My Cure For Red, Sensitive, Extremely Dry, Flaky Skin

Updated 11/10/14. Even though I am busy running our growing company, I still like to keep my hands in facials, peels and other treatments. I take clients most Wednesdays in my Dallas skin care spa as well as in Los Angeles and New York. After 25+ years as an esthetician, I still really enjoy this hands-on work, as it keeps me connected with clients and their concerns and allows me to visibly see the great results that our professional treatments and home care products can deliver. Plus, I love the one-on-one time connection—after all, it’s the reason why I got into this business in the first place.

So when my client, Tracey Schwartz first came to me complaining of dry, extremely red and sensitive skin, I ran through my list of questions. I share this because I know many of you will be able to relate. (Note: conditions such as eczema and rosacea will also have success with this program as both of these conditions are related to a weakened barrier within the skin.)

During my consultation with Tracey, she expressed the following concerns…

“My skin is always red and every product that I use stings my skin, so I have to be really careful with what I use on it.”

“I have to keep my skin care routine really simple and use products for sensitive skin but my skin still feels irritated.”

“My skin is constantly dry and flaky and always looks red.”

“I’ve always had sensitive skin but it started to get worse in my mid 40’s.”

“My doctor diagnosed me with rosacea and gave me a prescription which I used for a while and it only made my skin more irritated.”

Looking at Tracey’s skin, there was no doubt in my mind that her skin was extremely fragile, so I knew I had to go easy. My diagnosis of Tracey’s skin was pretty simple. Her skin’s protective lipid barrier was damaged and that was the underlying cause of all her redness, dryness and hypersensitivity. She’s a classic skin type #9. (Find your skin type.)

What is a damaged lipid barrier?
Your skin has a moisture barrier made of natural lipids that keeps moisture in the skin and irritants out. When this barrier is damaged (due to age, hormones, genetics and more), it creates tiny, invisible cracks in the skin that allow moisture to escape causing dry, flaky skin. Also, irritants will enter more easily making even sensitive skin products cause a stinging, irritating sensation. All the moisturizer in the world wouldn’t help fix her dry, flaky, sensitive skin until  her skin’s protective barrier is repaired.

How do you fix a damaged moisture barrier?

Avoid washing your skin with anything that leaves it feeling tight. Look at your cleansers and make sure to avoid the ingredient Sodium Laureth Sulfate or Ammonium Laureth Sulfate as these only further damage the skins barrier. If you’re using the too strong of a cleanser, you’re instantly stripping the moisture out of the skin which is the worst thing you can do for sensitive skin. See my recommendations for gentle, sulfate-free cleansers.

Always use a toner to give your skin extra hydration, but make sure it’s alcohol-free. Read: Five Reasons You Need To Be Using A Toner

Use a vitamin C or antioxidant serum daily. Along with having superior preventative wrinkle benefits, they can have excellent anti-redness properties but make sure it’s a no-sting formula, like our Vitamin C&E Treatment which is formulated for sensitive, red skins. (Bonus! A brown spot lightener, too.) If you have used a vitamin C product before and it made your skin dry and irritated, then you simply need to switch to a better formula.

Wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day is a must. UV rays from daylight cause inflammation in the skin which only makes sensitive skin more sensitive so apply a generous coat to the face and neck every day under makeup. Two great formulas are Age Defense Moisturizer SPF 30 which is a chemical-free, all-mineral sunscreen moisturizer. Daily Protection SPF 30 uses zinc oxide and is very gentle as well.

Use a moisturizer with lipid-rich oils to reinforce skin’s natural barrier.
This tip is really important as regular moisturizers will hydrate but not necessarily fix a damaged barrier if they don’t use these special repairing ingredients.  Look for moisturizers with Linoleic Acid, Soybean Sterols, Jojoba Oil, Phospholipids, Borage Oil, Merospheres (liposome encapsulated rosemarinus officinalis), Kukui Nut Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Glycolipids, Squalane and Rose Hips Seed Oil. Many of these are found in our Phytolipid Comfort Cream and Pro Remedy Oil which are both formulated to repair the skin’s protective barrier down deep, where damage begins. Within weeks, visible redness and skin sensitivity will be greatly reduced — if not eliminated. Trust me, this cream and oil really work, with continued use. You have to give them time since there is so much repair that needs to occur.

Be sure to use products exclusively formulated for the unique needs of your skin.
From the very start of my esthetics career, I learned that every skin is unique and the ‘one-size-fits-all approach’ is not effective in achieving healthy, balanced and beautiful skin. And classifying skin into the standard dry, normal and oily skin types is just so limiting. I still will never understand when cosmetic companies say “This product is for all skin types” when all skin types have such different needs? I created a results-oriented skin care line with 72 products based on nine skin types so every type of skin has a customized routine to give results. Find your skin type.

So with that being said, here is what I did for Tracey. I performed our Moisture Infusion Facial, concentrating on barrier repair. I recommended that Tracey purchase skin care products formulated for our #9 skin type. She was very nervous about purchasing the entire collection, as she had used various skin care products before, without results. With any sensitive skin, I recommend one new product at a time, and certainly understood her apprehension from the false promises of products she had previously used. To start with, I suggested she use Phytolipid Comfort Cream and add a few drops of Pro Remedy Oil to it for four weeks and then return for her next facial treatment.

When she returned, her skin looked so much better. The combination of the cream and the oil had improved the redness/dryness dramatically, and she was thrilled with the results just from these skincare products. She then purchased additional products from that routine and now Tracey is a Renée Rouleau product junkie using all of the products for skin type #9, and she has never felt or looked better. She is a loyal and happy lifelong client and has referred so many of her friends and colleagues to us through the years. Thank you, Tracey!

See which cities I’ll be offering facial treatments and skin consultations this year.

Read: Tips For Sensitive Skin

Which skin care products are best for you? See our nine skin types or take the Skin Type Quiz and get products recommended.

Need expert advice from a licensed esthetician? Schedule a virtual consultation to get customized advice in person, over the phone or online via Skype or FaceTime.

For more expert advice check out the blog. Also sign up for our skin tip e-newsletter, follow Renée Rouleau on Twitter and Instagram and join the discussion on our Facebook page. You’ll be your own skin care expert in no time. Get the #ReneeRouleauGlow!

Get Blog Posts In Your Email

Content Copyright © 2017, Renée Rouleau, Inc

Content found on, including: text, images, audio, or other formats were created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.