Expert Topic by Joanne Rendell
How to deal with Sensitive Skin
Written by Skin Therapist Joanne Rendell
Suffering from sensitive (or sensitised) skin? Discover how to minimise irritation and relieve redness, dryness and discomfort.
Sensitive (or sensitised) skin is an increasingly common issue – although unlike acne, it’s not a medical diagnosis. It’s generally acknowledged to be one of the key skin type categories, alongside oily, combination, dry and normal. As with all these other categories, there are different levels and degrees of sensitivity. Sometimes it’s a temporary phase that’s linked, for example, to a specific allergic reaction to a product or foodstuff. Identify and eliminate the culprit, and sensitised skin can recover. ‘True’ skin sensitivity, however, is usually a permanent condition. But there are plenty of products and treatments that can alleviate the symptoms, calm irritation and soothe any discomfort.
What is Sensitive Skin?
Sensitive skin tends to be reactive skin. Most products simply feel like they are too much, too strong, too irritating. It’s usually easy to identify. Sensitive skin is prone to redness, irritation and flaking. Certain other skin conditions, such as rosacea, can incorporate skin sensitivity. Broken thread veins can also be a feature (although these can occur in other skin types too, often as a result of the ageing process). Sensitive skin might sting, burn or itch. It can also feel dry, and flush easily. It tends to quickly mark red if scratched, or always has a background redness.
What causes Sensitive Skin?
A range of different factors can cause sensitive skin. Sometimes it’s inherited, or it’s a symptom of another condition. This type of skin often reacts adversely to certain weather conditions, such as wind and cold, but it can also be sensitive to sun. Fragranced skincare products – and even certain ingredients – can also trigger a sensitive episode. Lack of sleep, stress and hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy or menopause have also been linked to skin sensitivity.
How to care for Sensitive Skin
If your skin is sensitive, your priority should be to calm and reduce redness, hydrate the skin and help to build and support the skin barrier. When the stratum corneum layer is compromised due to environmental aggressors, inappropriate skincare products, or even stress, it can’t do its job properly and the nerve endings are unprotected. Choose simple, gentle, fragrance-free products, and avoid super-strength actives such as Vitamin A (Retinol) and Vitamin C. Look out for products that contain skin-soothing botanicals, such as Aloe Vera or and Shea Butter, Hyaluronic Acid will also help to keep skin hydrated. Swissline award-winning Cell Shock Age Intelligence Peace Booster Ideal for stressed and/or sensitive skin, this lightweight, fragrance-free gel-serum soothes and calms, reducing redness and encouraging repair. Key ingredients include Niacinamide (also known as Vitamin B3), renowned for its ability to counter dullness and uneven skin tone, and Tranexamic Acid, to brighten dark spots and improve pigmentation.
What is the Acid Mantle?
If your skin is sensitive, you need to create a regime that effectively protects and preserves the acid mantle. As its name suggests, this is the fine, delicate, slightly acidic layer on your skin’s surface that acts as a barrier to bacteria, viruses and other potential contaminants. The acid mantle preserves the skin’s microbiome and ensures its structural integrity. A damaged acid mantle is not good news for any skin type, but it has particular repercussions for sensitive skin. Keep yours healthy by avoiding harsh ingredients that strip or over-exfoliate skin, and make sure you hydrate the skin.
What causes Rosacea?
Rosacea is a complex, chronic skin condition that can incorporate skin sensitivity. It tends to be more common in women (although when it does occur in men, it’s often more severe). Symptoms of rosacea include intermittent redness across the nose, cheeks, forehead and chin, flushing, broken blood vessels, and a stinging/burning feeling. The exact cause is not known, but there are certain identified triggers. These include alcohol, spicy food, caffeine, hot drinks, stress and exercise. Harsh or highly perfumed skincare products can also exacerbate symptoms. Rosacea is a condition that requires a medical diagnosis – and sometimes medical prescription treatment – or it tends to get worse over time. Like acne, it cannot be cured, but it can be managed. Gentle skincare products that are suitable for sensitive skin can play a key role in preventing and alleviating flare-ups. Daily sunscreen (at least SPF30) is vital, too.
Medik8 Hydra8 B5 Serum is one of their best-selling moisturising serum delivering intense, long-lasting hydration to even the skin’s deepest layers, leaving it soft and smooth. Vitamin B5 boosts the skin’s ability to retain water and regenerate, while Hyaluronic Acid helps to hydrate the skin keeping it supple and nourished. The formula is oil-free, fragrance-free and non-irritating.
Avène Antirougeurs Calm Mask for Skin Prone to Redness - A soothing and cooling mask to comfort sensitive redness-prone skin.
Cooling and perfect to hydrate the skin the mask has a refreshing, aqueous texture, to help restore comfort to redness-prone skin. Also suitable for those who may be prone to rosacea - formulated with TRP-Regulin, a patented active to help soothe flushed, puffy and uncomfortable skin, as well as anti-irritating Avène Thermal Spring Water.
This soothing and cooling mask: provides instant comfort to irritated, redness-prone skin by encouraging microcirculation, reducing irritation, and enabling tissue regeneration. Paraben and fragrance-free, aqueous texture, for all skin types.
Brush On Block Mineral Block Dispenser SPF30 - This dry powder mineral sunscreen is super-fast to apply (and reapply). The translucent formulation is suitable for most skin tones, and can be worn under or over make-up. The built-in, self-dispensing brush ensures precise application – and it’s great for tricky areas, such as the scalp or thinning hair. The formula is sweat- and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. It’s safe for use on children and sensitive skin.