How to Look After Sensitive Skin
Sensitive skin is thought to affect millions of people worldwide. A recent report by the American Academy of Dermatology indicated at least 50% of the US population experience some kind of skin sensitivity, with increasing concern over this situation.
Here in the UK, incidences of skin sensitivity are also widely reported as being on the rise, with sensitive skin now viewed as a common skin condition. It’s also more likely to affect women than men, with about 50% of women and 30% of men suffering from sensitive skin. So what exactly is sensitive skin and why do people suffer from it?
What is Sensitive Skin?
Sensitive skin is described as skin that has reduced tolerance to cosmetics or personal care products. This is an everyday term rather than a medical diagnosis and is characterised by reactiveness, redness or blotchy appearance, burning, tight or dry sensation, blushing or permanent flushing, eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis or rosacea.
It should be noted that allergic skin is different from sensitive skin. Allergic skin will react immediately to a specific ingredient, whereas sensitive skin may simply show a little irritation or redness. This can build up over time or come and go depending on lifestyle and other factors.
Why is Skin Sensitive?
Skin sensitivity can be caused by numerous factors, including genetic predisposition, diet (for instance a lack of essential fatty acids), hormonal fluctuations, smoking, medication, excessive shaving, compromised immunity, the use of irritant skincare products or ingredients, or other products such as washing detergents, fabric softeners, fabrics, etc. that come into contact with the skin.
Skin that is constantly exposed to the elements, air conditioning or heaters can also become sensitive due to dehydration, moisture loss or sun exposure.
Caring for Sensitive Skin
Our skin reflects our inner health as well as the care we give it, so it’s important to look after your skin from the inside and the outside.
From the inside:
- Drink lots of water to help flush away toxins and rehydrate
- Avoid excess caffeine and alcohol as both are very dehydrating
- Eat lots of nutrient rich vegetables, especially green, leafy vegetables and Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids
- Manage stress levels as stress can compromise the immune system and make skin more sensitive
- Avoid smoking as it damages collagen and elastin fibre, contributing to wrinkles and decreased circulation, making skin dull and lifeless
From the outside:
- Cleanse and moisturise morning and night to help keep skin clean, clear and nourished
- Always remove makeup before going to sleep to allow the skin to breathe and renew
- Minimise the risk of sun damage by wearing a large hat or protective clothing
What to Use
As stated above, skin sensitivity and allergic reactions can be caused by the synthetic and chemical ingredients used in many popular skincare and makeup brands. Often it’s difficult to isolate the exact ingredient that’s causing the sensitivity, especially since we are estimated to place 168 different chemicals on our skin each and every day!
However, here are some of the main culprits to avoid:
- Parabens – an estimated 70% of makeup as well as skincare and other cosmetic products contain parabens . They prevent spoilage and inhibit bacterial and fungal growth. These synthetic ingredients have been directly linked to incidences of skin irritation and dermatitis.
- Methylisothiazolinone (MI) and Methylchloroisothiazolinone/Methylisothiazolinone (MCI/MI) – there is concern these chemical preservatives are causing an ‘epidemic’ of contact dermatitis. Both are found in moist tissue wipes, cleansers, shower gels, deodorants and shaving foams, as well as household products such as washing up liquid.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) – these cleansing and foaming agents have been linked to incidences of irritation of the skin and eyes. Many mainstream cleansing products contain SLS and/or SLES, such as shampoos, shower gels, soaps and facial cleansers.
- Oxybenzone – this chemical sunscreen agent is used in some foundations and is a known skin irritant.
Anyone with sensitive or reactive skin should also avoid products containing the following:
- Harsh surfactants
- Mineral oils
- Artificial fragrances
- Grain alcohols
- Chemical sun protection filters
- Irradiated or genetically modified ingredients
What to Use on Sensitive Skin?
For reassurance, opt for certified natural and organic skincare products using only natural preservatives, fragrances and ingredients. They are gentle and safe to use on sensitive skin and work in harmony with skin’s natural processes, so they are good for the beauty and health of your skin and body.
Those with extreme sensitivity or those suffering from eczema, psoriasis, rosacea and other allergies, should also take extra precaution by using natural skincare products that are fragrance-free. This is because some natural fragrances can irritate those with severe sensitivity. Those experiencing sensitivity around the eyes should also opt for fragrance-free skincare products and cosmetics.
Look out for these key features and benefits when sourcing a natural and organic skincare and cosmetics range that’s suitable for your sensitive skin:
- Certified by a recognised certification body such as BDIH Germany, Soil Association, Eco-Cert and Cosmos amongst others
- Clinically proven to be non-irritating
- Dermal tested
- No added fragrance or allergens