If you are reading this, you might be experiencing skin discomfort and wondering what the reason is. In this article we will explain how to recognise sensitive skin, what are the most common factors causing sensitivity, how to deal with it and which products you should be using.
What is sensitive skin?
Sensitive skin is a common term used in the skincare industry. You may find it on product labels or beauty headlines. However, sensitive skin isn’t actually a clinical term. Dermatologists often hear from their clients that they have a sensitive skin type, but sensitivity could be a one off or recurring. It also depends on many internal and external factors. If your skin is continuously sensitive, it may be due to underlying conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea or contact dermatitis. Consulting a dermatologist is necessary to treat these conditions effectively.
How to recognise sensitive skin?
Sensitive skin tends to react negatively to a variety of factors and is easily irritable. You may experience differing degrees of redness, a painful burning or stinging sensation, itching, blistering, rashes, scaling or skin breakouts. This can happen on some areas of the skin or overall.
Why do most people experience skin sensitivity?
The skin is guarded by a protective outer layer called the epidermis or the lipid (fat) barrier. This barrier is often compared to mortar, which, in the construction world, is the cement, fine sand and lime used as a binding material when building a brick or stone wall. Similarly, your skin cells are the bricks and stones and the mortar is the lipid grid binding and protecting your cells. A healthy, well functioning epidermis must have a good ratio of ceramides and essential fatty acids to function properly. The main function of the epidermis is to retain moisture and to keep the skin hydrated while keeping bacterias, pollutants and allergens out.
When the epidermis is damaged, it basically lets external factors such as UV rays and pollutants penetrate the layer underneath called the dermis. The dermis is the layer of your skin hosting connective tissues, blood vessels, oil, sweat glands, nerves, hair follicles and most importantly the two proteins that give your skin its elasticity and bounciness called collagen and elastin. Skin sensitivity happens when the epidermis is too thin, too weak or damaged, making the skin more vulnerable and permeable, allowing damaging factors to come in contact with the dermis layer.
What are the common factors damaging the skin barrier?
Both internal and external factors play an important role when it comes to skin sensitivity.
Genetics do play an important role in skin sensitivity, indeed, you might be born with an underlying condition such as psoriasis. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease meaning that your immune system is dysfunctional and your skin cells grow too fast. The cells pile up on top for the skin resulting in itchiness. Rubbing and scratching of itchy patches will damage the epidermis overtime. All underlying conditions should be dealt with the advice of a professional.
As we age, our skin produces less oil due to the sebaceous glands slowing down. Sebum, or oil, prevents dryness leading to cracks forming in the epidermis. Essential oils also have antibacterial properties making it the body's first defense against infections. While ageing is irreversible, dryness can be neutralised by maintaining a healthy and moisturised epidermis.
Environmental factors can be detrimental to the skin. Living in a hot country, in most cases means that you often are confronted with air conditioning, whether it's in your car, your office or your home. A/C units dry up the air to reduce humidity levels while dry air pulls out moisture from your skin to increase the humidity level. Similarly, when living in a cold country, the air is often dry and lacking humidity outdoors and heating systems indoors dry up the air in the room. Weather conditions prevent the epidermis to function properly as the oil and water levels are out of balance.
UV rays are widely known for sabotaging the skin. The reason however isn’t much talked-about. UV rays are by far the most damaging factors to the skin as they release free radicals. For the ones who aren’t familiar with these yet, free radicals are atoms that have an unbalanced amount of electrons floating around them. When these atoms come in close contact with our body, they go and grab electrons from our healthy molecules such as antioxidants. These aggressors make the skin barrier weaker overtime. Wearing SPF creates a shield that will protect your skin against UV rays.
- Inadequate skincare routine and habits
The most common skincare mistake is over-cleansing with face cleansers containing aggressive ingredients. Over cleansing will strip your skin of its oil and can create a water-oil imbalance. Similarly, while gentle exfoliation is a good way to get rid of dead skin cells, it often leads to excess rubbing damaging healthy skin cells. Chemical exfoliation, or peeling, is a softer way to tackle dead skin cells as long as the exfoliating agent concentration isn't too high. It is recommended to not exfoliate more than twice a week.
Sensitive skin routine 101:
Using an oil balm is a gentle way to remove makeup, sweat and SPF in the evening. The balm is applied directly with the hands avoiding excess eye and skin rubbing with a cotton pad.
This COSRX water based cleanser is perfectly suited for sensitive skin, its low pH allows a soft cleansing without stripping the skin from its mineral oils.
I’m From Rice Toner
This toner is made of 77.78% of rice extract. Rice extract is widely known for its soothing properties which makes it your number one ally. I'm from rice toner very gently exfoliates while keeping your skin deeply moisturised and your pH level under control.
COSRX Advanced Snail 96 mucin power essence
This holy grail essence is undeniably the best for sensitive skin. The main ingredient, snail mucin, is renowned to be gentle to the skin and deeply moisturising.
This serum is formulated with several fruit extracts and vitamins that reinforce the skin barrier. In addition, this serum will soothe irritated or inflamed skin by lowering its temperature actively.
Benton Aloe Soothing Mask Pack
This sheet mask is formulated with Aloe which is the best ingredient to soothe and to moisturise the skin. Use the benton aloe soothing mask pack each time your skin feels tight or when you are experiencing a burning sensation.
Benton Fermentation Eye Cream
This fermentation eye cream doesn't contain harsh ingredients. It will immediately moisturise the fragile skin under your eyes and will help reduce puffiness and dark circles.
Pyunkang Yul Moisture Cream
This moisturising cream uses natural ingredients. Its vegan formula absorbs quickly without leaving a greasy feeling on your skin.
Lagom - Cellus Sun Gel SPF50+ PA+++
This sun protection is the perfect base for make up. It protects your skin against UV rays and moisturises at the same time. As opposed to other sunscreen it doesn't leave a grey or greasy layer on your skin.