If you’ve ever seen a product marketed toward “problem skin,” you may have found yourself wondering what, exactly, that means. The term problem skin, after all, is pretty vague: It can refer to anything from highly sensitive to dry skin. Generally speaking, though, problem skin isn’t a skin type but rather a characteristic. It describes skin that frequently experiences one or more skin problems, like redness, acne, or irritation. Skin that falls into this category may also be susceptible to the damaging effects of environmental stressors like pollution or harsh weather.
Here, find your introduction to four common characteristics of problem skin. We’ll explain what these skin problems are and how to manage them with skin-friendly ingredients and soothing products. You’ll also learn about some of the most common causes of irritation to help you keep your skin comfortable and healthy-looking. Read on for an in-depth guide to caring for problem skin.
Sensitive skin is a surprisingly prevalent skin problem: Studies show that about half of women and up to 44% of men report having a sensitive skin type. Sensitivity typically results from damage to the skin’s natural moisture barrier, which is your body’s first line of defense between you and the outside world. When this protective barrier is weakened, it can’t work as effectively as it should. This can cause even seemingly-minor stressors like harsh weather to irritate your skin. It also enables external aggressors to further damage your skin barrier, leading to a vicious cycle of sensitivity, redness, and discomfort. A strong skin moisture barrier is therefore critical for managing sensitive skin types.
Vital Skin-Strengthening Hyaluronic Acid Super Serum
We recommend incorporating Vital Skin-Strengthening Hyaluronic Acid Super Serum into your daily skincare routine to help strengthen sensitive skin. This powerful serum for all skin types is formulated with 11kDa hyaluronic acid, an engineered form of hyaluronic acid that’s capable of penetrating your skin’s deeper layers. It also contains a targeted blend of adaptogenic herbs, including red ginseng root. Our unique formula is clinically-demonstrated to double skin’s strength and help make it more resilient.* It’s suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin, and can be used daily to promote a more radiant, healthy-looking appearance.
*Based on a four-week clinical study of 58 subjects tested in urban and polluted environments. Skin strength index = composite average score of skin suppleness, plumpness, and resiliency.
After applying your serum, lock in hydration with Centella Sensitive Cica-Cream. This ultra-mild face cream with Centella asiatica extract is designed to help moisturize sensitive skin. It’s free of fragrance and alcohol and absorbs quickly to nourish the skin with continuous, 48-hour hydration. Apply it to your face and neck morning and night as the last step in your skincare routine for sensitive skin.
Irritation and Redness
Persistent skin redness is often seen in those with sensitive or reactive skin types. It can result from irritation and may give the skin a blotchy, uneven appearance. It’s also often accompanied by uncomfortable skin problems like burning or itching. Effectively managing redness generally requires identifying (and eliminating) the underlying cause. A proper skincare routine can help reduce discomfort and reduce some of the visible symptoms of irritation as well.
One product we recommend for red, irritated skin is our cult-classic Calendula Herbal-Extract Toner. This Kiehl’s favorite was first developed in the 1960s and contains a blend of calming herbs, including calendula extract. When used after cleansing, the gentle formula helps soothe and refresh the skin.
For additional relief, add Calendula Petal-Infused Calming Mask to your weekly skincare routine. This soothing gel mask with whole calendula petals and aloe vera instantly cools angry skin with a burst of lightweight hydration. It helps diminish the skins of distress and revitalizes problem skin over time for a hydrated, healthy appearance.
Kiehl’s Expert Tip: Decompress while soothing your skin by using our calendula mask as part of a relaxing facial routine. Grab cucumber slices for your eyes and your jade roller, then put on spa music to complete the experience.
Blemishes and Breakouts
Acne needs no introduction—it affects between 40 and 50 million people in the United States. If you’re prone to breakouts and the accompanying irritation and redness, keep blemishes at bay with mild, non-comedogenic skincare products that won’t cause irritation, such as our Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Cleanser. This silky foaming cleanser with Cannabis sativa seed oil gently lifts away impurities like dirt and excess oil without drying out the skin. The calming formula is suitable for all skin types and can be used morning and night to leave skin feeling comfortable and clean.
Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Concentrate Face Oil
After cleansing, pat a few drops of Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Concentrate Face Oil onto your skin, focusing on problem areas. The gentle, non-comedogenic formula helps hydrate the skin without clogging pores or worsening breakouts. It also helps soothe discomfort and strengthens the skin’s natural moisture barrier over time for balanced, calm-feeling skin.
Breakout Control Targeted Acne Spot Treatment
Finally, address stubborn breakouts with a gentle acne spot treatment, like Breakout Control Targeted Acne Spot Treatment. This effective formula with sulfur and niacinamide helps reduce the appearance of blemishes while preventing new ones from forming. Apply a small dot of the fast-absorbing treatment onto individual pimples one to three times daily as needed until the blemish subsides.
Kiehl’s Expert Tip: Moisturizing is critical for acne-prone skin, as dry skin may overproduce oil to make up for lack of moisture. Learn more in our article How To Moisturize Acne-Prone Skin.
When your skin is healthy and working as it should, the lipids in your skin’s natural moisture barrier help trap moisture in the skin to keep it hydrated. If the skin barrier becomes damaged, it leaves your skin vulnerable to excessive water loss, which can result in dehydration and visible skin problems like dullness, unevenness, and irritation. Exposure to stressors like hot water or cold, dry air can also worsen dryness and cause discomfort, itching, and even peeling.
You can manage dryness by using products that help replenish your skin’s natural moisture, such as Hydro-Plumping Hydrating Serum. This effective serum with our unique epidermal hydration filler helps encourage your body’s natural production of hyaluronic acid (an essential molecule involved with maintaining skin hydration). It deeply moisturizes the skin and helps diminish the appearance of dehydration for a smoother, plumper appearance over time.
For lasting moisture, pair your hydrating serum with our #1 facial moisturizer, Ultra Facial Cream. The rich face cream contains glacial glycoprotein and olive-derived squalane, a Kiehl’s signature ingredient. It softens the skin with lasting, 24-hour hydration that absorbs quickly without a heavy or greasy feel. The moisturizer is also uniquely formulated for all skin types and can be used day and night for visibly healthier-looking skin.
For All Concerns:
Don’t Forget Sun Protection
Whatever your skin type or concern, sunscreen should always be the last step in your daytime skincare routine. Apply a generous amount to your face and neck every morning at least 15 minutes before going outside. To keep your skin safe, follow other sun protection measures, like avoiding direct sunlight between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., as well.