How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

This article was co-authored by Mohiba Tareen, MD. Mohiba Tareen is a board certified Dermatologist and the founder of Tareen Dermatology located in Roseville, Maplewood and Faribault, Minnesota. Dr. Tareen completed medical school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she was inducted into the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha honor society. While a dermatology resident at Columbia University in New York City, she won the Conrad Stritzler award of the New York Dermatologic Society and was published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. Tareen then completed a procedural fellowship which focused on dermatologic surgery, laser, and cosmetic dermatology.

There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

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The skin on your face is already vulnerable to the effects of the sun, environmental pollutants, and chemicals found in cosmetics and facial care products. If you have sensitive skin, which tends to react to products containing fragrance, alcohol, or other harsh ingredients with itchiness, dryness, or irritation, your facial skin faces even more challenges. In order to avoid irritating your skin, familiarize yourself with your skin type and address its particular needs in your skincare routine.

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

Mohiba Tareen, MD
FAAD Board Certified Dermatologist Expert Interview. 26 March 2020.

  • Remember that just because a product works well for someone else with sensitive skin, it might not work well for you. Additionally, more expensive products are not necessarily better than cheaper ones.
  • How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

    How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

    How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

    How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

    How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

    Mohiba Tareen, MD
    FAAD Board Certified Dermatologist Expert Interview. 26 March 2020. Most people with sensitive skin need a protective layer to re-hydrate the skin after cleansing. Look for products marked specifically for sensitive skin, which tend to be fragrance-free and free of harsh chemicals.

      If you will be outdoors at all, even to drive a car, be sure that you use a product with sunscreen. [10] X Expert Source

    Mohiba Tareen, MD
    FAAD Board Certified Dermatologist Expert Interview. 26 March 2020. Choose a sunscreen offering broad spectrum coverage and an SPF of 30. [11] X Trustworthy Source American Academy of Dermatology Professional organization made of over 20,000 certified dermatologists Go to source If your skin is sensitive to chemical sunscreens, try a broad spectrum sunscreen containing a physical blocker like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which tends to be gentle on sensitive skin. [12] X Research source

  • Other gentle moisturizers that often work well for people with sensitive skin include Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion for oily to normal skin or Bare Minerals Purely Nourishing Cream for very dry skin.
  • How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

    Mohiba Tareen, MD
    FAAD Board Certified Dermatologist Expert Interview. 26 March 2020. [14] X Research source

    • If you have no other major issues with your skin (like eczema, acne, or extreme oiliness or dryness), it is possible that you can reduce your skincare routine to a mild face wash, a sunscreen, and a moisturizer. In some cases, the sunscreen and moisturizer might be the same product.
    • Remember that cosmetic products can also be irritating, so choose formulas that are fragrance-free, non-comedogenic (that is, won’t clog your pores), and with as few ingredients as possible. Some brands that claim to be good for sensitive skin include Clinique and bareMinerals.

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    The care of sensitive skin is important and starts with a daily routine of keeping your face clean. There is a right and wrong way to wash your face, whether you have sensitive skin or not. The skin of your face is always exposed to many elements and is affected by sun exposure, debris, environmental pollutants, and the ingredients in your skin care products or makeup.

    Understanding what your skin needs to stay healthy and to combat the harmful things its exposed to daily, is the key to managing sensitive skin starting with how you wash your face.

    1. Know Your Sensitive Skin Type

    With sensitive skin, it’s not only important to know if you have dry, oily, combination or normal skin, but also what type of irritation you’re prone to. For example, you may have dry but acne-prone skin which requires special needs, or oily skin with flaky patches.. No matter which type or skin condition, choose as few products as possible for your daily routine. Using too many products or constantly adding or trying new ones, can exacerbate your delicate skin.

    2. How to Choose the Best Cleanser for Your Sensitive skin

    There are many types of sensitive skin. Just because a particular cleanser works for someone else with sensitive skin, it may not work for you. A self-patch test can help, if you haven’t checked with your dermatologist for ingredients you may be sensitive to. There are general guidelines you need for choosing the best cleanser for the care of your sensitive skin:

    Avoid products with fragrance. Only use fragrance-free products. Not only does fragrance contain numerous toxins, but it can flare up skin conditions or cause allergies.

