A recent report from Mintel discovered a staggering 32 percent of British women describe their skin as sensitive. Now, that’s a lot of red, itchy, flaky and/or stinging skin. So, if you suffer with an unpredictable complexion and are fed up with pesky flare-ups throwing your skincare game off, it’s time to take control.
Easier said than done? Not necessarily.
Here, we’ve rounded up ten things you need to know about sensitive skin, including all the important stuff like what it is, what causes it and of course, how to treat it…
1. A Skin Type?
Unlike dry, normal, oily and combination skin, sensitive skin is not strictly a skin ‘type.’ Your skin type is predetermined by your genes so it’s the one you’re born with. And yes, you can definitely have a predisposition to certain skin irritations (especially things like eczema, rosacea and psoriasis), but most sensitivities develop over time and are caused by external influences. This makes sensitive skin a ‘condition’ rather than a ‘type’ and why both oily and dry skin types can have irritated or sensitive skin.
2. The Signs
So, how do you know if you have it? Well, according to experts, sensitive skin is an unpredictable condition in which your skin experiences unpleasant sensations (think burning, stinging, itching and tingling) due to certain stimuli that don’t normally result in any issues.
These so-called stimuli can be internal triggers such as your hormones and diet, or external factors like ingredients in your skincare, environmental pollution, a dramatic change in temperature or even friction from your clothing.
3. Whole Body Care
Sensitive skin can appear anywhere on your body, but things like severe dryness and itching are much more common in areas that have fewer sebaceous glands and therefore less of the natural oils your skin barrier needs to remain healthy and strong. Your barrier is extremely important for retaining moisture, repelling external irritants and transporting nutrients. Ultimately, a weakened or impaired barrier will almost always lead to irritation and dryness.
The backs of your hands, feet, knees and elbows are particularly prone to these kinds of sensitivities which is why an occlusive body moisturiser is so important. A great solution? Smooth Natural Luminosity Body Butter onto clean, damp skin after showering, bathing and washing your hands to seal water and oils into your skin and help strengthen your barrier function.
Also, think about the detergents you use to wash your clothes, towels and bedding. Laundry products are often highly fragranced and packed with harsh surfactants and preservatives, which are a big no-no for sensitive skin.
4. Know Your Triggers
When it comes to the thin, delicate skin on your face, most sensitivities are caused by a reaction to something it doesn’t like. This can be anything from the sun or a particular ingredient in your skincare to your hormones going wild due to stress, lack of sleep, menopause, pregnancy or your periods.
Understanding your skin’s triggers can be tricky to master but if your skin starts acting out of the ordinary, think about what’s been going on in your life recently. Is it the time of the month? Have you been stressed at work? Maybe you’ve started using a new skincare product? Anything different that you can pinpoint will help you understand how to deal with your flare-ups.
Of course, if your sensitivities get worse or don’t go away, a trip to your GP or a visit to a dermatologist might be in order, but chances are, it’s something you can deal with at home.
5. Age Impact
Feel like your skin has become more sensitive as you’ve gotten older? Yes, it’s a thing. As skin ages it naturally produces less oils, collagen and elastin causing it to become inherently drier, thinner and weaker. It also loses fat and your blood vessels become more fragile making you more prone to redness. Sigh. If your skin is in an angry place, opt for our gentle, natural Organic Hydration Gel to help calm, restore and repair and gradually introduce more products.
6. Ingredients Check
The ingredients in your skincare regime are vital for reducing irritation and, just like your diet, there are thousands of ingredients which are totally fine for most people, but can cause serious flare-ups in others. If you think you may have an allergy to something in your skincare, a dermatologist or allergist can perform various tests to determine the cause. But it’s also prudent to cut out some of the major offenders yourself.
Synthetic fragrances, dyes and preservatives like parabens are the most common allergens in beauty products, so we recommend giving these a wide berth. You should also avoid sulphates which are extremely drying and can do real damage to your skin’s all-important barrier. All HIGHBORN products are free of parabens and sulphates, you’ll be pleased to hear! And the Seven Phase Ultimate Collection is a great way to transform your skincare routine from start to finish.
It’s not just what goes into your products, though. You must also be aware of how many products you apply to your skin on a daily basis. There’s been a huge rise in active ingredients commonly found in skincare products which, on the one hand, is great for improving the condition and quality of your skin.
On the other hand, too much of a good thing can have the opposite effect, creating inflammation, soreness, redness and dry patches. A great way to ease in is our Revive and Defy Starter Set, featuring our best-selling Imperial Eye Gel and Pre-Eminent Beauty Serum.
Our advice? Be aware of what goes into every one of your products by checking your labels. Are you over-exfoliating with AHAs, BHAs, retinol AND exfoliating scrubs without realising it? Then pare back your face scrub to just two or three times a week and stick with a chemical exfoliator for daily use.
Too much stimulation can make your skin very angry, so scale back if you think you’re over-doing it. You can always re-introduce certain products back into your routine (one at a time, of course) after your skin calms down.
Pre-Eminent Beauty Serum contains mild fruit acids and a gentle form of retinol called retinyl palmitate. This makes it perfect for promoting cell turnover without causing irritation. Our effective serum also helps hydrate, smooth, strengthen and firm your skin all in one clever product. Just saying!
8. Patch Test
Always patch test new products before applying them all over for the first time – this is especially important if your skin has a propensity to totally freak out when you try anything new.
To patch test, apply a small amount of product to a clean area of your skin behind your ear, on the back of your neck or on the inside of your arm. Then leave it for at least 48 hours to see if you react.
Once you’ve confirmed all is good, you should be fine to apply it to your face or body, as directed. Yes, this can be a total pain when you’ve just bought a new product and can’t wait to use it, but nevertheless it’s important to be patient.
9. Barrier Function
Back to your skin’s barrier function – because it’s everything when it comes to managing sensitive skin. As we mentioned before, your barrier is vital for keeping your skin moisturised and balanced. And this is all thanks to its natural moisturising factor, otherwise known as NMF.
Your NMF is comprised of a careful blend of skin-loving components including hyaluronic acid, urea, ceramides, fatty acids and amino acids. Together, these work hard to bind water to the skin and prevent evaporation which is why your NMF is essential for keeping your skin hydrated, balanced, moisturised and healthy.
It makes sense, therefore, to work on your NMF if you want your skin to be less prone to dryness, dehydration and irritation. Avoid harsh cleansing products and boost your NMF by applying products that combine water-binding ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin and aloe with emollient occlusive ingredients which seal moisture into your skin. These include things like cocoa butter, shea butter and botanical oils.
Our Imperial Moisturiser is chock-a-block with all kinds of goodness like the aforementioned, while Organic Hydration Gel is specifically formulated with fewer ingredients and therefore fantastic for thirsty, sensitive skin. However, if you really want to up the ante, apply Organic Age-Defying Facial Oil after moisturising. This luxurious face oil treats your skin with 20 botanical oils and is exactly what your NMF needs to replenish itself.
Finally, take a lifestyle check and make sure you’re doing everything you can to live a healthy, happy life. For starters, try to keep stress to a minimum – even if this is by carrying out a few, simple breathing exercises each day. Also, make sure you get (as close to!) eight hours of beauty sleep each night; eat a healthy, balanced diet and ALWAYS protect your skin from the sun.
All these, along with kind, gentle HIGHBORN skincare, will go a long way to helping ‘normalise’ your sensitive skin.