The term sensitive skin is something which is often thrown about without understanding the full meaning and consequences behind it.
The term ‘sensitive skin’ will refer to the increased reactivity of the skin to products or conditions that to most other people do not cause a reaction. For example, someone who overuses a product, or over exfoliates can cause their skin to redden and this may lead them to think they have sensitive skin.
The winter months will often irritate our skin more and so again we may be under the impression we have sensitive skin. This sensitivity can come to an inherited condition or down to environmental conditions or even chemicals found in food and cosmetics.
There is a very simple way of testing whether you have sensitive skin by just using your hand and face. If you brush your fingers over your face with light to medium pressure and your skin turns red, this is an indicator you have sensitive skin.
If you wanted to take it a step further, if your skin is sensitive it will react with almost any product you put onto your face with stinging and redness, and this can be anything from a face wash to a foundation.
Once you have discovered whether or not you do have sensitive skin you can tailor your skin care regime a lot better.
Identifying the triggers
Some of the most common sensitivities to the skin are chemicals found in skincare, some of these you may recognise from the ingredient list, such as sodium lauryl sulphate, butylenes glycol, methylparaben, and Methylisothiazolinone.
These synthetic chemicals damage the natural layer of skin found on the surface. Your skin can also be triggered by things like hormonal changes, ageing, periods of illness which can affect the barrier of the skin and increase inflammation.
Identifying possible allergens found in cosmetics/skincare
There are many common allergens that are found in our products, these include nickel, neomycin, formaldehyde and heavy fragrances. These are not often inherited but come from a prolonged use.
How to care for sensitive skin
There are a number of common complaints from sufferers of sensitive skin, we will look at them below and some simple solutions.
Complaint: Red blotchy skin
Have you noticed visible blood vessels, bumps, visible oil glands, or thicker skin on the nose, cheeks, and chin? These are all signs that you are suffering from rosacea. You may also notice that your face flushes more easily, as the blood vessels dilate and draw blood to the surface.
Solution: Look for soap-free ingredients in your skincare products that also act as an anti-inflammatory, which would include licorice, algae and colloidal oatmeal. You should also avoid all spa treatments that involve chemicals, rough facials and acidic ingredients such as glycolic acid and vitamin C.
It’s also worth thinking about what you put into your body, avoiding spicy food is a good start, as it can make the redness worse. It would be great to incorporate foods that are rich in probiotics such as live yogurt.
Complaint: allergic reactions
If your skin has a panic attack at high speed it’s usually an immune response to something in your body that it doesn’t quite agree with. If it happens often it could mean a genetic abnormality.
Solution: A homemade solution would be a milk compress, and yes it is as simple as it sounds. A cloth soaked in equal part warm water to milk and placed on the affected area. You could also try a completely natural aloe vera gel or some cortisone cream.
Your diet is also important if you are having allergic reactions, reduce foods with high sugar levels, and include more zinc-rich foods such as beans and cashews.
Complaint: Very dry skin
Does your face feel incredibly tight? Particularly after a bath or shower and have a rough feel to it? It’s highly likely you do suffer from dry skin. It could even be something as simple as being dehydrated. Dehydrated skin can result from your diet, the weather or the skin care products you are using…a lot of alcohol can dehydrate the skin too.
Dehydrated skin is temporary, dry skin is long-term and you are born with it. The skin cells don’t produce enough oil, so when you are suffering a bad bout of it, the cells lift causing irritation and itchiness.
Solution: If you do suffer from ultra dry skin and wash your face twice a day, try doing it only at night with a soap-free cleanser. It’s also important to keep your skincare regime simple, so avoid products containing alcohol, toner, and astringents.
If you can, get hold of some rose water and use this on some cotton in the morning. It could also be worth using an overnight mask once a week.
By Holly W.