Best Sensitive Skincare Products: The 2023 List Beauty Awards

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As someone susceptible to viral TikTok skincare, I'm no stranger to surprise breakouts when a product doesn't agree with my skin type. From dry patches to wintertime rashes, sensitive skin can be an itchy hassle. Although it's often caused by underlying conditions like eczema or rosacea, sensitive skin can also be triggered by dry weather, sun damage, or aging. Whatever the cause, building a skincare routine around sensitivity presents plenty of challenges. 

A trendy exfoliant that may do wonders for some people can quickly turn into a blotchy mistake for others (I most definitely belong to team blotchy). Along the way, it's important to know which ingredients set you off, and which restore damaged barriers. For this year's beauty awards at The List, I tested (and re-tested) 10 sensitive skincare products, experimenting with viral drugstore brands and celebrity favorites to see which ones are worth the hype. 

Likewise, I also discovered which do more harm than good. I considered questions of consistency, hydration, and ease of application. Perhaps most importantly, I asked, "Does this product do what it advertises?" The results are in: Here are the top five sensitive skincare finds for 2023 sorted by category for ease of reference. 

Read more about the 2023 List Beauty Awards methodology and all the top picks here.

Best overall: Aveeno Calm + Restore Oat Gel Moisturizer

If you struggle with the unfortunate combination that is acne and dry skin, it can be hard to find a moisturizer that fully delivers on its promise of hydration but also doesn't clog your pores. When layered underneath sunscreen and heavy foundations, some moisturizers will even trigger skincare pilling, which is never fun. After testing Aveeno's Calm + Restore Oat Gel Moisturizer, I can safely say it's one of the best products on the market for sensitive skin. 

This moisturizer's key ingredient, prebiotic oat, has been proven to strengthen damaged skin barriers and, in some cases, clear-up breakouts (via The National Library of Medicine). Not only does it lead to a noticeably fresher-looking face, but the product's lightweight, gel-based formula makes it ideal for the acne-prone among us. As the product instructions recommend, give your face some TLC by massaging upwards and outwards. Let the formula soak into your skin before adding a layer of sunscreen and then continuing with your regular makeup routine. 

Although it's certainly not cheap — it retails for approximately $28 per 1.7-ounce tub — a little bit goes a long way, as is the case with most high-quality skincare. If you decide to add this product to your cart, make sure you order a skincare spatula along with it. Otherwise, you'll find yourself reaching into the depths of the container with your fingers, which can spread bacteria.

Purchase the Aveeno Calm + Restore Oat Gel Moisturizer at Ulta for $27.49.

Best hydrating cleanser: La Roche-Posay Hydrating Gentle Face Wash

Although La Roche-Posay, an offshoot of L'Oreal Groupe, has been around since the Vietnam War and bell-bottom jeans, its recent virality can largely be attributed to TikTok, where #larocheposay has amassed billions of views. Dermatologists like Dr. Muneeb Shah (@dermdoctor) and Dr. Daniel Sugai (@drspf) have praised some of their most popular products, but is this mid-price drugstore brand really worth the internet hype? 

The short answer is yes. If you have dry skin, not much compares to La Roche-Posay's Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Face Wash. Priced at approximately $17 for 400 milliliters on Amazon, it's received over 19,000 5-star ratings. The formula contains ceramide-3, niacinamide, and glycerin, meaning it can cleanse and brighten the skin without stripping it of any much-needed moisture. 

Especially for those of us with damaged barriers from years of over-exfoliating, this cleanser expertly nourishes and smoothes while also removing a day's worth of grime. Always wash your face twice daily — once in the morning and once at night. If you're wearing heavy eye makeup, don't forget to start with your go-to remover. Although the hydrating formula impressively washed away my foundation and sunscreen, it couldn't quite break down my eyeliner.

Purchase the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Face Wash at Amazon for $16.99.

Best skin tint: Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Natural Skin Perfector

Now that the no-makeup makeup look is trending, more and more so-called TikTok "clean girls" are opting for tinted moisturizers and sunscreens over full-coverage foundations. Although the aesthetic is usually advertised by creators with smooth, filtered skin, Laura Mercier's Tinted Moisturizer Natural Skin Perfector will create that coveted hydrated look no matter your type or texture. It also comes in 20 different shades at Sephora — definitely a plus in the often-limiting world of beauty. 

Retailing at $26 for just 25 milliliters, it's admittedly on the expensive side. But for special occasions, it's well worth the price tag. I layered the tint over my daily moisturizer and, especially after I added a few touches of concealer, it really evened out my skin tone (hence "skin perfector") and did a good job covering hyperpigmentation from months-old healed blemishes too. During the humid summer months, this formula should provide enough hydration without an added base. 

Since it also claims to be "long-wearing," I tested the tint throughout a sunny day of errands, a surprise trip to the park, and a melting ice cream cone. It held up well, especially if you finish off your makeup routine with a hydrating setting spray. Fair warning, though; the formula contains sunscreen, but it won't be enough to fully protect your face from UV rays. Make sure you apply an additional layer of SPF underneath. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Erum N. Ilyas recommends ⅓ teaspoon at least, per Healthline.

Purchase the Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Natural Skin Perfector at Sephora for $29.

Best bodywash: Native Unscented Bodywash

As Jake Gyllenhaal told Vanity Fair in a 2021 interview, "More and more I find bathing to be less necessary." Since most of us don't subscribe to that philosophy, I tested out Native's Unscented Body Wash. Not only did it leave my skin suitably clean, but I also left the shower feeling hydrated. Best of all, with a price tag of just $9 for 18 fluid ounces, you get plenty of bang for your buck.

Unlike some soaps and shower gels that leave behind a sudsy residue, this product washes off cleanly. Especially if you have sensitive skin, I would recommend adding an unscented bottle to your shower routine. New York-based dermatologist Michelle Henry takes this approach: If you wouldn't do it to your face, don't do it to your body (via The Strategist). 

Native is sulfate-free, paraben-free, and dye-free, meaning that it's one of the best options out there if you're worried about exacerbating an underlying condition. Plus, the brand is committed to natural, eco-friendly ingredients and packaging, so you can feel a little bit better about your environmental impact while checking out.

Purchase the Native Unscented Body Wash at Native for $9. 

Best lightweight sunscreen: Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Face Liquid Drops

From greasiness to pilling, sunscreen can ruin a perfectly good face (despite how long you've spent putting it on). However, that doesn't make it any less necessary. Wearing sunscreen every day can reduce your risk of skin cancer and delay signs of aging. As the name suggests, Cetaphil's Sheer Mineral Face Liquid Drops is a mineral sunscreen, meaning it sits on top of the face. 

As Los Angeles-based esthetician Candace Marino explained to Byrdie, "[Mineral sunscreens] form a physical barrier that reflects the light rays away from the skin." What's more, although they can take a lot longer to blend than their chemical counterparts, mineral-based formulas are far better for sensitive and acne-prone skin. I used the recommended ⅓ teaspoon of Cetaphil's sheer SPF 50. Be advised that it's a thin formula and comes out fast. 

However, after I massaged it in over my moisturizer — a process which admittedly took several minutes — the product created a smooth, hydrated base thanks to its use of vitamin E. After the formula settled, I also felt like I needed less foundation to even out my skin tone. The bottom line? As someone who starts breaking out at the thought of heavy oils, this product was a life-saver. And, for under $16 at Target, it's well worth the price.

Purchase the Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Face Liquid Drops at Target for $15.49.