The thing is, you might already camouflage your actives without even knowing it. Say, if you’re sensitive to retinoids, perhaps you’ve tried the “moisture sandwich” method, where you apply the product in between layers of moisturizers to buffer its potency. Camouflaged actives follow a similar beat—they’re just already sandwiched in the formula itself.
And again, the actives themselves aren’t diluted. They’re still potent enough to deliver desired end results (smoothing skin texture, softening fine lines, busting breakouts, etc.), but the accompanying tidal wave of hydration soothes the skin at the same time. Peach & Lily’s Super Reboot Resurfacing Mask, for example, includes a whooping 10% of glycolic acid and 0.5% salicylic acid, and the formula has an acidic pH of around 3.6 to help keep those acids active. “Traditionally, all of this would mean that those with sensitive skin should steer clear,” Yoon notes. But because it also folds in players like allantoin, green tea, cica, chamomile, turmeric, blue agave, panthenol and aloe, the result is also gentle and non-irritating.
Similarly, Eighth’s Day’s Resurfacing Tonic includes high concentrations of lactic acid and glycolic acid (in fact, it’s described as a “chemical peel in a bottle”), yet it’s made with sensitive skin in mind. “I spent five years and created over 20 versions of the product to professionally balance the ingredients in the formula,” says founder, board-certified dermatologist, and dermatologic surgeon Antony Nakhla, who managed to secure the perfect harmony of aloe leaf and cucumber extracts to help soothe and calm the skin.
At this point, you’re probably thinking: If camouflaging is so effective, why haven’t brands done this in the past? Well, buffering actives and making sure they stay stabilized is an incredibly delicate dance, and until recently, not many labs were up for the challenge. Plus, “Those with sensitive skin are often told not to use any sort of ‘harsh’ products and become fearful of them,” says Nakhla.
As a result, most sensitive skin formulas solely focus on hydration and skin barrier support—which is important, no doubt, but sensitive skin is not a one size fits all category. “Many people can tolerate varying amounts of actives,” Nakhla says. Sensitivity is a spectrum; the more we understand the many intricacies, the more elevated these products become.