Skin sensitivity is becoming a bigger issue for more people. According to a recent study, as many as 60-70% of women, and 50-60% of men report having sensitive skin to some degree. That’s huge, and by all accounts, it’s on the rise.
At SKIN SAPIENS we like to hide nothing and involve everyone. That’s why in this post we’re covering sensitive skin and our top 10 tips for avoiding irritation. An added bonus? Some of these will save you money too!
First of all, how do I know if I have sensitive skin or not?
We can describe sensitive skin as a skin condition that leaves you with unpleasant sensations such as itching, stinging or burning when you otherwise shouldn’t feel them. The causes of sensitivity are broad, everything from gender, age and hormonal cycles can have an impact. So too can exposure to pollution and harsh chemicals in household products.
While some of the reasons for skin sensitivity are in our DNA, we can take control of two key factors. The first is your physical environment at home. The second, and perhaps most obvious, is your skincare routine.
So with your environment and your skincare routine in mind, here are our top 10 tips for making friends with your sensitive skin.
1/ FILTER, FILTER, FILTER
Instagram filters go in and out of vogue faster than you can say “smile”. Yet if you’ve grown up with skin sensitivity, you’re probably used to being your own best filter when it comes to checking back-of-pack. If not, here are three big “no-no’s” to keep an eye out for:Perfume - Why? Charm, allure and magic. We get why people might want to surround themselves with things that smell great. Only finding perfume on your ingredients list is like finding a separate ingredient list, inside your ingredients list. And you have no way of knowing what’s inside it. That instant sting you feel when you spray your neck and shoulders with your favourite fragrance? It’s almost certainly alcohol.
Alcohol - Along with other solvents, alcohol is a major component of most perfumes. Ethanol (not to be mistaken with fatty alcohols like cetearyl alcohol which is commonly found in plants) is also used as a standalone ingredient in many toners and sunscreens. Ethanol form has a drying effect on the skin, which can weaken our skin’s ability to act as our natural barrier to the outside world. The result? Increased sensitivity.
If you’re looking to improve your relationship with your sensitive skin, then avoiding alcohol and by the same tune, leaving “perfume” out of your skincare regime is a great start. Note -
PS. You can still smell great. A dab of your fave fragrance on your clothes or isolated patches of skin might work for you. We just don't believe in covering your face and body with the stuff.
Essential oils - Nature’s answer to great scents. Essential oils are potent extracts captured from plants through distillation. Often used for homoeopathic remedies, all but a limited number of essential oils are packed with one or more of the 26 known allergens which have to be declared on cosmetic products sold in Europe. Avoiding these is a good idea if you experience skin sensitivity. Check out this journal post for how to spot them in your products.
2/ TEST FIRST
Before using any products on your face you should ALWAYS try them on your arm. If there’s no irritation or allergic reaction, then go for it and apply the same formula elsewhere. It sounds kinda obvious, but this one step can save you from nasty surprises when trying something new.
3/ KEEP IT SIMPLE
Sensitive skin is complicated. What causes redness or irritation for you, might be fine for your best friend Phoebe. When choosing your skincare routine the best tip we can give you is keep it simple. Cleanse and hydrate your skin for sure. If you want a little something extra to help with your specific skin needs, then, by all means, go for it. But sensitive skin should almost certainly be spared the 10 step regime which made headlines in the last decade.
Excessive layering of product leads to unnecessary exposure and a loss of control over what you’re putting on your skin. This can make skin flare-ups hard to control. Skipping a few steps can actually HELP your skin look and feel better while saving you a pretty penny too.
4/ KEEP AN EYE ON WATER TEMPERATURE
If you have sensitive skin, then hot water is your worst enemy. When cleansing or washing, we highly recommend you use cold water. This might sound like hell in the winter, granted. So, if cold showers are a total no-go for you, then at least try switching from scalding hot to warm. Your skin will thank you for it! Your energy bills might drop a little too.