    Plant ingredients in products may sound nice and “natural”, but nothing is further from the truth. Most plants contain harsh preservatives to prevent mold, even if it’s not listed on the label. Some of the most common allergy producing ones include plant extracts, essential oils, including lavender, peppermint, menthol, eucalyptus, and camphor

    Most anti-aging or treatment products contain harsh ingredients such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid or retinols. Learn what your skin needs to be healthy and youthful, and choose skin care based on that, not what the label promises.

    Formaldehyde, parabens and alcohol are some of the other ingredients to look out for and avoid.

    Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a harsh detergent found in many cleansers and most soaps. It can leave your face stripped of oil. It’s best to use aSLS free cleanser. Since SLS is the common ingredient in soaps, it’s best to avoid them. Facial wipes may also contain harsh ingredients as well. Waterproof makeup may be hard to clean off your face. There are more gentle ways to clean your face of makeup, as described below, than with harsh soaps and makeup removers.

    3. How to Wash Your Sensitive Skin

    For dry sensitive skin wash your face with a gentle mild lotion cleanser. These types are hydrating and will not leave your face feeling tight and itchy. Dry skin doesn’t need to use an exfoliator. These abrasive scrubs can damage your skin. If you tend to have breakouts, then a gentle exfoliating scrub should only be used once a week at the most.

    Wash once a day at nigh time with your cleanser, rinsing off well with warm or cool water, never hot. Gently pat dry with a soft towel. Make sure not to scrub too hard when washing your face or drying. Apply a gentle hypoallergenic fragrance-free moisturizer within 3 minutes of washing your face. Opt for a cream or oil moisturizer, but stay away from mineral oil, lanolin, and petrolatum types of ingredients. These contain emollients, but also unnecessary contaminants. In the morning only rinse, since washing with a cleanser may dry your skin more. Once a day cleansing is sufficient for dry skin. Washing too frequently will not help skin hydration, but make it more dry.

    To remove makeup that your cleanser won’t get off, use a cotton or cosmetic pad with a cream moisturizer. This will clean off the makeup without drying your skin. Follow with washing your face as described.

    If you have oily or acne prone sensitive skin you may think antibacterial soap is what you need, but these are irritating and can be drying. A gentle exfoliating scrub can be helpful to remove dead surface cells, allowing healthy, clear skin to surface. A gentle scrub can be used as often as once or twice a week. Avoid harsh abrasive scrubs.

    To wash, use a gentle face wash for oily skin. Always use an alcohol-free toner with alphahydroxy acids (AHA) following washing your face. This completes the cleaning of pores and helps balance the pH of your skin, which is important for an even tone complexion.

    Wash two times a day, before you go to bed and when you wake up. Wash your hands, and wet your face with lukewarm water. Gently clean without scrubbing. Rinse with lukewarm water. If the water is too hot, the oily layer of your skin, called sebum, will be affected. To remove waterproof makeup, use a makeup pad with a light oil-free facial lotion. This will be the same lotion to moisturize after washing your face. To dry, pat your face with a soft small towel or wash cloth. Change towels daily if you have acne.

    Combination skin is tricky since you have dry areas as well as oily sections on your face. Be practical and cleanse dry and oily areas appropriately.

    Recommended SLS Free Lotion Cleansers for Sensitive Skin

    Because you shouldn’t see red when you wash your face.

    How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

    Finding the best face wash can be a huge pain in the you know what when you have sensitive skin. Like, you need a cleanser that will do a thorough job of cleaning your skin without turning it into a dry, red, super-irritated mess. And let’s be real: That carefully balanced formula can be hard to come by.

    Wondering what sensitive skin means, exactly? “Sensitive skin refers to burning and stinging of the skin when you use personal care products,” explains Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “The wrong skincare products easily disrupt the skin barrier in people with sensitive skin, leading to microscopic cracks, loss of hydration, and inflammation.” Noted!

