This Shit Rules: My Skin Is Sensitive and My Hair Doesn’t Make Sense

I have thin skin — literally, and metaphorically. I’m not sure which of my many medical conditions have caused this situation. I’d initially blamed the steroid-based eczema cream I lathered generously on my shins and elbows throughout adolescence, but I recently bonded with a friend who, like me, has fibromyalgia, and we seemed to share many of the same skin problems. Who knows why I’m unable to scratch my dry legs without scarring for weeks while everybody else claws away with abandon? The world is full of mystery, and everything I do leaves a mark.

I’ve also been blessed with a bloodhound-esque sense of smell, and the ways in which I ensure everything around me smells like paradise has already been documented in Top Ten Products For Human Bloodhounds Who Need Everything To Smell Good. Today I will be discussing other items that I require to deal with my half-Jewish hair, my super-sensitive skin, and the fact that Margot Tennenbaum is my fashion icon.

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser


This shit truly does rule and is particularly useful for not disrupting your ph or whatever. When traveling, it doubles as face wash. If I wasn’t obsessed with smelling amazing all the time I’d probably use it for my entire body, but I am obsessed with smelling amazing all the time, so I use scented shower gel on my less-sensitive body parts and Cetaphil on the parts that are sensitive and would like to stay that way, just like Jewel.

Aveeno Clear Complexion Foaming Cleanser


The best place to discover new products is a shower you share with 2-9 other women, as I learned in college and throughout my twenties. I don’t know which of the eight Kappas I lived with my senior year brought this fine item into the shower on a day that my own face wash ran out, but bless you dear stranger, this is a quality facial cleanser.

Nivea For Men Sensitive Aftershave Extra Smoothing Balm & Nivea For Men Sensitive Shaving Gel

this shit rules

I like the shape of my legs but the actual skin on my legs is a total disaster. Most of it I can’t do anything about — the eczema scars, the ruddy knees, its nearly transparent hue. Vicious razor burn was also one of those things until an ex-boyfriend suggested I try using men’s shaving products. It makes perfect sense: products for the face will always be less irritating because faces are pretty universally sensitive. It works!

Pantene Pro-V Smooth and Sleek Shampoo and Conditioner


My scalp psoriasis doesn’t make any fucking sense. I’ve tried pretty much every shampoo and conditioner on the market — including every expensive natural chemical-free option at Whole Foods and various hippie stores — and I’m not any closer to the truth. Shampoos made specifically for scalp issues of any kind or for psoriasis, from T-Gel to Head & Shoulders, usually makes matters worse. The most I’ve been able to figure out is that it helps to switch what shampoo and conditioner I use every month or so, and that usually, Pantene Pro-V is what I can use for the longest period of time without having a flare-up. Why? I have no fucking idea. The body is A MYSTERY. When I can afford it, I use the PHYTO PHYTOJOBA Intense Hydration Brilliance Shampoo, which is also gentle on me.

Biosilk Hair Serumbiosilk

I smash some of this into my hair right after leaving the shower and then I blow dry and then my hair is smooth and silky like a mermaid’s. I’m half-Jewish which means my hair is frizzy, curly and poofy in spots, and then straight in other spots. It’s very confusing for my identity but Biosilk helps.



L’Oreal Paris Magic Skin Beautifier BB Cream: This is actual magic. I don’t know who invented this thing but it truly instantly makes your skin tone so much more even.

CoverGirl Perfect Blend Pencil Black Brown: Desert Island item.

Almay Clear Complexion Blemish Heal Technology: Acne medication usually makes matters worse but this concealer actually doesn’t… I mean… it sometimes even WORKS. It’s crazy.

Studio Secrets Professional Magic Perfecting Base


It’s SO HARD to find face moisturizers that you can travel with — there’s always pumps or they’re too big to fit into a travel case. This is a really great makeup base that I use as a face moisturizer when I can’t use my own ’cause I’m on the road like a wild cowboy.

essie Nail Color: Naughty Nautical


I was formerly committed to black nail polish (Essie Licorice) for life, but then I changed my mind and grew and changed as a person, switching to a palette of blues and purples and greens. This one is my favorite.

Burt’s Bees Hand Salve


I’ve JUST discovered this and boy is it lovely! I’ll tell you why: ’cause it cannot leak and explode all over your bag. So it’s an excellent way to keep your hands moisturized (if they get super-dry in cold weather, especially) without turning your bag into a flash flood!

Autostraddle cannot exist without the generous support of our readers. We need to raise $175k in the next 2 weeks — or we won't make it to Pride. And a world without Autostraddle would be a loss on so many levels. Help us keep this indie queer media boat afloat! Every dollar helps.

Go to our Fundraiser!


Riese is the 40-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in California. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3015 articles for us.


  1. ohhh noooo. Pantene is a hairstylist’s worst enemy!! Everything else on the list looks oh so lovely though! A+++

    Pantene actually coats your beautiful hairs in loads of wax giving the optical illusion of silky hair. If it works for you though then who am I to judge? Just wanting to spread my wealth of hair knowledge!

  2. I’m gonna be honest I recently started using that Burt’s Bees hand salve in my curly short hair messy pompadour thing to make it stand up and be shiny and it’s going decently. I believe it’s the combination of beeswax + oils. Idk, try it if you too have curly hair you want to stand up.

  3. Sometimes I accidentally brush my skin against something the wrong way and it gets all red and puffs up and one of my friends will be like “oh my god what did you do?” and I’ll just say “oh that’s just my skin it’ll fade in a few days” and they give me Concerned Looks. I appreciate the recs for those with a sensitive epidermis.

  4. (I’m sure you’ve already tried this, because it sounds like you actually know what you’re talking about and have tried everything)

    My skin used to do the red-flare thing (I never saw a doctor, so I don’t know why)– brush against something or even lightly scratch it, red welts. Like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. I switched to using mostly baby products for awhile (0 scientific basis for that) and started taking an OTC antihistamine (generic Claritin) every day, 365 days a year. That seems to have helped.

  5. Thank you – this is very relevant. I’ve had chronic dry skin for as long as I can remember, and it’s especially bad on my hands (which are also chronically cold – not sure if that’s related). I agree with the pantene and aveeno recommendations. I think I’ll pick up some cetaphil the next time I go to the store; the giant photo and Jewel reference convinced me.

  6. This is an awesome post. I tell people my skin is dry and sensitive and most people don’t understand. I’ve had eczema since I can remember and don’t know why and it mostly shows up all over my hands. Still trying to figure out if it’s diet based or whatever. I’d really like to stop having to use prescription cream that comes in a tiny tube and needs refills every 3 weeks or less. Also I don’t use cetaphil anymore, but i do use curel.

    Biosilk is the best shit ever. Expensive but worth it and it lasts a long time. You can find it for cheaper at Marshalls or Ulta.

    What I like to use on my hands is Bag Balm. Its awesome and even warms your hands up and helps with circulation.

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!