I have sensitive dry skin, and I want clean ingredients in my skincare. I also want products that perform beautifully. I believe you will find this post helpful, if you are looking for safer swaps, yet highly-effective skincare to address the concerns of skin dryness and sensitivities.
Why do we want cleaner ingredients?
Did you know.. most of the skincare products on the market today contain too many unsafe ingredients? Let me just name a few. (Source)
- Parabens (methyl-, isobutyl-, propyl- and others) A class of preservatives commonly used to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Parabens are endocrine (or hormone) disruptors, which may alter important hormone mechanisms in our bodies.
- Hydroquinone A skin-lightening chemical that inhibits the production of melanin and is linked to cancer, organ toxicity, and skin irritation.
- Retinyl palmitate and Retinol (Vitamin A) A nutrient that may damage DNA and speed the growth of skin tumors when used topically.
- Synthetic flavor or fragrance An engineered scent or flavoring agent that may contain any combination of 3,000-plus stock chemical ingredients, including hormone disruptors and allergens. Fragrance formulas are protected under trade secrets and therefore can remain undisclosed.
- Phthalates (DBP, DEHP, DEP and others) A class of plasticizing chemicals used to make products more pliable or to make fragrances stick to skin. Phthalates disrupt the endocrine system and may cause birth defects. Because phthalates can be hidden under the word “fragrance”, they are often in our products even though you can’t find them on the label.
… The list goes on, but I can’t possibly list all the concerning ingredients. What’s even more scary is that over 80,000 chemicals are used in personal care products today, of which 80% have never been tested for safety on human health. What can we do to navigate the sea of products and chemicals out there? First and foremost to avoid should be the dirty dozen in our products, and then check EWG’s skin deep database for ingredient safety and product ratings.
Personally, it’s just not worth the harm to our long term health. I still remember the days I bought products claiming to be good for us. But after taking a closer look at the ingredient list, many contain harmful ingredients and too often fragrance/parfum/aroma, which should be a top ingredient to avoid. Many of the harmful ingredients are also skin irritants, not a good idea to put on my face when my skin is already sensitive.
Do safer products work?
So often people think that safer, crunchy and more natural products don’t work. Sure they are healthier for us, but do they perform like our toxic alternatives? Luckily, I discovered Beautycounter from my health-concious blogger and non-blogger friends. Beautycounter is a company specializing in high-performing safer skincare and cosmetics. In fact, they are the leader of the clean beauty movement transforming the entire industry.
After some lengthy and extensive research, I found the best options at Beautycounter for myself, for a combination of reasons: ultra-high safety standard (see their Never List banning 1500+ harmful or questionable ingredients), transparency, use of carefully-sourced high-quality nourishing ingredients, industry-leading screening and testing protocols, constant innovation, beautiful packagings (I know, I am a sucker for beautiful things) created with both environment and health in mind, and good ethics (super important for me in my own purchasing decisions).
It has been 8 months now, since I made a commitment to switch to safer skincare. I think this is a long enough review time to give my opinions, because I am very careful with what I say. Just read my stories of beating severe chronic pain, and overcoming anxiety and insomnia, you will know that I only share my experience on the blog after I am confident I found a solution to the problems I wanted to resolve, and one that can benefit other people.
I can attest that my safer skincare regimen really makes my dry skin feel moisturized immediately after application. I am very impressed to find out that my skin is now less sensitive than before I made the switch. I loved Beautycounter as a company and their products so much that I decided to partner with Beautycounter to share their outstanding products and education with my community.
My Skincare Regimen: Sensitive Dry Skin
The core of my current skincare regimen is from Beautycounter’s countermatch collection. I also mix in a few products from Beautycounter’s other collections. I will share what I personally use and my absolute favourites, as well as why I like them myself. Stay tuned for my favourite makeup items from Beautycounter in a future post.
The Cleansing Balm is utterly amazing – it’s worth every single penny and the jar lasts a really long time. I love that it’s formulated with so many nourishing oils, such as apricot kernel oil, avocado oil, raspberry and cranberry seed oils, camomile oil, grapeseed oil, rose flower oil, sweet almond oil, … as well as vitamin C to brighten the skin. Oil cleansing has a long history pre-dated the wide-spread industrial production of soap. It’s super effective at dissolving dirt, oil and impurities on the skin, without the common harsh surfactants to strip away moisture. Here is a good read on the benefits of oil cleansing. Surely not all oil cleansers are created equal. The natural oils in this cleansing balm are super gentle and soothing for sensitive dry skin. Other reasons why this cleansing balm is so amazing is that it can be used as a moisturizer on super dry skin, as well as an occasional overnight mask as treatment for dryness. I also use it as a lip balm.
The Countermatch pure calm cleansing milk is another oil cleanser, super gentle without striping away moisture on our skin, but with a consistency of milk rather than a balm. Formulated with plum oil, coconut oil and jojoba seed oil, the Countermatch pure calm cleansing milk is a very economical and effective option for dry skin. Hands-down I love the cleansing balm the most. But if you don’t care for a multi-tasker and want a good oil cleanser with an affordable price tag, go with the Countermatch pure calm cleansing milk.