    So what’s the best way to avoid irritating your face if you’ve got sensitive skin? In general, Dr. Zeichner recommends sticking to gentle, soap-free cleansers if you can (since true soap can be harsh and drying). He also suggests you steer clear of exfoliating products (i.e. anything that says brightening or has active ingredients like glycolic acid is a no-go for you). These “can cause more harm than good,” says Dr. Zeichner.

    On top of that, you should also be wary of cleansers that contain parabens, sulfates, or fragrances says Miriam Vega Gonzalez, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Philadelphia. “Look for products that have the least amount of ingredients on the label.”

    Instead, try any one of these 10 best face washes for sensitive skin. That’s right! Keep reading for the most gentle cleansers out there, according to experts.

    How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

    This might sound like a no brainer, but we’ll bet you’re probably doing it wrong – most men are. Learn how to properly wash your face, when to do it, and how to use a face wash for men.

    Learn Your Skin Type

    Before putting anything on your face or embarking on any type of men’s skin care routine, you need to know your skin type. While this may seem hard to figure out – it’s not.

    Dry or sensitive skin – If you take a shower, without washing your face, does your skin feel dry for the few hours? If so, you probably have dry skin. Does your skin become red for a few hours after your shower? If so, you probably have sensitive skin.

    Normal skin – If you can take a shower or wash your face without any sensitivity or dryness, you probably have a normal skin type.

    Oily skin – This one is pretty obvious, but if there’s an oily shine to your whole face most of the time, you most likely have oily skin. Is the oily zone only on the forehead and nose, yet your cheeks are often dry? Then you have what’s called combo type skin.

    For a more in depth look, read our Men’s Skin Type guide.

    Buy the Best Men’s Face Wash for Your Skin Type

    Once you know your skin type, you should then buy an appropriate face wash meant for your skin type. The majority of face washes for men list on the bottle what type of skin the face wash is for. This is important because if you buy a men’s face wash not meant to be used on your skin type, it will probably be a complete waste of money.

    When to Wash Your Face

    A guy should wash their face twice a day – when he wakes up in the morning and before he goes to bed. If you have oily skin, you may want to try bringing a small bottle of face wash to the office and give yourself a mid day cleanse to remove excess shine.

    Cleansing in the morning helps refresh your face and brighten it up to take on the day. Washing at night allows you to remove oil, bacteria, and impurities from sitting in your pores all nice while sleeping.

    How to Wash Your Face

    We recommend always washing your face in the shower as the steam will help open up the pores, allowing the face wash to better work its way into your pores. If you don’t wash your face in the shower, always make sure to splash some lukewarm water over it a few times before applying a men’s facial cleanser. Water that is too warm can irritate the skin.

    Washing in the shower: Take a shower as usual, but wash everything except your face. Washing your face should be the last step. The reason being is that if you wash your face first, any residue from your hair will drip down onto your face, defeating the purpose of washing it.

    When you’re ready to wash your face, rub a quarter size amount of men’s face wash into your hand, working it into a slight lather.

    Rub the face wash gently all over your face, even working up into your hairline and around your neck. Don’t rub the face wash into your skin too hard as you don’t want to irritate it or stretch the skin out. Once rubbed in, let the men’s face wash sit on your skin for about 15 seconds, so it can absorb in. Finally, rinse off your face with cool water to close the pores.

    Finish Up

    After you’ve properly washed your face, it’s important to put hydration back into your skin. Even the best natural face washes for men can remove some needed oils from the skin, so replacing them is vital to maintain firm, healthy skin. Use a dab of natural face moisturizer for men after you wash your face.

    How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

    It can be extremely difficult to feel healthy when you have skin discomfort. Skin that feels constantly stressed can cause frustration and a loss of confidence, but there are some simple steps that you can take to help.

    1. Cleanse, but be gentle

    The ideal kind of facial cleanser is one that maintains your skin’s natural moisture, doing its job to remove dirt, makeup and excess oil, while not drying out the skin. Look for a soap-free, fragrance-free, gentle cleanser like Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, or Cetaphil Gentle Foaming Cleanser. And be sure not to over-wash, as this can lead to dryness and irritation. Cleansing your face once in the morning and once in the evening should be enough.

