The last few months of 2017 were crazy busy. I spent my days juggling beauty content production for three women’s magazines (Cosmo, Marie Claire & Good Housekeeping), being mom to a teen, and trying to still focus on my blog. While I just managed to keep my wits, it was my skin that suffered the most.

Now, I’m one of the lucky few who has never really had any serious skin issues. I somehow escaped hormonal teen acne, and actually can’t recall having a really bad breakout (please don’t hate me!). My skin is strong – or so I like to think. I’m also fortunate in that I’m able to use anything on it and never get a reaction. I did have a reaction back in 2016 to a rather badly formulated (most likely past it’s sell-by date) BB cream (you can read the post HERE), but really, that’s it.

Then, towards the end of August last year, I was working in front of my computer…

While reading what I’d just written, I bought both hands up to my face to rest my chin on them. As I did this, I immediately felt an almost prickly, hot feeling on my skin. I grabbed my phone to take a look and this is what I saw.


A red, inflamed rash had presented on my neck and up the side of both my cheeks!

WTF was going on? I remembered that a year or two back I had a similar reaction that lasted a day or two. I had managed it carefully using unscented skincare designed for sensitive skin. It worked quickly and effectively and in no time my skin was back to normal, so I adopted the same skincare regime hoping it would normalize my skin

I had recently cut my fringe and was wearing my hair wavy – using quite a few new hair product. Because my hair touched the side of my face, I thought perhaps the new hair products were the culprits, so I stopped them. No improvement. I then considered that my new foundation could be causing the reaction (La Mer), so I stopped using that too. Again, no improvement. Maybe it was my washing powder causing the reaction? So, I stopped using it – still no improvement. The reaction was getting worse and I was well into my third week – what was hell was going on?

Everyone I spoke to said it must be stress – but I handle stress pretty well, and NEVER in my 43 years had it caused such a severe skin reaction!

One one of my Marie Claire beauty shoots, the brilliant Renee de Wit – makeup artist and skincare fundi – suggested I go see skincare specialist, Libby Roos. When I called Libby to make an appointment, she asked me the following question: “What are you using to remove your makeup and clean your skin with?”

I had been using a face wash (which shall remain nameless as I LOVE the brand) for years – “it couldn’t, never in a million years possibly be that”, I responded. Libby suggested I stop using it for a few days and replace it with something else and see what happens.

And guess what…

After two days the reaction disappeared!

How could this face wash – a trusted formula from a brand I adore – be causing this reaction? Also worth mentioning is that BOTH my hubby and daughter use it, and their skins are absolutely fine (just FYI, they still using it).

So I did some research and called on a few experts. I was amazed to learn that one can use a products for years, then suddenly develop a reaction. The cause of the reaction? Most probably a preservative that my body has developed an intolerance for. What I found even more interesting is that when I tried another product from this skincare range, my skin flared up.

Anyway, the whole thing has been quite a learning experience that I really wanted to blog about it. 

Below are the products I’ve been using to help my skin heal and get rid of the underlying congestion caused by the reaction. I can truly say I LOVE every single one.

Skinceuticals Retexturing Activator (R1325 – BUY HERE) – This product is just THE BEST! Admittedly, I was a little nervous using a resurfacing treatment as my skin was on the sensitive side, but within a few days of using this, it immediately showed improvement.

This oil-free exfoliating and hydrating serum contains 20% Glycolic acid and gently resurfaces without any irritation while also reinforcing the skin barrier. It is also moisturising (I hardly ever apply moisturiser after using it) thanks to the addition of Hyaluronic acid, which helps the skin retain water. Also included is a Hydroxyethyl Urea/Aminosulfonic Acid compound which encourages new cell migration to the skin’s surface and replenishes moisture levels. Kombuchka – a powerful antioxidant – helps combat any oxidative stress. I use 5 – 6 drops every evening after cleansing. I can’t rave enough about this product. If you have the cash to spend, do give it a try – you won’t be disappointed.

