Is your skin quick to flush?
Or, on occasion, sensitive to touch
Are embarrassing red patches and tiny blood vessels close to the surface?
Or maybe your cheeks are chapped and peeling?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may have sensitive skin.
Understanding Sensitive Skin
This study (1) found that as many as 50% of women and 30% of men described their skin as sensitive, a staggering statistic.
More alarmingly, scientific research found that our skin may not even feel irritated or compromised until weeks later, even though a product you are using contains irritants.
Thats right. Your skin might not be stinging or burning, but that doesn’t mean that your acid mantle isn’t breaking down and that chronic inflammation isn’t occurring, a topic we discuss in the article 10 Tips for treating skin inflammation.
As if calming your skin isn’t enough of a challenge, figuring out how to use products that can’t bear the potent wrinkle-fighters that others rave about, like vitamin C, is enough to give your skin an aggravating flush.
And it’s a particularly frustrating catch-22 when you know that inflammation and irritation actively age your skin.
But you’re in luck: there’s never been a better time to be a delicate flower with sensitive skin.
With sensitivity on the rise, the trend is for products and ingredients that soothe as much as they smooth.
But before you can even begin to introduce them into your routine, you first need to understand why your skin gets sensitive.
Why Your Skin Becomes Sensitive
Please bear with us as we get a little skin sciency here
The Journal of Investigative Dermatology conducted extensive studies (2) on skin irritations. When the skin’s surface gets irritated, it activates neuro-peptides, specific chemicals in the brain responsible for regulating hormones.
It also found that some people with sensitive skin have more reactive immune responses and higher than usual neurological reactivity.
When more neuro-active chemicals are released into the skin than usual, this triggers inflammation, creating rashes and erythema and expanding the tiny veins under your skin, making them appear closer to the surface; think those small red veins often apparent on your face.
Whilst there is no medical definition for sensitive skin, one thing is sure: it’s an actual condition.
With all this in mind, let’s look at how we can begin to calm your inflamed skin and rejuvenate your complexion:
8 Steps to Will Calm Your Sensitive Skin
#1. Ditch offending ingredients
Anything that undermines your protective barrier function and strips your skin of lipids will make it vulnerable to skin conditions and harmful bacteria. So, become a label detective and eliminate harsh astringent ingredients like alcohol and sulphates in many cleansers and body washes.
#2. Beware of actives, especially at high percentages.
Products advertising high percentages of powerful anti-wrinkle or anti-pigmentation ingredients are too much for sensitive skin. Instead, you require a balanced formula of micro-dosed actives. However, once you’ve managed to get your skin into a calmer and more resilient place, you can re-introduce your actives, such as vitamin A, peptides and niacinamide.
Be sure to introduce them slowly and not all simultaneously, and be careful with vitamin C; it is ascorbic acid at the end of the day.
#3. Take time to build a stronger barrier
If your skin acts up for any period, you need to settle it before adding any serious wrinkle repair or anti-pigmentation ingredients. We recommend a minimum of 12 weeks of a basic barrier-restoring routine to heal your skin; our barrier-repair duo is a great option.
Any actives you re-introduce into your routine after that pose less risk of irritation to your now calmer, firmer skin. And if they do, it will be a lot easier to pinpoint the offender.
#4. Strip back your routine
Initially, your barrier-building routine should include only a few products. The more you mix, layer and experiment, the more you risk inflaming and upsetting your skin. You want to reset your skin’s pH to neutral and restore your protective acid mantle.
#5. Moisturising is important
if you have sensitive skin, you must use one that contains skin-identical ingredients that create an essential barrier on your skin, one that prevents water loss and helps reduce inflammation, like Fortify barrier repair cream that mimics the natural ingredients found in your skin to help rebuild your barrier.
#6. Keep your skin hydrated
Healthy, hydrated skin maintains collagen and elastin, while dehydration can disrupt the skin barrier, leading to sensitivity. Look for water-based, humectant-rich formulas like H2O skin shot and Quench plumping peptide cream to keep your skin dewy and hydrated
#7. SPF is a daily must
Especially for skin sensitive skin. But it’s essential to be aware that you can react to chemical sun filters, So be sure not to use over an SPF 20 or opt for a mineral sunscreen instead.
#8. Mind your microbiome
Your skin’s delicate microbiome maintains the acid mantle, preserving skin health. Disrupting this balance can affect pH and lead to sensitivity. Consider prebiotic formulas to strengthen and support your skin’s natural defence.
#9. Pay attention to the fabric you use
If you have sensitive skin, it’s not just your face that requires extra care. Various parts of your body, especially those in close contact with clothing like socks and underwear, need attention.
Many women are transitioning to organic materials such as cotton or bamboo for hygiene and comfort. High-quality organic garments are available everywhere, offering a range of options in terms of type, size, and colour. You can explore further by checking out the collections of organic socks and organic cotton underwear for women by Q for Quinn.
#10. Avoid fragrances
Fragrances contain many chemicals, such as benzyl benzoate, butoxyethanol and benzyl salicylate. These are known skin, eye, nose and throat irritants, allergens and hormone disruptors. So, use only fragrance-free skincare products.
Sensitivity is not always apparent
As mentioned above, the appearance of redness and swelling in your skin’s tissues may not be immediately visible, which can be misleading. But below the surface, inflammation is taking its toll on the structural cells and matrix proteins within your dermis. Because it resembles skin changes associated with accelerated skin ageing, this is referred to in the industry as “skin flamm’ageing.
Granulomas are one such problem often caused by micro-needling, which we discuss here; they can be infectious and inflame and distort nearby tissues, which can take weeks or months to develop in your skin.
Chemicals found in personal care products and cosmetics can build up slowly in the body’s fatty tissue over time.
A reaction won’t always occur until years later; your skin can become so sensitive it can even react to simple things like tap water, as this study (3) found–which looks at the challenges with sensitive skin.
To conclude. The naked truth
Skin sensitivity is a genuine concern and affects many of the population.
Whilst it is complex, there are measures you can take, as outlined above, that will help reduce sensitivity in your skin.
If your sensitivity is extreme, the inflammation is not going away, and your skin may be almost painful to touch. In this case, something more insidious and pathological could be at play.
This is an acute inflammatory response–when your immune system tries to block a substance that it perceives as a foreign body but cannot eliminate.
This can be a response to microorganisms, chemicals, or organic and inorganic materials.
It would be best if you established a skincare routine that re-generates your skin without having any nasty reactions, is proactive in weeding out irritants and reinforces your skin’s protective moisture barrier.
This means getting to grips with ingredients and your skin’s peculiarities and tendencies; we are all metabolically different.
But once you know what you’re looking for, it gets easier over time
1. The Prevalence of Sensitive Skin
2. Neuropeptides and sebaceous glands
3. The Sensitive Skin Syndrome