    2. Moisturize

    As well as helping your skin to feel good, moisturizers can improve hydration, reduce discomfort and help restore the skin’s natural moisture barrier. Look for a gentle moisturizer that’s specifically formulated for sensitive skin and that doesn’t contain unnecessary (and potentially irritating) extra ingredients such as colors and fragrances like Cetaphil Daily Hydrating Lotion, Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer with SPF15, or Cetaphil PRO DermaControl Oil Absorbing Moisturizer. A good idea may be to look for a formula that works to replenish the skin’s lipids while strengthening the skin’s natural barrier.

    3. Avoid triggers

    Sensitive skin, by definition, is the negative reaction of skin to certain triggers. Sometimes the best way to cope with this is to avoid these triggers altogether. Pay attention to what might be causing your sensitive skin to flare up: is it that new perfume, certain fabrics that you wear, or too much time in the sun? Other causes might be makeup, air-conditioning or central heating. Being aware of what causes your specific sensitive skin flare-ups lets you plan appropriately.

    4. Always use sunscreen

    Use of facial sunscreen has been shown to actively help sensitive skin. Choose a moisturizer with SPF to reduce the likelihood of acute UV exposure which could affect your skin’s overall health (even when you’re indoors). When you’re out in the sun, it’s a good idea to use a specific sunscreen (and not just a moisturizer with SPF), and be sure to wear a hat and sunglasses.

    5. Avoid harsh exfoliation

    Regular exfoliation helps to deep clean skin, removing irritants, impurities and pollutants so it’s good practice. Plus exfoliation has the added benefit of removing dead skin cells and promoting skin renewal. But not all facial scrubs are the same. When looking for an exfoliating product, be sure to use one that’s specifically designed for sensitive skin, like Cetaphil Extra Gentle Daily Scrub.

    Whatever products you use, it’s important to carve out a regular skincare routine that works for you, your lifestyle and your sensitive skin.

    Because you shouldn’t see red when you wash your face.

    How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

    Finding the best face wash can be a huge pain in the you know what when you have sensitive skin. Like, you need a cleanser that will do a thorough job of cleaning your skin without turning it into a dry, red, super-irritated mess. And let’s be real: That carefully balanced formula can be hard to come by.

    Wondering what sensitive skin means, exactly? “Sensitive skin refers to burning and stinging of the skin when you use personal care products,” explains Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “The wrong skincare products easily disrupt the skin barrier in people with sensitive skin, leading to microscopic cracks, loss of hydration, and inflammation.” Noted!

    So what’s the best way to avoid irritating your face if you’ve got sensitive skin? In general, Dr. Zeichner recommends sticking to gentle, soap-free cleansers if you can (since true soap can be harsh and drying). He also suggests you steer clear of exfoliating products (i.e. anything that says brightening or has active ingredients like glycolic acid is a no-go for you). These “can cause more harm than good,” says Dr. Zeichner.

    On top of that, you should also be wary of cleansers that contain parabens, sulfates, or fragrances says Miriam Vega Gonzalez, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Philadelphia. “Look for products that have the least amount of ingredients on the label.”

    Instead, try any one of these 10 best face washes for sensitive skin. That’s right! Keep reading for the most gentle cleansers out there, according to experts.

    How to wash your face when you have a sensitive skin

    People with dry, sensitive, and hard to manage skin have to endure uncomfortable flare-ups of red, flaky, and itchy skin. Aging skin, different weather, and harmful skincare products can also be the reason for your unhealthy skin. To help your dry and sensitive skin look healthy once again, you’ll need a simple, everyday skincare routine that will work perfectly on your skin type. This article will help you create a dry, sensitive skincare routine with sharp skincare tips to make your skin look healthy, smooth, and hydrated.

    Let’s begin with answering the question:

    What Is Dry, Sensitive Skin?

