Shopping by Skin Concern-Sensitive Skin

Sensitive skin commonly exhibits redness, itching, stinging, swelling, and flaking. Such symptoms usually arise when the skin’s moisture barrier isn’t fully functioning. In other words, the layer of skin cells, sebum, etc that keeps water in and the outside world/irritants out, has been compromised and isn’t properly doing its job.

Stinging does not mean a product is working

People with sensitive skin often struggle with skincare and cosmetic products burning and/or stinging their skin. This occurs because of the damaged/thinner moisture barrier. Typically, the offending ingredients are related to fragrance although each individual will vary. Active ingredients like AHA’s or vitamin c are big no-no’s for most people with sensitive skin (actives can even bother people with completely healthy and hearty skin!). Stinging and burning sensations often start upon contact or shortly after application. You most likely have sensitive skin if several brands of cleansers or fragrances, etc cause a reaction upon application. Many people can find relief in switching to fragrance and alcohol-free products.

Redness-why so angry?

People with sensitive skin often has skin that will turn red after cleansing or even flush in cold or even hot weather. Redness can indicate more than just sensitivity; it can also point to rosacea (a skin condition that includes redness and broken blood vessels that may be accompanied by clusters of pimples in the nose/cheek/chin areas). Rosacea is considered a subcategory of skin sensitivity, but generally treatment requires a dermatologist’s help and supervision.

Flakier than a croissant

Flakes belong in pastry layers-not on your face! Moisture-retention problems arising from a compromised moisture barrier can mean cat-hair levels of shedding flakes. Flaking can be brought on by products like exfoliants (generally chemical, ie most actives) and reducing and/or eliminating their use can offer relief. Emollients are rich in fatty acids and help fill in gaps between skin cells reducing the appearance of flakes. Occlusives (applied over damp skin or humectant/emoliients) can help function as a “temporary barrier” until your skin can function better on its own.

So Itchy

 Itchy skin is skin that is loosing water, and fast. An improperly functioning moisture barrier is not only letting potential irritants like dirt and dust in, but also letting water evaporate out of the skin. This drys out the skin which leads to itchiness. Avoiding temperature extremes (like hot showers, indoor heating, and cold weather) and moisturize often (emollients will help especially if applied over humectants). Look for lipids/fatty acids in your products to help repair the damage. If the dryness is severe, sometimes a humidifier can help-especially in drier months.
Patch Testing
Patch testing helps prevent facial catastrophes, especially with the more sensitive types. With any skin care or cosmetic product there is the chance that you could negatively react. Just like with hair dye, I know that a lot of people don’t do this, but seriously, everyone should, and those with sensitive skin ESPECIALLY should patch test. Pick a test area (inner elbow, behind the ear, underside of the wrist) and apply the product there. Monitor the spot for 24-48 hours, taking note of any signs of sensitivity. Depending on your personal skin sensitivity, it may be best to patch test for several days before slathering the product all over the face.


What to look for:

It is so hard to create a routine or even give more than generic, all-encompassing advice for those who struggle with skin sensitivity. Some ingredients that typically aren’t irritating include aloe vera, ceraminde, chamomile, cocoa, mango, and most plant butters, donkey/goat milk, green tea, honey, oatmeal, propolis, snail secretion filtrate, and yeast ferments. Natural is probably the best way to go.

Labels will most likely contain things that state they are for sensitive skin or contain “calming,” “gentle,” etc in their labels (as always, check the ingredients out before purchasing/using).

Additional Tips for Dealing with Sensitive Skin:

-try switching to fragrance and alcohol free products and formulations

-switch to a gentle low pH cleanser (a cleanser that doesn’t leave your face feeling tight and shouldn’t be too foamy)

-look for soothing, humectant ingredients like hyaluronic acid and also emollients rich in fatty acids to help repair the barrier

-avoid actives or other harsh products (like benzoyl peroxide)

-introduce new products one at a time several days to several weeks in between…and of course, after thorough patch testing!

-it can be helpful to make a running list of brands, products, and/or ingredients that you notice sensitivity to. Keeping a journal or log can be extremely beneficial as you monitor your skin (like I’ve noticed my skin can become quite sensitive during winter months to where I can’t apply certain favorite products, but is generally fine in the summer when the humidity is high and the cold winds can’t get at my cheeks).

-and of course, drink lots of water, avoid touching your face, get plenty or sleep, and eat a healthy diet full of antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies 🙂

Remember folks, I AM NOT A DOCTOR. This is just what I’ve  concluded after much research over the years and from personal experience.

Since those with sensitive skin are going to have such individual needs, I feel that a sample routine would not be all that helpful. Instead, if this is something you deal with, trying websites (that I am not affiliated with!) like Glow Recipe, who feature lots of products with more natural ingredient labels may be a good place to start looking.

While it is not an Asian brand, certain western brands like Aveeno may be worth a shot. I personally think that Aveeno has some amazing oatmeal lotions; I used them all through middle and high school when my skin was such an itchy, stinging mess that it could barely tolerate anything else (yeah, 13 yr old me thought benzoyl peroxide facials and Windex were good things. Sometimes I look back and wonder how I survived lol). As a side note, their lotions gave me some awesome looking legs too. Using them twice a day, everyday, for about two weeks gave me some super smooth, super shiny skin that became impervious to razor burn.

Neutrogena has a large assortment of gentle makeup and also anti-acne products  if you happen to also be struggling with that (my high school self feels your pain!).

I also have to say: get your snail on. Its a anti-redness, soothing, gentle moisturizer that has yet to fail me.

If you have severely sensitive skin and/or can’t seem to figure out what it is that bothers your skin, I highly recommend forking over the cash you would spend on trial and error after error-ing, and paying a visit to your local friendly dermatologist. I know that sensitivity can sometimes be debilitating, and seemingly impossible to get around. In those cases, stop, drop, and get to the real cause with someone who can actually solve the root of the problem.

Do you have sensitive skin? What tips or tricks have you found worked for you? Please share in the comments section down below…I know that A LOT of people would be really, truly grateful!

Until next time! 🙂

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