Skinceuticals Phloretin CF (R2725 – BUY HERE) is a product I’ve used many times before and have blogged about in-depth HERE. In a nutshell, it’s an advanced daytime serum that protects the skin against environmental aggressors (UV, pollution, smoke, etc.) It is also a pigment regulator, helping to reduce dullness and discolouration of the skin. It evens skin tone for a brighter, more radiant complexion and can be used on normal, combination and oily skins.Key ingredients include Phloretin, an antioxidant that neutralises free radicals, accelerates cell turnover and reduces the production of unwanted pigment.  L-Ascorbic Acid neutralises damaging free radicals and protects the breakdown of skin from oxidative stress. Ferulic acid, is a plant-based antioxidant that neutralises free radicals and helps to inhibit UVA, UVB and protect the skin from Infrared radiation and harmful ground Ozone which can be a contributing factor to pigmentation.

Optiphi Facial Cleanser (R689) has become a real favourite. This was the face wash I used to replace the one that was causing the reaction. I love how gentle it is, while still effectively cleansing my skin. It has a light (and very gentle) exfoliating action, thanks to the salicylic acid in the formula. It also works wonders with calming and desensitizing the skin, and is formulated at an ideal pH of 5.5 to restore balance to the skin. Optiphi Facial Cleanser can also be used over the eyes as a gentle eye-make-up remover, and this gentle, soap-free formulation is suitable for all skin types. This cleanser also doubles as a gentle exfoliating mask – simply apply for 5 minutes then rinse off. Oh, and it makes a great soothing shaving medium too – according to the hubby.

Find your closest Optiphi stockist HERE 

Avene Eau Thermale Spring Water (R149.95 at Clicks) is a mist that soothes any irritation. It’s specifically designed for sensitive, hypersensitive and allergic skin types. The formula is low in mineral content and does not dry the skin out. It can be used to soothe itching, sunburn, post-depilatory irritation, eczema, facial redness, razor burn and even nappy rash. The water is pH-neutral, hypoallergenic and preservative free. I also sometimes spritz a little over my makeup to give my skin a dewy glow. Another product I’m NEVER without.

The BioNike Defence XAge Revitalizing Smoothing Cream (R255 – DisChem) is another product I always turn to when my skin is feeling sensitized. I love it’s lightweight, almost gel-like texture that not only hydrates, but also supports the natural production of collagen and elastin. A lychee extract acts as an antioxidant, mopping up any free radicals. This moisturiser absorbs quickly and provides an excellent base for makeup application. You can read an in-depth review I did on this product HERE

One product my family and I are NEVER without is the Cetaphil Moisturising Lotion (R301.95 – Clicks). I’ve blogged about it in the past (HERE), and it is THE BEST solution for when your skin is feeling sensitive or irritated. Specially formulated for dry or sensitive skin types, this basic moisturiser does a wonderful job of nourishing and protecting the skin’s natural protective barrier, while soothing and softening. It is also fragrance and colour free. This was the moisturiser I turned to when I first noticed my skin irritation and was too afraid to use anything else. It really is one of my best, budget skin buddies.

Lastly, I turned to my trusted and beloved La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Tinted BB Cream (R240 available at Dermastore – BUY HERE) to protect my skin from the sun’s UV rays. Again, I’ve blogged about this product HERE and HERE. I love it because it’s formulated for normal to dry, or dry & sensitive skin types and can be used by those with Rosacea too. It contains universal micro-pigments that absorb into the skin, while adapting to any skin tone.

Got sensitive skin? Keep the following in mind:

Choose products without too many ingredients, this will reduce your chance of a reaction.

Always do a patch test (on the inside of your arm) and wait 48 – 72 hours. If you experience any burning, redness, itching or swelling, don’t use the product.

Avoid formulas that are highly fragranced, and always spritz fragrance onto your clothing, never directly onto the skin.

Look for products that are specially formulated for sensitive skin.


Avene is always my go to when my skin freaks out. I see such a difference! When I was in the process of planning my wedding, the stress and dry winter weather caused my skin to have a horrible bought of sensitivity and it was so sore. Avene milk cleanser, thermal water spray, hydrating serum and the Clinique Moisture Surge were my saving grace.

Glad your skin is back to normal, Candice-Lee. Thanks for all these insights. Of course, I am very intrigued to know which product you were using. r

Thanksfor stopping by ! Glad we were neighbors today linking up. Have a wonderful week!

Siobhan Yeatman,thanks a lot for the post.Really thank you! Much obliged.

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