The skin’s outermost layer acts as a protective barrier to keep moisture in and harmful substances out. In people with sensitive skin, it appears that the skin’s natural defenses become less effective, making it easier for the effects of the environment (think pollution, ultraviolet rays, temperature changes, etc.), and harsh products, to penetrate the skin. The result is that sensitive skin:
- Is often prone to blemishes
- May appear tight and stretched
- May show signs of peeling, cracking, red patches
- May itch, burn, sting or tingle
- Becomes less elastic
- Tends to age faster than healthy skin.
Know your Triggers
The aim in caring for sensitive skin healthy is to soothe and calm the skin, avoiding harsh products. If your skin is sensitive, there are certain harsh additives and chemicals you should avoid – read our article on Sensitive Skin for more information on what to avoid.
Identify your unique triggers. There are thousands of chemicals and additives in the products we use on a daily basis. Identifying your unique problem ingredients is the first step in caring for sensitive skin. If a product triggers an allergic reaction or irritates your skin, create a list of the ingredients. Over time, you will find common factors in all the products that irritate your skin, and you will be able to pinpoint the offending ingredients, which you can then eliminate from your daily routine and avoid the next time you buy make up or beauty products.
Not sure what your triggers are? Conduct your own patch test. A patch test is an easy and effective way to identify potential problem ingredients. Most drugstores, beauty stores (such as Ulta and Sephora), and department stores have samples of their products readily available to try and test. Simply apply a small amount of the product to your inner wrist, elbow or ears – wait 24 hours, then check the result. If no irritation is present, you’ve found a winner.
Keep a list of your unique triggers. You will soon learn to identify the names of the offending additives and chemicals that trigger your reactions. But so many of them have similar, unpronounceable names, it’s not easy to keep them straight. Keep a cheat sheet with you, or list them on your phone, then refer to your list each time you shop for a new product – check the labels carefully – and don’t forget to update your list each time you identify a new irritant.
Consider other things. Not all people with sensitive skin have chemical triggers from products used on the skin. For some, the trigger may be in the foods they eat. Be your own detective. Find out what your unique triggers are.
It’s no surprise that the key to keeping sensitive skin healthy, is to stick to a routine designed to keep the skin calm and irritant free. Cleaning and moisturizing your skin are very important parts of your basic skin care regime.
Clean your face twice a day with a very gentle cleanser. To cleanse without stripping the skin’s natural moisture, use a cream or lotion-based cleanser such as Eucerin’s Gentle Hydrating Cleanser, which is also fragrance free. For oily and combination skin, use hypoallergenic gels. For acne-prone skin, alternate your regular cleanser with a gentle anti-acne cleanser such as Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser.
Follow up with a water-based moisturizer. Moisturizers are crucial in helping protect the skin by creating a barrier between you and the environment. Moisturizers also restore dry skin and soothe skin irritations. Avoid moisturizers that are oil based and contain lanolin or mineral oil – these can block the pores and cause pimples or black heads.
When selecting a moisturizer, consider one that contains a sun block with an SPF 15 or more. Neutrogena makes a sunscreen for sensitive skin that will not irritate. If your moisturizer does not contain a sunscreen, be sure to apply one each time you go outside.
Exfoliating is an important part of the skin care regime. Even sensitive skin needs to be exfoliated once a week. If you skip this step, flaky, dead skin cells will soak up the moisturizer before it reaches the healthy skin, thereby preventing the beneficial lotions and creams from hydrating and protecting the skin. Use a very gentle exfoliant once a week to remove old skin cells and help your skin breath, keeping it looking healthy and fresh.
Remember to check the labels of all the products you buy for your unique triggers.
- Got Sensitive Skin? (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Turn Dry Skin into Healthy Skin (healthyskinsolutions.com)