My most recent favourite is the charcoal cleansing bar. Activated charcoal is very effective at absorbing impurities and detoxifying the skin. Regular soaps often contain harsh surfactants such as sulfates that are overly drying and irritating to the skin, parabens, synthetic dyes, and fragrance that can act as hormone-disruptors. The charcoal cleansing bar is formulated with organic green tea and organic coconut oils to nourish and hydrate the skin. I think this charcoal cleaning bar stands out for being so gentle. Charcoal soap is typically ideal for oily and blemish-prone skin. It’s really nice to have a detoxing charcoal soap that even my sensitive dry skin can handle. When I first switched to Beautycounter, my skin was extremely sensitive that the charcoal cleansing bar would irritate my face. After a few months of consistent use of the countermatch collection, my skin had become less red and sensitive. Now I can use the charcoal cleansing bar daily. The green tea extract in this charcoal bar is a powerful active ingredient to treat acne. Ever since I introduced the charcoal cleansing bar into my regular rotation, it has drastically reduced my acne and breakouts. I highly recommend giving this charcoal cleansing bar a try to ease breakouts, even if you have sensitive dry skin – start with once every few days and adjust as you desire.
I use the nourishing rosewater mist for a quick refresh and hydration of the skin. It contains sodium hyaluronate, which can hold a large amount of water to the skin to keep skin cells hydrated. Personally I really enjoy the convenience of toner mist that can be spritzed on the face.
Later on, I included the rejuvenating toner pads in my skincare regimen to curb the sign of aging, because I am approaching 40, you know? Lightly scented with magnolia, the rejuvenating toner pads contain antioxidant-rich mixed fruit acid complex with vitamin C, along with lentil seed and algae extracts to refine skin’s texture and tone. This is another product that I couldn’t use more than once a week at the beginning when my skin was extremely sensitive. Over time, my skin has become healthier that I now can use the rejuvenating toner pads daily if I want to. Because the toner pads contain many active ingredients, if you have extremely sensitive skin, you will want to ease into introducing active ingredients. Since I have incorporated this product into my regimen with much success, I highly recommend giving it a try.
Another toner mist I already have my eyes on is the No.2 Plumping Facial Mist. The ingredients of the plumping mist include peony roots and rye seeds, which are great for dry skin. I am very intrigued that I will be picking this one up next.
The countermatch intense moisture serum, as the name suggests, is super hydrating for dry skin from 2 forms of hyaluronic acids, and naturally-derived squalene and arginine. It absorbs quickly, while the vitamin C and E provide antioxidant protection. I also love the very faint scent of this serum – it smells so lovely! And don’t worry, Beautycounter never uses synthetic fragrance and none of the products have a strong perfume smell.
The rejuvenating radiance serum helps even the look of skin tone, improve hydration, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles thanks to a combination of vitamin C, mixed fruit acid complex, and algae and marine extract. I love this combination of ingredients to target my skin-aging concerns, yet this serum is still so gentle.
I use the countermatch adaptive moisture lotion and countermatch recovery sleeping cream primarily as my day time and night time lotions. The countermatch collection is amazing at providing immediate hydration. You will also notice that the collection features a Bio-Mimic technology – what it really means is that taking the components we need in our skin cells from plants, such as arginine from beet root, squalene from olives and phytic acid from rice, to build up and strengthen skin barrier for long-term health of the skin. I am all for long term health and healing, plus every item in the countermatch collection smells great! The almond scent of the countermatch adaptive moisture lotion is heaven.
In addition, I love facial oil in place of lotion as my moisturizer sometimes, or layer the facial oil with lotion during winter months. Both the No.1 brightening facial oil and No.2 plumping facial oil are among my favourites of Beautycounter’s. The No.1 brightening facial oil gives skin a mega dose of hydration and a brightening boost with help from vitamin C and rose hip oil. The No.2 plumping facial oil is especially good for dry skin, loss of elasticity, and fine lines. Fragrant jasmine oil replenishes moisture, while omega-rich argan oil helps minimize the appearance of fine lines. The No.2 plumping facial oil is one of the first beauctycounter products I owned, then I added the No.1 brightening oil, which won an Allure’s Best of Beauty award in 2017.
The countermatch eye rescue cream is a good place to start for sensitive dry skin. It has fewer ingredients but key nutrients derived from plants for what our skin needs. If you are not sure whether your skin may be sensitive to too many active ingredients introduced all at once, it’s a good idea to start with fewer nourishing ingredients and work our way up.
Subsequently, I added the rejuvenating eye cream which contains the protective jambu extract and skin-conditioning wild algae and caffeine. Caffeine is a hot and popular natural ingredient in skincare in recent years – caffeine helps to smooth skin and reduce wrinkles. Often people with dry skin tend to wrinkle easily – I am one perfect example and that’s why I like to incorporate a few items here and there from the anti-aging rejuvenating collection.
Aside from my core regimen, I love the additional 3 treatments. I think these are must-haves for every skin type, yet they are all very gentle for my sensitive dry skin.
