Sensitive skin : Is your skin really sensitive or are you just sensitised?
4 Mar 2020
If you’ve got sensitive skin, you’ll know you have to be careful about what products you use. Harsh soaps and grainy scrubs will be off-limits. Certain ingredients like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and retinol in high concentrations might immediately result in redness. You might even find that chemical sunscreens irritate your skin. In this case, you’ll know that it’s often a case of trial and error to find out what you can and can’t tolerate. However, is your skin actually just sensitised? Have you perhaps created a restrictive beauty routine that isn’t or won’t always be necessary?
Sensitive skin, know the difference
If you have sensitive skin, chances are you were born with it. Rashes, breakouts and even inflammatory conditions like eczema have been all you’ve known forever. After all, how sensitive your skin is will be largely determined by your genes.
Sensitised skin, however, is something that can occur at any time due to external factors. While it can have all the symptoms of sensitive skin, it’s essentially a temporary state that, happily, can be reversed.
So, how does “normal” skin become sensitised? The short answer is rather easily. If you’re treating your skin harshly, exposing it to too many irritants without giving it a break, you can erode your skin’s barrier repair function. The aforementioned acids and retinol aren’t even the main culprits. Excessive use of products containing alcohol, menthol, vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and fragrance can all contribute to irritation. Also, as far as causes go, the buck doesn’t stop at what you’re applying to your skin.
You can also become sensitised due to your environment. Excessive exposure to the elements, smoking and extreme temperatures can mess with your skin’s barrier. Even sleeping on a pillow washed with a highly fragranced fabric conditioner can annoy sensitised skin.
The road to calm
The first step towards bringing back the balance is to immediately stop using anything even remotely irritating. This means swapping out your high-foaming face wash for one that’s specially formulated for sensitive skin. A top pick would be something like Lamelle Serra Cleansing Gel. A soap-free extra gentle cleanser, it’s free of potential irritants and protects a fragile skin barrier.
Facial wipes? Put them away. Toner? Leave it. If it’s not essential, you don’t want it. At least not for a while. Same goes for any anti-ageing products. Now’s the time to put those serums, eye creams on the bottom shelf. Even those “hydrating and calming” sheet masks have to go as many of them contain highly irritating alcohol and fragrance.
After gently cleansing, you’ll still want to hydrate. You’d think that merely using a very simple moisturiser free of known irritants would do the trick. Alas, you’ll need something more purposeful. In this case, it’s a moisturiser specially formulated to help restore a damaged skin barrier.
Typically, this “specialist” hydration contains a high concentration of ingredients that mimic the moisture that occurs naturally in your skin. This means naturally occurring lipids like fatty acids and ceramides. Something that’ll really fit the bill is SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2.
After a couple of weeks’ break from anything irritating – plus the kind of specialised hydration your skin had been craving – your barrier function should be restored. You can return to using your other products and possibly even those you once deemed irritating. Only this time around, you’ll need to use them correctly as opposed to in excess.