Sensitive Skin Defined


Thirteen years ago, MALIN+GOETZ was created to offer simple skin care solutions that were both effective and gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin. Co-founder Matthew Malin falls into that latter category, and his challenges were a major impetus behind the brand’s existence. Here, he shares his own dermatological travails—what he learned, what he likes, what works—in this series:

As some of you might know, I suffer from a variety of skin concerns, including rosacea, eczema, seborrhea, even fragrance allergies. I’ve made frequent trips to the dermatologist since my teens and I’ve tried nearly every cream, treatment and prescription out there. While there is no permanent cure, I have discovered various solutions that help manage my conditions*, so I’m sharing what I’ve discovered in the hope that my experiences might help others suffering from these same conditions. I’m making no medical recommendations or claims here: If you have serious skin issues and are considering changes in your routine, we suggest that you consult a dermatologist first. First up: Rosacea.

what rosacea is: A chronic skin disorder characterized by dilated capillaries and persistent redness, mostly on cheeks and nose; occasionally pustules, too. Rosacea can affect any skin type, from oily to dry.

what causes it: While exact causes are unknown and unproven, heredity and ethnicity (fair skin, usually) are theories for origin. Self-perpetuating triggers can include exercise, spicy foods, skin care products, sun exposure, extreme temperatures, alcohol and stress.

my triggers: Basically, all of the above (except, I don’t drink, so that’s off the table), but I don’t fully deprive myself:  When I run outdoors, I try to run early or late in the day wearing SPF, and I limit myself to one piece of chocolate each day.

my medications: Different doctors have put me on a plethora of topical meds. Over time, though, my skin tends to acclimate to a medication (sometimes after years of everything going smoothly), at which point, I then have to go on antibiotics to help ease any flare-ups from switching to a new med or protocol. It’s a really nerve-wracking cycle! In three cases over 30 years, when this happened, I had to resort to going on Accutane to clear things up.  Recently, I’ve returned to a protocol that seems to work well.  This includes Finacea in the morning and alternating Noritate or Soolantra in the evening.  I have used Metrogel, Metrocream, Sumadan, and Keralac, among others, but to mixed results (Metrocream worked for many years; it’s better for dryer areas).

professional treatments: In some cases, laser treatments can help. I’ve tended to try them when the topical of the moment begins to fall short or I’ve started an antibiotic and want to avoid the Accutane solution.  I have tried two: Photodynamic Therapy, which usually is combined with the topical Levulan. It’s not a super pleasant experience (think tenacious rubber-band snapping to your face, followed by red, peeling skin and NO sun exposure), but it worked and helped me stave off Accutane for a few years.  More recently, I tried a different laser option without a topical, and the results did not work nearly as well. It was back to more antibiotics (this time, Doxycycline) for six months. It did help, but the only way off that was to—yep— Accutane.

my current skincare regimen: I use Grapefruit Face Cleanser twice a day, always with cool water and my hands—cloths or sponges can be irritating. Once a week, I sub in our Jojoba Face Scrub or Detox Face Mask, both of which are super gentle and hydrating but also have their own added exfoliating or detoxing benefits. I use Vitamin E Face Moisturizer, or SPF 30 face Moisturizer when I know I’ll be outside (I also wear a hat and I will cross a street to walk in the shade—ask Andrew Goetz, if you don’t believe me) and on only areas that require relief (from the Accutane affects). I then apply the topical med to my nose (my big problem area), and sometimes cheeks and chin.  If I need more hydration, I’ll spot-treat with Replenishing Face Serum before moisturizer. I’ve also found the anti-microbial benefits of our Eucalyptus Body Wash can help with seborrhea, as can our Vitamin B5 Body Lotion, and I treat the seborrhea around my hairline and on my scalp with our Dandruff Shampoo. It is incredible.

what I’ve learned: Even after landing on the right treatment, flare ups can still occur, so it’s important to manage triggers. Also, topical and oral medications are often recommended as ongoing treatment (even when the rosacea is in remission) since they can help lower the possibility of recurrence. In choosing products, the right gentle cleanser can be your best friend, but avoid any product that burns, stings or irritates or seems overly heavy or pore-clogging. If you’re intrigued with a product but wonder if your skin will love it, do a topical patch-test on your inner arm. Anyone can be allergic to anything. I know from experience.

written by: Jane Larkworthy