No.3 balancing facial mask is a nutrient-rich kaolin clay mask that deep-cleans and balances, absorbing excess oil and drawing out impurities. Activated charcoal minimizes the appearance of pores, giving skin a smooth, refined appearance, while salicylic acid stimulates exfoliation. The kaolin clay and activated charcoal are a powerful combination to detoxify the skin. Although a mask like this is mostly appreciated by those with oily or combination skin, I find the Beautycounter’s No.3 balancing facial mask to be quite gentle for dry sensitive skin as well. The key is to use it less frequently or only on the T-zone, then skin detox can definitely be incorporated into a care routine for dry sensitive skin.
Overnight resurfacing peel has been such a favourite of everyone I know who tried it. Formulated with 15 botanically-derived acids, this leave-on AHA/BHA peel improves skin texture and minimizes the appearance of pores, fine lines, and dark spots without irritation or over-drying. Generally I am afraid of exfoliation, but I have also come to learn the benefits of safe exfoliation using natural acids over physical scrubbing. I was impressed by the wide range of botanical acids in this overnight resurfacing peel to achieve different benefits, from increasing blood flow and hydration, to stimulating cell turnover, to boosting collagen production, in addition to exfoliating the outer skin layer. This peel is to be used after the cleansing step at night, leave on and let it absorb for 3 to 5 minutes before applying your night time lotion (I use the countermatch recovery sleeping cream after the peel). There is no need to wash off the peel, nor will it make your skin peel off. Just make sure to use it at night 3-4 times a week (more or less as desired), because we want to avoid sun exposure when doing the peeling.
The SOS acne spot treatment (Canadian link here) is my newest addition to treat those emergency breakouts. This spot treatment contains 2% natural salicylic acid from wintergreens to fight acne without irritation, super useful for anyone who ever has a breakout.
How to Choose Products for All Skin Types
Everyone’s skin is different. Just like no one diet can suit everybody, no one skincare regimen can serve all people either. As we age or when we are going through health issues, our needs can change too. Although the countermatch collection I use is fairly adaptive to many skins’ needs for hydration, the chart below can help even further to understand which collection is best for YOU!
In addition, you can find skin care by “concern” (using the filter in the left-hand column following the link), or take this skin care quiz on Beautycounter website. I also have a skin care questionnaire that you can fill out, and I will give you my own recommendation – the more information you provide, the better I can serve you. Sometimes I pull products from different collections to build a regimen to suit my clients’ needs, so I think getting a personalized suggestion from a consultant is always the most helpful.
Money-Saving Tips When Shopping Beautycounter
If you know all the ways to get some discounts, you can save quite a bit on these amazingly high-performing and clean products. Heck, what’s better than taking care of our health and wallet at the same time!?! Many people don’t know these money-saving tips, and I will list all of them below in one place.
- Beautycounter’s membership program is full of perks: free shipping on order over $100 USD or $125 CAD, 15% store credits, and a welcome gift with qualifying purchase almost always worth more than the membership cost itself. Although the store credits are only valid for 60 days, I never had problem with the time frame as my husband and kids use Beautycounter as well. And even if you don’t use the store credits, the free shipping and welcome gift are worthwhile for the membership fee. Note that it’s NOT required to be a member to purchase from Beautycounter, but my BMath degree just couldn’t make sense of why anyone wouldn’t want to take advantage of such discount program to transition to safer. Make sure to read all the details here; and to become a member, simply add the membership in the shopping cart along with other products.
- Buy collections: if you need all the items of a particular skincare line, you can save 10-11% buying the collection instead of buying individual products separately. See all the skincare collections here. This tip is not limited to skincare either – all collections are discounted including makeup, haircare and kids products.
- Do you know that when you take the skin care quiz, you can also get a 10% off discount on 4 recommended products? Why not give a try – I think it’s worth checking out to see your options. If the quiz recommended you exactly what you wanted, you just got an extra 10% saving you wouldn’t have otherwise. You can take the quiz as many times as you like.
- Don’t be concerned that you will waste your money by trying a product that may not work for you. Beautycounter has an awesome 60-day money-back return policy, even on opened and used products. Your orders even come with FREE return labels in the US, so make sure to keep the label until you are satisfied with the products.
- Shop the sales: throughout the year, Beautycounter runs a number of sales on special dates. You can contact me or leave a comment below to be added on my Clean Beauty Mailing List, to be the first to know about sales. I also share them in my safer skincare Facebook group and Instagram stories.
- Host a get-together: Beautycounter has an awesome program to reward those who share the importance of using safer ingredients. When you host an in-person or online get-together with friends, you invite your loved ones to learn what they can do to protect their health while having a chance to earn 50% off and free products. I do all the work to make it fun and educational. Contact me to plan a get-together for you.
- Lastly, if you feel inclined to share important information, safer and clean products with your friends, families and community to protect their health, and be part of the clean beauty movement, you too can become a consultant with Beautycounter, while enjoying the 25% consultant discount on all products. I imagine it’s not a simple decision to start a small side business of your own, so feel free to contact me and I will help you figure out if this is right for you.
Did I miss anything? Leave me a comment if you have any questions, and I am happy to answer them. What’s your favourite clean skincare products for sensitive dry skin?