Gentle, Yet Effective

Antioxidants for Sensitive Skin


If you or your client have sensitive skin, the thought of using Vitamin C can be enough to make you cringe. Vitamin C serums are an excellent addition to your client’s skincare routine, with its many benefits ranging from healing to brightening. However, not all skin types are created equal, and not all clients, especially those who suffer from skin sensitivity, can tolerate the ingredient.

Let’s start by first understanding what sensitive skin is. The thing with sensitive skin is, no cause or condition can be the culprit to why your client is unable to tolerate certain products or treatments. When it comes to sensitive skin, a lot of the time your client has to experience some kind of irritation or adverse reaction for them to know that their skin is sensitive.

Some estheticians can spot someone who suffers from sensitive skin a mile away just based off the amount of erythema or redness their face shows. However, it’s essential to know that not all redness derives from easily susceptible skin. Usually, redness accompanied by irritation, inflammation, itching, and other symptoms will be a good sign to indicate that a client truly has reactive skin.

The goal is to help strengthen the skin’s natural barrier while reducing redness and inflammation.

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Sensitive skin is caused by several things, including genetics, improper product use, medication and illness, and environmental influences. Those with skin sensitivity need to incorporate a variety of antioxidant ingredients in their daily routines, and estheticians need to recommend those that are better suited for them than Vitamin C.

What are antioxidants and why are they important?

We always hear the term antioxidants, specifically when referring to berries such as strawberries and blueberries, which contain a large amount and are recommended as part of our daily diet. To understand antioxidants, we first must understand free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms that lose or have lost an electron in their outer orbit, seeking out other electrons in the body to become a pair.

While free radicals occur naturally in the body, lifestyle choices, environment, and food intake are some factors that can increase the number of free radicals in the body. Damage from free radicals can potentially cause cancer and other serious diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. We can’t control the number of free radicals in our bodies, but we can do our best to protect against the potential damage they create.

This is where antioxidants come in. Their job is to fight and protect us against the potential damage of free radicals. How they do that is simple, by donating one of their electrons to the free radical. The fantastic fighters that they are, antioxidants do not become free radicals themselves when they do. These substances can be consumed easily through the foods we eat. Except estheticians have very little to say about their client’s food choices, and for most, this falls way beyond their practice. What estheticians can do is guide their clients towards some useful ingredients that are better suited for their skin type.

Vitamin A

Now, if your client’s sensitive skin does not tolerate Vitamin C, this could be a bit harsh for them as well. However, Vitamin A is an antioxidant that can promote a healthy dermis and epidermis while speeding healing and preventing breakouts. It’s a popular compound found in serums that specifically targets aging skin. We mostly see it as Retinol, which is a derivative of Vitamin A. It can be highly effective and has a small molecular structure that allows it to penetrate and hydrate the skin. It also helps to stimulate collagen production and cell renewal for more bouncy and radiant-looking skin.

Vitamin E

This may very well be one of the first ingredients that most people think of when it comes to healing and repairing the skin. Many clients use Vitamin E for burns, bites, dryness, and a whole list of other skin ailments that they encounter. This antioxidant can accelerate wound healing in the skin and strengthen the skin’s barrier. It is also a natural anti-inflammatory that can help soothe sensitive skin. It can be used directly from the capsule that you get as a supplement or can be found in various creams, oils, and serums.

Green Tea

Green tea contains what are called polyphenols, also known as catechins, which are powerful antioxidants. They have anti-inflammatory abilities that can help treat redness and irritation, which can significantly benefit sensitive skin. Green tea can also prevent premature aging as it helps prevent the breakdown of collagen. It can also boost the skin’s immunity, fight off bacteria that cause breakouts, and strengthen the skin’s allergenic defenses, making it an ideal choice for delicate skin that is prone to reactions.


This is another natural antioxidant that is found in fruits such as red grapes, blueberries, and cranberries. When used topically, it can help to protect the skin’s surface from ultraviolet radiation and other negative environmental influences. What makes this a good option for sensitive skin is its ability to calm the skin and minimize redness. Resveratrol also works to improve the function of fibroblasts, which are responsible for creating healthy collagen.


A form of Vitamin B3, Niacinamide, helps keep the skin firm and healthy by renewing and restoring the surface from moisture loss and dehydration. The antioxidant strengthens a barrier of ceramide that helps it lock in moisture and prevent environmental damage. It also reduces inflammation and eases redness caused by eczema and acne. Clients with sensitive or rosacea-prone skin can significantly benefit from this ingredient.

Powerful Antioxidants Combined

Most research has shown that antioxidants work best in conjunction with other antioxidants. This is why you will see multiple antioxidants listed in most products. For example, Vitamin C and Vitamin E have been shown to work best together to combat the harmful effects of UV damage and sunburn.

When working with sensitive skin, you never want to overload or irritate the skin even more than it already is. The goal is to help strengthen the skin’s natural barrier while reducing redness and inflammation. Slowly introducing new products like antioxidant serums or lotions will help you better understand what works and what doesn’t work for your client’s skin.

Have your client start on a new product a few days a week or every other week to allow their skin to acclimate. You can increase your client’s product usage if there are no adverse reactions.

Additionally, performing a thorough consultation and asking your clients what they have used in the past and what makes their skin react is extremely important. Also, asking how long they have had issues with sensitivity may tell you a lot about what you should try in terms of antioxidants.

Not all sensitive skin will react the same to every product, so it is vital to take precautions and be aware of the various ingredients that might be harmful to your client’s skin. You may find multiple oral and topical forms that contain these forms of antioxidants. However, it’s essential to look at other ingredients as well to make sure the entire product is safe. There is a whole antioxidant world out there besides Vitamin C, so do a little research and see what you can do to help your clients with sensitive skin.