Yesterday at a beauty blogger event, one of my girlfriends turned to me and said, “Wow, your skin looks so good. Your PD (perioral dermatitis) is completely gone!” I couldn’t help but smile. My skin has come a long way. It’s taken over two years, but I’ve been able to radically strengthen my barrier and restore resiliency to my skin by following two rules – (1) avoid products that strip my skin of moisture and (2) deposit moisture into the skin with each step in my skincare routine.
When I first started trying to heal my perioral dermatitis, my focus was on light cleansers, light moisturizers and heavy on the serums. This method did work, but slowly. I’ve since learned that by using a simple routine of a hydrating cleanser, hydrating serum and thick, rich moisturizer, I could improve my skin faster. And I think the reason for this is best explained by something celebrity aesthetician, Angelina Umansky, said to me during our interview.
“Sensitive skin is usually most likely dehydrated skin. A lot of times sensitive skin has been stripped of all of its natural oils and has no barrier to protect it so it has become sensitive. Once you bring the hydration up, it’s not sensitive anymore.” (Read the full interview here if you haven’t already – it’s seriously eye opening.)
*Below I’ve highlighted my top ten hydrating products that have improved the resiliency, health and strength of my skin drastically in just the last few months.
Top 10 Current Favorite Products For PD
(1) Osea Ocean Cleansing Milk is SO GOOD. I wish I would have discovered this product earlier. It’s so gentle, but capable of removing my makeup and cleansing the skin – with two cleanses of course. This cleanser by Osea is a very clean formulation: it contains algae extracts rich in minerals that draw out impurities; antioxidants able to protect skin from free radicals; and a blend of gentle cleansing oils (safflower, olive, coconut). I also love the creamy texture.
Now, milk cleansers need to be removed with a cloth of some sort. I’ve always found wash cloths to be abrasive, and even muslin cloths labeled “gentle” have irritated my PD/acne flare ups in the past.
Which is why I highly recommend this (2) Konjac Cloth to anyone with inflamed skin. Once wet, the sponge relaxes into a small wash cloth with dual sides: one smooth and the other uneven and more porous. The sponge cloth glides over the skin removing the milk cleanser without irritating any inflamed spots whatsoever.
While the price may seem a little steep and you’re probably thinking “I don’t need this…” All I can say is this little cloth is probably the best addition I’ve made to my cleansing routine in years and is the perfect removal system for any cleansing milk/cream especially if you are dealing with active inflammation. It lasts a long time and has become my favorite part of cleansing.
I used to use numerous serums while struggling with PD and acne (ones with B vitamins, probiotics, lactic acid, aloe vera, etc). But what I’ve found through through this journey, is that using a high quality hyaluronic acid serum (paired with a rich cream to hold the moisture in) was all I really needed and the most effective combo for repairing my barrier.
The (3) Osea Hyaluronic Sea Serum has won a special place in my heart because finally – a hyaluronic acid serum that does not pile! It contains three different sizes of hyaluronic acid molecules, which you definitely want in an HA serum since various sizes penetrate various layers of the skin, but it also has organic seaweed extract full of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals to nourish skin. This serum smooths, hydrates and is my favorite basic hyaluronic acid serum right now.
Now, if you want to take things up a notch and can shell out $200 for a hyaluronic acid serum, the (4) Zelens Power D is what you need to purchase. In addition to hyaluronic acid, this serum contains peptides that activate keratinocyte growth factor (KGF); KGF stimulates cell growth and is essential for wound healing. It also contains a laundry list of barrier strengthening ingredients: yeast cells that stimulate cellular repair, vegetable esters that reinforce the skin barrier, and anti-inflammatory provitamin D to name a few.
I notice a big difference in my skin on days I skip this serum, and have seen it drastically improve the barrier function and resiliency of my skin over the past month. But if you can’t fit this product into your budget, don’t despair; a healthy barrier can be achieved without it – it’ll just take longer.