    The American Academy of Dermatology recently revealed that about 56 percent of us have sensitive skin. And when it comes to dry skin, it is generally associated with sensitive skin because moisture present in the dry skin becomes almost impossible to retain. In simple terms, dry skin is connected with a skin condition that always breaks out in rashes, burns, or stings and gets reddish spots.

    As mentioned earlier, what causes these problems could be weather and the products used on the skin. Additionally, when you are frequently changing skincare products, you are doing nothing but inviting trouble. And if you are trying anti-aging treatments like spa facials that are using micro-abrasions or chemical peels, they may be the other reason for developing dry, sensitive skin. However, using the right skincare products can make a huge difference and improve the quality of your skin quickly.

    Next, we discuss:

    How to Efficiently Cleanse Dry Sensitive Skin

    Dead skin cells, bacteria, accumulation of oil, and pollution on your skin can severely damage skin health. The first step is to cleanse it efficiently. Below are the tips that will help you in improving your skin.

    • Never forget to wash your face at night. Clogged pores on your face can cause inflammation, irritation, and breakouts. And if you have dry, sensitive skin, it’s essential that you clean your face twice a day and before bed is the ideal time to do so.
    • Wash your face with a gentle soap that specializes in cleansing dry skin. A soap that is rich in natural ingredients such as avocado oil is perfect for dry skin. And if you want to give your skin the benefit of natural extracts, a bar of homemade soap is ideal for dry skin problems. They can quickly clear all the harsh ingredients that are causing dryness and irritation on your skin.
    • When you are using the right cleanser for your skin, your skin will feel soft and not dry or harsh. So, when after washing your skin still feels tight, dry, and irritated, it means it’s time to change cleansers and find something that suits your skin better.
    • In addition to cleansers rich in sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), avoid applying cleaners that are rich in fragrance, parabens, alcohol, and antimicrobial ingredients like Triclosan. It’s because antimicrobial and fragrant products can cause further dryness and irritation on your skin.
    • Make sure you wash your face with lukewarm water and never with hot water. Limit long showers under hot water. Because humidity is only going to increase dryness in your skin, and if you keep your shower door closed, you get to increase moisture level as you bathe or shower.
    • Never use harsh scrubs, washcloths, and loofas on your skin.
    • Always wash your face with care and dry it with a smooth cotton towel. Avoid rubbing as you dry. Also, it’s ideal for applying a moisturizer when your skin is somewhat damp because this will help the moisturizer properly penetrate the skin.
    • When you wake in the morning, rinse your face to refresh. There is no need to wash your face with a cleanser again. Overusing the cleanser can result in further drying out your skin.

    This brings us to some of the most effective:

    Dry and Sensitive Skincare Tips

    When you have sensitive skin, it quickly becomes irritated. Therefore, you need to learn the do’s and don’ts of an effective dry skin skincare routine.

    • Excessive exposure to the sun without wearing sun protection is not recommended for any skin. Many renowned sunscreen manufacturers make products that contain benzophenones and other ingredients that could be harmful to your skin. Instead of going for a regular sunscreen, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 20 or SPF 30 that contains useful physical sunblocks of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. These two ingredients are very gentle and effective on your dry skin.
    • Skin peels and regular salon treatments may worsen the problem for you. Avoid touching your face as much as possible. It’s the advice given by dermatologists to help you avoid transferring the bacteria, viruses, and fungus from your fingers to your skin. And before you apply any moisturizer or makeup, ensure that your hands are clean. And for makeup, dermatologists want you to use only mineral-based cosmetics, as they will not clog pores and generally are gentle on your skin.
    • Helping your skin to retain moisture is vital for its skin. Since dry skin is no stranger to itchy and flaky skin patches, applying a good quality moisturizer is more than necessary for your skin to help fight it against dryness in harsh weather conditions.
    • There are many oils, serums, and creams formulated to deal with dry and sensitive skin issues. After applying moisturizer in the morning and night, you can also use facial serums that include healthy oils that will keep your skin smooth and hydrated.
    • Be very careful with switching products. It’s easy to become a skincare product connoisseur, but that can do more harm than good. Because when caring for dry and sensitive skin, you need to be very careful with which products to use. It may be possible to have a bad reaction after using multiple products on your skin, and because you are using so many products on your skin, you’ll not be able to find the origin of those reactions. So, tread carefully when you are treating dry and sensitive skin issues using multiple products.

