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Notes on Sensitive Skin

For those with a sensitive skin type, it’s best to keep things simple by incorporating calming, hydrating and soothing products to really nourish and support the skin barrier. Signs you have sensitive skin include redness, flushing, irritation, inflammation and sensitivity after using certain products and environmental changes.

Sensitive skin can sometimes point to deeper conditions such as eczema, rosacea and psoriasis. Each person with a sensitive complexion will experience different triggers and symptoms of sensitivity, so it’s important to understand your unique complexion and its condition to tailor your skincare routine accordingly.

Sensitive skin is a skin type and not to be confused with a sensitised or reactive complexion which is a skin condition rather than a skin type. A sensitised or reactive complexion is typically situational and can be caused by a culmination of product misuse. Incorporating too many active ingredients in your skincare routine or frequently switching between different products can damage your acid mantle, the ultra-fine film of sebum (oil), amino acids and sweat which forms an antibacterial barrier over the topmost layer of your skin. 

Sensitive on the other hand is a skin type rather than a skin condition and with the right treatment plan can be well managed and cared for. Below are my recommendations for nurturing sensitive skin.

A simple sensitive skincare routine
Step 1 Cleanse with a gentle oil or milk-based cleanser.
Step 2 Apply a calming, hydrating serum.
Step 3 Apply a soothing mid-weight moisturiser
Step 4 Daytime apply a physical sunscreen over a chemical one.

Avoid drying alcohols and harsh actives
The key to treating sensitive skin is avoiding any harsh alcohols or actives. Alcohols such as benzyl alcohol, SD alcohol, denatured alcohol (alcohol denat), and isopropyl alcohol can strip the skin of its natural oils and wreak havoc on the acid mantle. Along with alcohol, AHAs and strong retinols can cause dryness and peeling so it’s best to avoid these ingredients and any other harsh actives you notice your skin reacting to.

Nourish and replenish your acid mantle
Our skin’s barrier plays an important protective role, so when it’s compromised we open ourselves up to the risk of inflammation, acne or even bacterial infection. Replenish your acid mantle by focusing on ingredients, not simply products and texture, (for example, a thick moisturiser that may contain irritating ingredients) instead look for gentle, hydrating ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acid, or calming lipids such as ceramides, squalane, jojoba oil and rosehip oil, which will also help to reduce redness in sensitive skin.

Opt for fragrance-free products
A prime culprit when it comes to sensitivity, synthetic fragrance is troubling because it can be made up of hundreds of individual chemicals so it is nearly impossible to know what exactly has gone into crafting the scent and how your skin will respond to each unique compound. Natural fragrance comes with its own set of potential problems; essential oils and plant extracts are highly volatile and can irritate already sensitive skin. I recommend looking for products and brands that have a clinical approach to sensitive skin.

Low, slow and spot test
Those with sensitive skin should always patch-test a new product before applying it over the entire face. The neck is a good place to spot test as the skin here is delicate, so if tolerated on the neck it should be fine for the face. Always start with the lowest dose possible when using any new active ingredient and use only once or twice a week before gradually building up to more frequent use.

Consider your environment
If you live in a cold, dry climate you can protect your skin by wearing a thicker layer of moisturiser and reapply throughout the day. Hot water and steam can be incredibly drying and stripping to the skin, instead opt for tepid water on the face, neck and décolletage.

Professional skin treatments
Consulting an esthetician can be incredibly beneficial as there is no one size fits all with skin types, especially sensitive skin. Along with performing clinical treatments such as LED light therapy and hydrating facials to help soothe and promote healing, they will be able to tailor a treatment plan to your unique complexion and concerns. If your skin isn’t improving with over-the-counter products it’s always best to see a dermatologist.