What is Sensitive Skin?

If you’ve ever had a reaction after applying a new foundation, moisturizer, setting powder or SPF, you may have wondered if you have sensitive skin.

What is “sensitive skin”?

“Sensitive skin” isn’t a medical term, but more of a blanket term that encompasses a lot of different things for different people. Sensitive skin is categorized based on the reactions and sensations the person experiences. Often debated if sensitive skin  is a true skin type, a skin condition or a temporary skin reaction brought on by harsh ingredients, environmental factors, or a stressed immune system, I’m here to share what I know based on my experience along with facts from the interwebs. I’m not a medical professional – please use this as information to help you make more informed decisions for your own skincare choices.

At its core function, our skin is a barrier made up of multiple complex systems and processes to ensure optimum health and protection (pH regulation, hydration regulation, etc). All of these processes are dependent on enzyme activity. In sensitive skin, this activity can become inhibited, compromising the natural barrier function, and reducing lipid synthesis. As a result, water loss increases and irritants are able to penetrate skin.1 Translation: sensitive skin may have a compromised barrier function leading to moisture loss and may be more prone to reactions.

Unfortunately, there are a few of us who are more predisposed to sensitive skin based on our genetics. A number of the skin diseases and conditions linked to sensitive skin are known or believed to run in families. They include acne, eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea.3

How can skin become sensitive over time?

Great question!

I’ve had what my mother always referred to as “sensitive skin” from as far back as I can remember. Granted, I’ve had problematic skin since puberty started at the ripe age of 10, so I’m sure somewhere along the way the intertwining of my genetic predisposition to sensitivities and multiple dermatologist prescriptions, combined with minor social anxiety and working high-stress jobs…things progressively got worse for me over time. Don’t forget: your skin reacts to what’s going on in your life, and life as an adult is a whole hell of a lot more stressful than when we were in middle school.

Your skin comes into contact with external factors that can make skin more sensitive just as much as internal factors. The biggest part that has helped me on my clear-skin journey? Taking the time and effort to understand my internal health better and making necessary changes to have my outside reflect my inside efforts as much as possible. We’re on this journey together 🖤 I’m here to help you along the way to better understand to the best of my ability. For starters, take a look at the factors listed out below – do any of these sound familiar to you?

Internal Factors

  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes (ovulation, pregnancy, menopause)
  • Lack of sleep
  • Existing skin conditions

External Factors

  • Excessive cold
  • Excessive heat
  • Dry climates
  • Environmental pollutants
  • Products’ ingredients (cleansing agents, fragrance, alcohol, etc)

Maybe you’ve noticed your skin is more reactive when you’re on your period (here, here!), you’re stressed out about a big presentation or dreadfully, maybe you work in a toxic work environment (I feels you because I know how my skin + mental state were after that)… or maybe the whipping winter winds have your skin reacting to one ingredient whereas in the summer months your skin can’t handle something else. (I can’t handle acidic ingredients after walking home in the brutally cold city winds in the winter down where I am on the southernmost tip of Manhattan, whereas anything too heavy in the summer will guarantee a same-day pimple for my face and a potential rash on my body). We’re constantly coming into contact with internal and external stressors that impact our skin, more than we realize!

Common sensitive skin reactions

My sensitivities may not be your sensitivities, and our reactions may look nothing alike. We both may be experiencing sensitive skin and should still keep our respective sensitivities in mind when buying new products, seeing a new facialist, or swatching new eyeshadows.

The following are various sensitive skin reactions you may have experienced from products – typically these will happen in and around the area of application. I’ve included an asterisk next to those that are my common reactions:

  • Stinging sensation*
  • Burning, watery eyes*
  • Itchy rash
  • Raised rash
  • Hives
  • Acne of varying degree*
  • Red blotchy skin*
  • Skin discoloration
  • Flakey skin
  • Scaly skin*
  • General irritation or sensitivity to touch

However, looking at the most common reactions for people who claim to have sensitive skin: “Typically, these are people with more easily irritated skin, either with inflammation, redness, itching, or stinging sensations,” says Annie Chiu, MD, a dermatologist at The Derm Institute in Redondo Beach, CA.3