5/ SEEK MILD SURFACTANTS
When choosing your cleanser, seek surfactants (aka the ingredients responsible for foaming) that respect your skin. Simply, surfactants can be split into three groups; ionic, non-ionic and amphoteric. The most gentle options are nonionic and amphoteric.
By contrast, ionic surfactants (e.g sulfates) are responsible for the big diswasher-esque bubbles you find in some shampoos and cleansers but they can also tend to irritate and dry your skin, hair and scalp.
Verdict: choose a milder option for your skin even if that means fewer bubbles
6/ AVOID RUBBING
We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to how we clean our skin. Foams, gels, micellar waters, wipes, oils... the list goes on and on. For sensitive skin, it’s worth going for an option that means you can get a great cleanse without needing to rub.
Cleansing gels and foams are among the gentlest options and can do the job with just a little rinsing. Micellar waters are normally used with abrasive cotton pads or towels. Exfoliants and mechanical scrubs are extreme and should be used sparingly, if at all.
7/ SAY HI-DRATE!
Ok, so with cleansing covered, let's talk hydration.
Hydration is your ally when it comes to feeling great in sensitive skin. Why? Dehydrated skin cells are more vulnerable to everything you can throw at them. By weakening your skin’s barrier, dehydration can quickly result in red, irritable skin.
8/ MINIMALIST FORMULATIONS
How you hydrate is your call, of course. There are a billion and one moisturisers on the market. If you have sensitive skin, then taking a “less is more” approach to your face creams and body lotions will reap rewards.
Using formulations with fewer ingredients gives you more control over what you’re putting on your skin. Shorter ingredients (aka INCI) lists make filtering for things that irritate your skin that much easier. Simply, it’s easier to search for the black sheep in your face cream if you’re applying 12 ingredients to your skin, rather than 50! In fact, you’re less likely to find a black sheep in your product at all (ok, the sheep-in-your-cream analogy might be weird, but you get the point!).
9/ SOOTHING INGREDIENTS
Nature is bountiful. Many of the plants we share our Earth with are packed with goodness which can help reduce redness and inflammation. Choosing skincare with one or more of these ingredients will help you with your sensitive skin:
- Oat oil
- Calendula extract
- Avocado Oil
Sound familiar? We use them all in our formulations. For more info on each, jump over to our Ingredients Page.
10/ BE MINDFUL OF CHANGING SEASONS AND SLIDING DOORS
At the start of this journal post, we mentioned two big factors which can impact your relationship with your sensitive skin. So let’s talk about the changing world outside.
Cold weather can leave your skin on the dry side. And when winter really comes knocking, icy winds can quickly conjure up red, prickly and uncomfortable vibes.
And then in summer, the opposite effects have similar results. In high temperatures, your body sweats and that sweat can irritate your skin, causing redness and itching.
Exposure to summer sun also causes increased transepidermal water loss. Walking into an office, or boarding an aeroplane with harsh air conditioning can suck the moisture out of your skin, leaving it more susceptible to sensitivity.
So what can you do about it? In both seasons, be sure to moisturise regularly. Keep your fave product with you and re-apply whenever your skin feels tight. Oh, and in summer don’t think hitting the beach or park without your best friend, sunscreen!
AND FINALLY... EMBRACE YOUR SKIN'S SENSITIVITY
Ok, so living with sensitive skin might mean you need to give yourself a little extra TLC. But here’s the thing. Your skin was made for you, and it deserves to be loved just the way it is.
All of the issues we’ve covered here have more to do with what you and your skin comes into contact with day in, day out than anything else. We just need to be respectful of that.
To make it easier, at SKIN SAPIENS we’ve formulated all of our products with sensitive skin in mind. But don’t take our word for it. Check out the back of pack! :)
These are our top 10 tips for sensitive skin. Learn something new, or already a sensitive skin expert? Any questions or tips you’d like to share? Comment below or drop us an email at tribe @ skinsapiens dot com. We’d love to read them.