One time, I tried a highly-anticipated celebrity skincare line and the lower half of my face broke out in painful red welts that took weeks to go away. I've had similar experiences prior to this situation, and always chalked up the reactions to having sensitive skin.
But after years of trial and error, and finally making the connection that certain essential oils and plant-based ingredients trigger a reaction, I've come to the realization that my skin is not sensitive, but sensitized.
This leaves a lot of clean skincare products out of the question for me, but luckily brands like Tata Harper are formulating collections specifically for those with sensitized skin who want the option of using products with natural, plant-based ingredients.
Superkind is a five-piece collection of skincare essentials designed for reactive skin, including versions of Harper's cult-favorite products such as the Radiance Mask. The formulations are free from potentially irritating ingredients such as vitamin A and C, BHA acids, enzymes, physical exfoliators, essential oils, as well as fragrance, and have gone through hypoallergenic testing.
"I was inspired by conversations I was having with my friends and family that have reactive skin. I realized that in our modern environment, there are more and more people with reactive skin," Harper tells InStyle. "We're constantly exposed to stressors and irritants that are weakening our skin barrier and it's making people more prone to reactions. I found that the skincare products available to reactive skin are either simplistic or synthetic, but I wanted to give reactive skin real skincare and prove that skincare for reactive skin doesn't have to be boring."
Before getting into the products — which I have been using on and off without any irritation since the collection launched this past spring — I turned to Dr. Melanie Palm, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Art of Skin MD in San Diego for a refresher on the difference between sensitive and sensitized skin.
"Sensitized skin is one that will develop an allergic reaction to an allergen placed on the skin, or sometimes just aerosolized in the environment," says Dr. Palm. "Allergic reactions in sensitized skin can occur from many allergens, from preservatives, common cosmetic agents, fragrances, stabilizers, industrial chemicals, and even topical plants — think poison ivy — or antibiotics, such as neomycin in Neosporin. This is a true allergy, causing an immediate hypersensitivity reaction in the skin."
As for sensitive skin, it's not an allergy to something. "Sensitive skin typically is more reactive, meaning it develops an exaggerated reaction to different products applied to the skin," Dr. Palm explains. "However, with allergy testing, there would not be a positive allergen reaction. Instead, it develops irritation easily. This can manifest as itching, burning, pain, rashes, or dryness." The dermatologist also points out that people with sensitive skin often have a tendency to develop eczema or rosacea.
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Now let's deep dive into Tata Harper's Superkind collection, which took a year of research and two years of development to get just right.
Superkind Softening Cleanser
Cleanser is the first step in any skincare routine. This creamy face wash creates a subtle lather that's satisfying, not stripping.
Superkind Bio-Barrier Serum
One of two additions to the Superkind collection this fall, I've fallen for the texture of this this barrier-strengthening serum. It's thick enough to be mistaken for a moisturizer, but it dries down without any stickiness so it's perfect for layering in your a.m. and p.m. skincare routines. In addition to rebalancing the microbiome and reducing redness, it also firms and smooths skin.
Superkind Fortifying Moisturizer
This silky moisturizer replenishes my dehydrated skin, leaving my face soft and glowy. While my skin looks fresh all day, the moisturizer doesn't leave any sticky residue and sunscreen doesn't pill when applied on top of it.
Superkind Bio-Barrier Eye Crème
Eye cream is always a tough sell for me. Many formulas with active ingredients like vitamin C and retinol make my eyes burn, so I usually just apply my moisturizer to my eye area. This rich cream is an exception.
Harper is on the same wavelength. "A combination of postbiotic and barrier supporting technology helps rebalance the microbiome and fortify the delicate skin around the eye," she says of this gentle, yet effective formula. "I am so proud of creating this eye cream, because typically this is the one product people have difficulty finding when they have sensitive skin."
Superkind Radiance Mask
This version of Harper's fan-favorite brightening mask has a gel-like texture and is powered by neutralizing AHA acids that gently exfoliate while also hydrating the skin. Prebiotics also provide barrier support.
From non-toxic makeup and skincare to sustainability practices, Clean Slate is an exploration of all things in the green beauty space. Find out what's really in your products — and what's being left out.