In case you’re still unsure if you have sensitive skin or not, I encourage you to consult Dermstore’s “10 Signs You Have Sensitive Skin” roundup, because I could not say it better myself. Please know this is not a bonafide way to determine your condition, but it may certainly shed some light for you 💖🤘

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Sources 1, 2, 3

Photo via

How-to: Fixing Broken/Cracked Eyeshadow

It’s a typical Monday morning: you’re running late because you couldn’t drag yourself out of bed on time. After you haphazardly throw an outfit together, you’re frantically trying to “put your face on” in the bathroom. One subtle elbow movement and you’re watching your favorite pressed powder falling towards the tile floor in slow-mo. Metallic pigment splayed every which-way on your floor, you sweep it up, pissed that you’ll have to repurchase that shade later in the week. Don’t fret: broken shadows ARE fixable. Granted, they won’t look as perfectly pressed and pretty as it did newly out of the box, but you won’t have to shell out that $16.50+ for its replacement.

Supplies needed:

    • Broken shadow
    • Rubbing alcohol
    • Toothpick/Q-tip with cotton tips removed (will be used as a tool to break up the powder even more)
    • Quarter (optional)
    • Paper towels
    • OPTIONAL: Eye-dropper, otherwise: CAREFULLY pour the rubbing alcohol
    • **NOTE: these instructions are under the assumption that your broken eyeshadow is a single compact, not part of a value-set with multiple individual shades. Though these are fixable as well—see photos for reference.

Bronze cracked shadowGold cracked shadow2

  1. Sanitize the tool you’re using to break up the shadow even more. You don’t want to be using a dirty tool as this could cause eye infections…and you will actually have to buy the shadow’s replacement after that.
  2. Using the tool, break up the shadow even more into a finer powder, focusing on the clumps, and making sure to not make a mess on your counter. Keep all powder contained within the shadow’s original casing.
  3. Taking a bit of rubbing alcohol, pour a bit into the cap (or have some ready in the eye dropper), pour a few drops into the eyeshadow (this amount depends on how much powder was in the compact). Put in a little at first—you can always add more. NOTE: if you do add too much, it’s no biggy, you’ll just have to wait a bit longer for the excess alcohol to evaporate.
    Gold adding alcoholGold mixing in alcoholGold goopy
  4. Using your tool, move the shadow/alcohol mixture around until it’s fairly mixed and the texture is goopy like a thick paste. Once you’ve achieved this consistency, put your tool aside.
  5. Taking the eyeshadow case, “drop” it unto a hard surface a few times to smooth out the goops and make sure the mixture is settled. This will ensure that the finished product has a smoother surface rather than bumpy/clumpy. Do NOT do this step if you are fixing a broken shadow in a palette—ONLY do this step if fixing a single stand-alone shadow.
  6. Set the shadow aside and allow for the rubbing alcohol to evaporate. This can take as little as 2hrs — I left mine overnight for convenience sake. Again, if you added a bit too much alcohol in step 3 you will just have to wait a wee bit longer, and overnight could be your best bet.
  7. To ensure that your shadow is dry to the touch, gently touch the surface with your fingertip—if the shadow gives in to the middle, and your finger has quite a bit of product transfer, it still needs time to dry. If it’s solid, not too too much product is transferred to your fingertip, and doesn’t collapse into itself you are now able to press the powder down even more.
  8. Take a tissue, folded twice, and lay it across the top of the now-dry shadow fully covering the pigment. Gently but firmly press your fingertips into the tissue to compact the powder down even more. If you would like the surface to be evenly compacted, you may also use a quarter. Place the coin ON TOP of the tissue making sure that it is centered, and press gently but firmly. If you press too firmly you can still damage the eyeshadow as it is not fully dry.
  9. Set this now compacted shadow aside to fully dry overnight, and you’ll be ready to use it the next morning. Voila!

Both dried shadows
If you’re more of learn-by-seeing type of person, here is the YouTube video I referenced.

How-to: Homemade Coconut Oil Sugar Scrub

With Labor Day now behind us, it’s official—Summer is coming to an end, and boy is it about time! As you were attending outings with friends this weekend, I was creating my perfect ending to the season: a moisturizing, homemade exfoliant to slough off that dead, dreary skin and brighten my epidermis for Fall.