When I first began researching online about how to heal my PD, I remember coming across a few articles advising those with PD not to use heavy moisturizers. I heeded this advice and for almost a year I steered clear of rich creams. Looking back, for me personally, doing this was a mistake.
My skin barrier was so severely damaged it struggled to keep the moisture in from the numerous serums I was applying because there was no barrier, no wax, no butter, nothing thick to hold everything in.
During my interview with Therapi Honey Skincare founder, Tanya Hawkes, one thing she said to me resonated – “Dry skin needs a blend of water, oil and a butter or wax to hold the moisture in.” At that moment, I realized I hadn’t been applying anything to keep the moisture in, thus impairing my skin’s to stay hydrated and heal itself.
This conversation partially spurred on my shea butter experiment which proved to me that a rich moisturizer is what I needed to return to. And since doing so – my skin has become healthier and stronger!
The (5) Therapi Honey Skincare Propolis Cream is one of my favorite products of all time because of its anti-aging, brightening, rich hydrating properties and healing factors (read my full review here). But I know it’s not for everyone because texturally it’s very, very rich.
If you’re someone who prefers a medium texture, I say go for (6) Osea Advanced Protection Cream. This cream is like a thick, dense gel moisturizer that absorbs easily and keeps skin hydrated all day with a blend of aloe, squalane, and hydrating oils (grape, macadamia and jojoba). I love its ability to plump and smooth the skin.
One huge lesson I’ve learned dealing with an inflammatory skin issue like PD/acne is that using “detoxing” masks with clays and charcoal is the worst thing I could have done for my skin. But sadly, was what I always turned to to “detox” the breakouts. Sigh. Clays and charcoals sucked all of the moisture out of my skin and with my damaged barrier this made my skin even more dehydrated.
Once I started turning to hydrating masks (without exfoliating ingredients – some contain citric or malic acid so watch out!), I saw a lot of improvements in my skin.
The (7) Patyka Moisturizing Mask is one of my favorites. This organic French skincare brand has created a mask that is meant to be worn overnight. I use this mask when I’m traveling or I’ve tested out a product my skin doesn’t like because the next morning I’ll wake to soothed skin.
This mask reminds me a lot of the Korean overnight moisture masks from brands, like Amore Pacific and The History of Whoo, but unlike these products, which contain silicones, petroleum derivatives and hydrogenated vegetable oils, Patyka uses a blend of organic naturally derived hydrating ingredients: shea butter, jojoba, avocado oil, and coconut fats.
I’m listing toner last because I’ve found that my skin does better when I don’t use a toner daily. Sounds crazy, I know, but with the above routine – gentle milk cleanser, hyaluronic acid serum and a rich moisturizer – my skin is able to get the right balance of water, oil and wax that it needs to be healthy and resilient.
This doesn’t mean that I’ve completely forgone toners. I still use them, but only a few times a week as a gentle exfoliating agent.
With sensitive skin exfoliation is very tricky. But I’ve found that using light toners with exfoliating ingredients is the best way to encourage light cell turnover and decongest the skin versus exfoliating masks which can be too strong.
If your skin is highly reactive, I would suggest using a spritzing a cotton pad with a rose toner that contains citric acid, like (8) Herbivore Rose Mist or (9) Tammy Fender Bulgarian Rose Water for very light exfoliation. Rose is also anti-inflammatory, so its great for sensitive skin.
Then once your skin builds up its tolerance and strengthens, I would highly recommend moving on to the (10) REN Ready Steady Glow Toner. It’s a great nontoxic exfoliating AHA/BHA toner that’s very gentle! (Read my full review of it here). If I use it every night, my skin feels tight, but I find its great for a 1-2x nights a week as a gentle exfoliator and brightener.
I hope this is helpful to all of you out there dealing with a weakened skin barrier and/or perioral dermatitis. But stay positive and be kind to your skin and yourself. It is possible to repair your skin and get it to a beautiful place! Feel free to message me on Instagram if you have any questions. I’m always happy to help. 🙂
Written by Amy Chang, founder + editor; Photographed by Wing Ta for BOND EN AVANT