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

Even though I am busy running our growing company, I still like to keep my hands in facials, peels and other treatments so I take clients most Wednesdays in my downtown 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.

Read: Why I Love Being an Esthetician

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 excema will also have success with this program as excema is a condition 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. (See our nine skin types.)

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?

- For starters, 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 cleansing gels and cleansing lotions.

- Always use a toner to give your skin extra hydration, but make sure it’s alcohol-free. (Read: Five Reasons to Use Alcohol-Free 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 one 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 which is 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 works!

- 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 our Phytolipid Comfort Cream for four weeks and then return for her next facial treatment.

When she returned, her skin looked so much better. The redness/dryness had improved, and she was thrilled with the results just from this one product. She purchased additional products and now, a year later, 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. Thank you, Tracey!

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

Need expert advice from a licensed esthetician? Schedule My Skin Prescription to get personalized advice in person, over the phone or via Skype or Facetime.

For more expert skin advice, check out Skin Source–the A-Z guide on all things skin. 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.

Skin Care Quiz
Skin Care Quiz


  1. hi just so happy to have come across ur site i have suffered for years with dry red flaky sensitive skin would you please tell me what products of yours i should buy many thanks can i shop with you from ireland

    Posted By: julie  | 

  2. Hello,

    I just read your review for #9 skin. I have the same problems, and I am in desperate need of help to reduce my peeling, flaky redness, dry skin. But I am scare to use products because nothing ever seem to work. Please help with suggestion and where to start.

    Thank you.

    Posted By: Peggy  | 

  3. Renee,

    Your products sound amazing for my skin. I believe I also am skin type number 9. I have dry, red, and sensitive skin, but I am very nervous about the cost of the products and if they will really work. I have spent so much money on products like clinique, lancome, and many others. What if for some reason the products do not work? I am thinking about buying two of your products, the calming chamomile cleanser and the vitamin C and E treatment. Are there any discounts and at all and if you could recommend 2 or three products for my skin type what would it be? If I could afford the whole line I definitely would! Thank you so much for reading, I absolutely appreciate it!


    Posted By: Cierra  | 

    • Renée Rouleau

      Hello Cierra,
      I’m glad you were able to find a skin type that describes your skin type. Here is a link to our return policy. The cleanser and the Vitamin C&E Treatment are both great, and excellent for sensitive skin. If those are two products that you are in need of, then I would say go with those. The Phytolipid Comfort Cream is a great night moisturizer too. With any new product, it’s always best to do a patch test to check for compatibility. Read this We don’t currently have any promotions going on right now but sign up on our home page to receive our emails and you’ll get notified. I will say that we don’t offer a lot of promotions, maybe a couple a year. I feel confident that you’ll enjoy the skin type #9 as it’s very specific to treating the needs of dry, red and sensitive skin. Enjoy! Renee

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

  4. Hi! Thank you so much for this article. I am 14 years old with extremely dry skin that gets oily very easily. Everything in my normal skincare routine was fine, until I started breaking out a lot near my cheekbones area last week–so since then my skin suddenly became very sensitive. What made it worse is that I used an acne medication that dried my skin even more! I put on a hydration mask and it stung my skin so painfully. So, I stumbled across this article, I used a toner and repair serum that I had not used in a while, and it was like magic. Within a week, my skin was stronger and back to normal again! Thank you for sharing!

    Posted By: Ellie  | 

  5. Hi
    Im nineteen years of age and i have always had trouble with my skin.I have always had dry patches on my skin ,with an oily t zone.I never used moisterizer until two months ago.I use it day and night and my skin is not dry anymore , but now i have small bumps all over my face , the size of small spots , but there coverd by my skin , its not your average spot i dont know how to explain.

    Posted By: Maria  | 

    • Renée Rouleau

      Hi Maria,
      I’m glad whatever moisturizer you are using has repaired your dry skin but it sounds like it’s too pore clogging and not for your skin type. Can I have you take our skin type quiz and find your skin type and then it will suggest a moisturizer from our line? Find your skin type >

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 


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