Ingredients + Supplies:

  •   Coconut oil
  •   Sugar
  •   Vanilla Extract (optional)
  •   Glass jar (b/w 6-10oz, mine was 8oz)
  •   Measuring cup
  •   Bowl + spoon (not shown)


  1. Pour water into your clean, empty jar. Once full, pour that water into a measuring cup to see how much your jar can hold. Your ratio for the mixture will be 2 parts sugar to 1 part oil. I.e. since my jar was 8oz (1 cup) I was able to divide it into 1/3 cup oil to 2/3 cup sugar.
  2. Once you’ve measured out your sugar, pour into a cereal bowl. Dribble in 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or a few drops from an essential oil of your choice if you’re opting for a more scented scrub. If you’d rather forgo these additions, keep reading.
  3. Pour in the appropriate amount of coconut oil to achieve that 2:1 ratio. Stir mixture until all sugar granules are saturated in the oil. If you bypassed the scent additions in step 3, no worries—coconut oil is quite fragrant on its own. If you added scent, make sure that these are well-mixed-in too.
  4. Now that everything is thoroughly blended, it’s time to transfer your new scrub from the bowl to your jar. Literally as easy as spooning it in! (see me doing it below)
  5. NOTE: in picking a jar, be smart about it. Don’t choose anything too tall and narrow—you won’t be able to fit your hand to the bottom to use the last of your homemade product! Think of some that are more round and stout—think jars that hold jam or marinated artichoke hearts 🙂
  6. Enjoy your amazingly moisturizing new scrub in the shower, or slap a gift-tag on it and give it to a gal pal!

If you’d like to experiment with scents and oils I’d love to hear about your concoctions! Leave a comment with any variations or personal spins you put on your exfoliants.

Photos via my Instagram

Creating Your Perfect Vanity

I’m writing about this because it never occurred to me that all women don’t do this…and too many friends have complimented my bedroom for me to feel comfortable not commenting on this.

My mantra in life is There is beauty in everything, let me help you see that. That alone kinda tells you that I value beauty and beautiful things; I seek out, consume, write about, photograph, wear, create, read about, gift to others and adorn myself with beautiful things. That being said, what woman doesn’t love and appreciate beautiful things?

Back to the matter at hand…

Is the space that you make yourself beautiful—your vanity—itself a pretty space? Does it reflect you and your style? Do you enjoy doing your makeup and getting ready in this space, or does it feel monotonous and routine? I ask because these are my spaces:

I thoroughly enjoy getting ready because each space is pleasing to the eye but still simple and organized while reflecting my personal style–a lot is crammed into these small spaces. It’s not your space until you add a few personal touches. I have a fascination with Native American culture, nature, and feathers; you see two dreamcatchers, feathers, bowls and dishes made of natural woods and stones, a jewelry stand in the shape of a tree branch, an art print of a tattooed woman with antlers–you know this is my space because it reflects a lot of me.

Having a decorated vanity is not for everyone–some prefer completely cleared surfaces while others prefer just to have the essentials displayed with no decor. I particularly like adding my personal flare to a space. It’s relatively easy to do, but it’s best built over time allowing you to curate your items from wherever whenever you please. My items are a range: jewelry stand from Urban Outfitters, catch-all dishes from Crate & Barrel, candles from Whole Foods & Anthropologie, art print bought on AllPosters.com, large dreamcatcher custom-made from an artist on Etsy, I bought the small dreamcatcher on a trip to Taos, New Mexico…and those are just the items from my bureau! I always try to incorporate sentimental items with organizational items and the quirky “Julia, only you would have that” items to make each of my spaces unique.

A note on why I do it: I love to have open space and cleared surfaces; a room feels much cleaner, airier, and my eye doesn’t get distracted and drawn to the clutter. I know that’s not too realistic, so I strive for a happy medium between cleared surfaces and clutter: my organized decor approach. Enough to feel lived-in while still being neat and tidy to avoid the cluttered feel. A tidy space allows me to focus more on the things I need to do–cutting down on the clutter prevents me from getting too distracted.

  • I just believe in the motivational aspect to it:
  • who wants to be making themselves pretty if their space to do it isn’t pretty?

Oh, and…

…Because it’s okay to be a little vain sometimes