin benefits. Although studies in animals show it doesn’t cause side effects at up to 20% concentrations and the same can be said of 10% concentrations in human safety trials.

Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid (HA) is the largest component of the extracellular matrix- the skin’s scaffolding. It is critical for maintaining hydration and elasticity in the skin, as well as for tissue healing. Losing HA from your skin, leads to loss of skin moisture. For this reason, it is increasingly used in skincare targeting dry and sensitive skin. But not all HA is equal. High molecular weight HA that is used in many serums doesn’t penetrate the skin barrier and instead sits on top of the skin. That’s not necessarily all bad news. Above roughly 300 kDa, HA stays on the skin where it forms a barrier, locking in moisture and even attracting water from the air. Having a combination of molecular weights above and below 300kDa is ideal for skin hydration. Just be careful of low molecular weight HA, it can cause hypersensitivity. The concentration? Evidence sits at between 1 and 1.5%.


Ceramides are important parts of the skin structure, and apart from maintaining structural scaffolding in the stratum corneum, as well as moisture retention and skin repair. While the evidence is still emerging, it seems that adding ceramides to skincare can reduce inflammation in the skin. They also improve skin barrier and hydration. There are so many ceramides. Which ones should you look for in your skincare for sensitive skin? There is emerging evidence that phytosphingosine, ceramide I, ceramide III and ceramide VI-II hydrate the skin and reduce trans epidermal water loss.

We recently launched the Repair + to house these 3 ingredients, specifically designed to target dry and sensitive skin.

Repair +

Repair +

Stay hydrated all day with this deeply nourishing cream to repair irritable, dry and moody skin to restore it to its natural radiance.

  • Hydrate dry and sensitive skin.
  • Improve acne, rosacea, psoriasis and eczema symptoms. 
  • Repair skin's barrier function

I want to have anti-aging cosmeceutical skincare, but I have sensitive skin. What can I do?

Good news! Many of the best cosmeceutical skincare ingredients are super well tolerated and there is NO NEED to give up on anti-ageing skincare just because your skin is sensitive.

Go for it;


We already discussed the anti-inflammatory and hydrating qualities of niacinamide. But it is also a blockbuster anti-ageing ingredient, In ageing skin, it helps build collagen, prevents blotchiness, skin sallowing or yellowing, as well as reducing fine lines and wrinkles. It also prevents the transfer of pigment from the melanosome to the superficial skin cells, making it an effective lightening agent. 


When it comes to cosmeceutical skincare, no ingredient has more evidence to support its use than Vitamin A. This blockbuster ingredient has strong evidence for its ability to promote collagen growth, increase skin elasticity, and even out pigmentation. Retinaldehyde AKA Retinal  is a derivative of Vitamin A and is clinically proven to be 20 times more powerful than its old school cousin, Retinol. And the great news is that apart from its superior efficacy, Retinal is extremely well tolerated, even by the most sensitive skin.

Our hero product Ultimate A includes 0.06% Retinal to help you combat the signs of ageing without irritating your skin. 

Ultimate A

Ultimate A

Vitamins A and B. High strength. Effortlessly improves skin texture and tone for skin that is soft smooth and supple. Also effective in managing acne. 

  • Rebuild collagen
  • Increase skin elasticity
  • Reduce hyperpigmentation


There are many naturally occurring human peptides (small proteins) that have various functions such as cellular communication, cell proliferation, cell migration, mediation of inflammation, angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels), and melanogenesis (making of pigment). We’re discovering more of them and learning more about them all the time. For example Palmitoyl tripeptide-1 is involved in collagen renewal and has been compared to vitamin A, minus the irritation. Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 has anti-inflammatory and anti-aging effects. The studies are small and more work is needed. But both are examples of well tolerated peptides for any skin type.

Our gentle Peptide Primer is a rich peptide based moisturiser to soothe, nourish and moisturise your skin. 

Peptide Primer

Peptide Primer

A rich, nourishing and soothing moisturiser.

  • Nourishing cream for sensitive skin
  • Make-up primer 


If you are troubled by age spots, there is good news! 4-n-Butylresorcinol directly inhibits the activities of tyrosinase and tyrosinase-related protein-1 (TRP-1) which are enzymes essential for making the melanin pigment in the first place. Other tyrosinase inhibitors, like Hydroquinone are as effective as 4-n-Butylresorcinol but can cause irritation and even rebound pigmentation when you stop using it. These are side effects we don’t see with 4-n-Butylresorcinol, which is super well tolerated, even by people with sensitive skin.

We created the Enlighten containing 4-n-Butylresorcinol and niacinamide to improve your skin barrier and actively reduce and prevent pigmentation safely. 



A gentle yet effective tyrosinase inhibitor to fade pigmentation and age spots.

  • Lighten & brighten skin appearance
  • Even out skin tone 
  • Increase skin elasticity 

Tread with caution;

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

These chemical exfoliators are well known triggers of skin sensitivity.

Vitamin C

Despite its anti-inflammatory effects, vitamin C products can cause irritation.

Small declaration here - I have truly sensitive skin and use both every day without any problem. But during a flare up I back off the AHAs for a week or so.

Chemical sunscreens

In order to get a high SPF, many sunscreens rely on organic or chemical sunscreens. Many are irritating and dermatologists suggest using them with caution. I get redness itching and breakout from most sun screens other than Zinc Shade!

Avoid altogether

  • Soaps and cleansers with a pH at or above 7
  • Anything to which you have had a previous reaction

And there you have it. We hope you learned something new from our Sensitive Skin Blogs and have found inspiration knowing that your sensitive skin can be healthy, bright and happy with the right ingredients!