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How to Identify and Treat Sensitive Skin
There are many terms that we use when discussing skincare and skin types, and there are lots of misconceptions about them. For example, sensitive skin. Many people think that sensitive skin is a skin type and often lump it together with other skin types like oily or dry. That’s the first misconception. Sensitive skin isn’t a skin type, rather it is just a condition of the skin that is likely a symptom of some other underlying skin disorder or more serious matter. Sensitive skin is a pretty misunderstood area, so this article will tell you everything you need to know about sensitive skin, such as how to identify it, what might cause it, and how you can treat it!
What is sensitive skin?
Sensitive skin is basically skin that is more reactive than normal. The sensitivity of the skin occurs when the nerve endings present in the top layer, or epidermis, of the skin, is irritated. This irritation can happen if the skin barrier is weak or broken down because of an internal or external trigger. Sensitive skin is irritated very easily by environmental elements like the wind, heat, dryness, or cold, and it can also be irritated by skincare products. The effects of sensitive skin are burning or stinging sensations, redness, flakiness, peeling, itching, and general discomfort.
Ingredients in skincare products or even household products can cause a reaction in sensitive skin. Facial soaps, serums, masks, and moisturizers can all cause irritation to the skin, as can fragrances, dyes, and detergents in washing products and body wash. You can easily identify if your skin is having a reaction to skincare products if you notice discomfort or redness and irritation after applying certain products. If you experience some flakiness, itchiness, or bumpiness after trying a product, it is a sign that your skin is sensitive.
Does sensitivity have different levels?
There are different degrees of sensitivity just as there are varying levels of severity in oily skin, dry skin, and acne. There are a few categories of sensitivity that we can use to identify what the main factors that cause sensitivity to an individual are:
Naturally sensitive skin: This type of sensitivity is genetic and dependent on skin conditions you might have inherited from your parents. This includes hereditary skin conditions such as rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema.
Environmentally sensitive skin: This means that your skin sensitivity is triggered by environmental factors. Potential triggers include pollen from plants, smog, dust, the sun, certain gases, and just about anything that your skin might come into contact with. You will know that you are experiencing sensitivity to a certain thing if your skin becomes very itchy, red, and even stinging.
Reactive skin: This skin reacts when it comes into contact with skincare products. Your skin will usually feel very hot, and start to itch when a product you are allergic to is applied. Some people also experience papules or pustules in the areas that came into contact with the errant product.
Thin skin: As our skin begins to age, the skin gets thinner as we lose elasticity and collagen. Thinner skin is more prone to irritation as the skin barrier is often weakened by a lack of lipids which reinforce the barrier.
What causes sensitive skin?
There are many different reasons that your skin is sensitive, and sometimes it is due to an underlying condition of the skin. Some of the most common reasons are dry skin and eczema.
Dry skin is often accompanied by a sensitivity of the skin that results in peeling, redness, irritation, itching, tightness, and flaking. Dry skin is a skin type in which an individual’s oil glands do not produce enough oil. Oil, or sebum, is important for keeping the skin well-moisturized and soft, and if you lack sebum in your skin, your skin barrier is compromised and will result in the loss of water and moisture from the skin cells. This causes the skin cells to be dry and die out, leading to redness, irritation, and flaking.
Eczema is a chronic skin condition that is a result of a weak skin barrier. When the skin barrier is weak, it is unable to protect itself from irritants in the environment, causing itching, redness, and inflammation of the skin. One sign of eczema is crusting of the area that is irritated. There might be an irritant in your surrounding or an ingredient that is causing your eczema to flare up.
Tips for Dealing with Sensitive Skin
Pick products with clean ingredients
Sneaky, hidden fragrances are one of the biggest culprits of exacerbating sensitive skin by causing itchiness, dryness, and even burning sensations. The best way to ensure that your products are fragrance-free is to give the ingredient list a close read. It can be hard when many products nowadays have up to fifty different ingredients and most of them have scientific names we cannot identify. One good rule of thumb is to choose products that have fewer ingredients as this reduces the chances of there being ingredients that can potentially irritate and cause inflammation or redness in the skin.
Use a gentle cleanser and only cleanse when necessary
Cleansing is important to get rid of the gunk and toxins that might have built up over the day, but if you have sensitive skin it will be a good idea not to over-cleanse and choose a gentler cleanser. Too much cleansing can strip the skin of the fatty acids that make up a natural barrier on the skin. This barrier is crucial for preventing moisture from escaping the skin which can lead to drying out and hence irritation and redness. If you have sensitive skin, get a super gentle cleanser and pick one with no sulfates. Sulfates are usually found in cleansers that can foam up and lather, so try to steer clear of them. Micellar water is another good option for removing makeup gently.
Ramp up your moisturizing routine
It is absolutely essential that people with sensitive skin douse their faces in moisture and hydration, otherwise you will almost definitely see the effects of slacking off when your skin starts to peel and look dry and sallow. The most effective way to give your skin that added boost of hydration is to get a potent moisturizing elixir, and of course, a serum with the gold-standard hyaluronic acid to really pump in the hydration. Hyaluronic acid is a magic ingredient that will retain up to 1000 times its weight in moisture, making it absolutely essential when you need all the moisture and hydration you can get. Glycerin is another potent ingredient filled with nourishing emollients to strengthen the skin barrier.
If you are still unsure of what is going on with your skin, it is best to seek a doctor or a dermatologist who can accurately diagnose your skin. Be careful with what products you use and always be very gentle with your skin if you have sensitive skin!
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