    To Sum it Up

    Taking care of your skin may sound easy, but it could be a little tricky, especially when you have a dry skin type. However, there is still hope for you, and you can easily give your skin the care it deserves. The tips mentioned above will help you achieve this goal. Incorporate them into your everyday skincare routine, and you’ll find positive results within a couple of weeks.

    Whether your skin is oily, dry, or a combination of the two, you need to know what skin type you have in order to best care for it.

    Depending on your skin type, you might need to rethink how you’re washing your face. To better understand the most effective way to wash your face, based on your skin type, INSIDER turned to Dr. Caroline A. Chang, MD, FAAD , a dermatologist and a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

    Chang told INSIDER that she advises that everyone wash their face in the morning and at night, but clarifies that what might work well for one person might not have the same effect for another.

    “Find out what works best for you by testing out different face washes and routines,” Chang said. Maybe that means switching up your cleanser, exfoliating more or less frequently, or avoiding certain ingredients.

    If you have oily skin, wash more often.

    If your skin is generally oily and would be categorized as such, it’s important to wash your face before some activities, such as a workout class or intramural game with friends, Chang said.

    “People with oily skin should wash after those activities as well,” she explained. “Usually most people will shower after an activity, so they don’t need to do an additional wash at the gym if they are going right home to shower.”

    The cleanser you use and any additional products you choose to incorporate into your routine will vary, however, based on what works best for your skin. Because there aren’t really any strict rules about what you need to use, finding what you think works the best for you can take a bit of experimentation. Still, there are general guidelines that can help you determine if your cleanser is a good choice or not.

    “I like cleansers that don’t get too foamy because those tend to be ones that don’t strip the oil from your face,” Chang said. “Your face should feel clean, but not squeaky like a dish.” Opting for something that’s gentle enough to be used on all skin types is typically a good way to go.

    If you have dry skin, wash your face less often.

    Dry skin, like oily skin, can have its own set of annoyances and issues. If you have dry skin, you need to be careful not to do things that will further cause your skin to dry out. Flakiness, pain, and more can all be an issue if you typically have dry skin.

    “People with dry skin should minimize washing to avoid additional dryness,” Chang said. “Wash morning and evening with a gentle face wash that cleanses but doesn’t strip the skin of oil. Before activities, use a makeup remover wipe instead of washing.”

    Moisturizing is important for everyone — yes, even those who have oily skin — but the exact product you use to moisturize varies according to various skin types.

    WebMD noted that a creamier moisturizer might be best for people with drier skin because it gives their skin the influx of moisture that it needs.

    Combination skin requires special consideration.

    Combination skin, in which you have some patches of oily skin and some patches of dry skin, needs to be treated carefully.

    “They should wash morning and before bed and before activities as well,” Chang said. Those with combination skin may have to pay extra attention to dry patches when moisturizing and extra attention to oily spots when washing, she added. Combination skin types require extra effort since not all of the skin on your face will need the same kind of care.

    Keep your skin care simple if you have sensitive skin.

    “People with sensitive skin should be cautious about using products with a lot of added scents or ones that are too abrasive like scrubs,” Chang said.

    Additionally, introducing only one new product at a time can be helpful, as can spot testing a new product. Testing a product on your wrist can tell you if it might dry your skin out, cause redness or irritation, or anything else that you might not want to deal with on a larger scale.

    Once you figure out a skincare routine that you think works well for you, you might think that you’re all set, but that’s not necessarily the case. Because your skincare needs might vary based on other circumstances, you might need to periodically reevaluate things.

    “Remember that skincare routines often change depending on the season so what works for you in winter may not work the same in summer,” Chang said.

    You might need something heavier or creamier in the winter and something lighter in the summer. That being said, talking it over with your dermatologist can help you select the best products for your skin type, no matter the time of the year.

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