Looking after sensitive skin can be confusing and stressful – one inconspicuous wrong turn and your skin is either irritated, breaking out or worse. Sensitivity can be triggered by a number of different factors which can be genetic or environmental, and keeping sensitive skin in tip top condition does require a little bit of extra care and attention, however that doesn’t mean that it has to be a major chore. Here are our recommendations for those with sensitive skin:
Do wear sunscreen
Sensitive skin needs sun protection just as much as, if not more, than any other skin type. If your skin reacts badly to chemical sunscreen, try using a physical (mineral) sunscreen to keep the sun’s harmful UV rays at bay. Mineral sunscreens use physical filters such as zinc or titanium oxide to block UV rays and are less likely to cause reactions than chemical formulas.
Do keep a skincare diary
Stripping back your routine and maintaining a simple skincare journal can help you identify which ingredients are leading to breakouts or irritation. This can also help you keep track of whether expensive products are really working to improve your skin in the long-term.
Do introduce new products to your routine slowly
This one is a tough one for us. It can be really tempting to try a number of different or new products at the same time in a desperate attempt to ‘fix’ your skin when it is already reacting or irritated. Unfortunately, this is almost always a terrible idea as it makes it difficult to identify which products might be doing your skin harm, and which combinations of products are just too much for your skin to handle together. Go slowly and give each product a minimum of 28 days to see if you notice any effect.
Do drink plenty of water and catch up on your sleep
There is no substituting the impact of a healthy lifestyle on your skin – getting plenty of sleep, water and managing stress will make a noticeable improvement to all skin types but sensitive skin in particular will benefit from a clean lifestyle which encourages your body’s natural ability to rid your skin of harmful toxins. Caffeine, sugar, alcohol, dairy, soy, gluten and some additives, to name a few, may trigger a reaction so being careful about your lifestyle choices can really have an impact on your skin.
Don’t wash your face with very hot water
Excessively hot water is irritating, to sensitive skin especially, by restricting the blood vessels right under the skin, which can trigger acne and rosacea flare-ups. Very hot water can also strip your skin of its natural oils too quickly, so not only do you risk scalding your face, you risk dehydrating it. Wash your delicate facial skin in lukewarm water when possible.
Don’t use harsh drying products
Sensitive skin does not tolerate harsh cleansers which include sulfates and fragrances. Products with high isopropyl or SD Alcohol 40 content may dehydrate and irritate the skin and polyethylene glycol (PEG) surfactants, which create foaming, may excessively strip the skin of its natural oils and lead to irritation. Instead, remove make-up with cleansing oils to dissolve it gently without rubbing and look for gentle, low-pH cleansers which use non-comedogenic ingredients.
Physical exfoliating scrubs are often made with ground nuts or particles with sharp edges which can cause tiny cuts to the delicate skin on the face – leaving it vulnerable to breakout-causing bacteria. Chemical exfoliators, unless especially gentle and formulated for sensitive skin, can also be irritating and can compromise the skin’s natural moisture barrier. Enzyme exfoliants are often the best option – which gently dissolve dead skin cell bonds and impurities on the surface of the skin, leaving it soft and smooth without causing any harm.
Don’t touch your face
Seriously, stop touching your face! Whether or not you regularly wash your hands, picking and touching your face will only spread bacteria and irritants and push them further into your skin. For this same reason, regularly cleaning your phone and make-up brushes will help to prevent the spread of bacteria.