Probably the most frustrating of skin types, sensitive skin is difficult to treat because you’re never quite sure what to use on it.
Sensitive skincare involves plenty of trial and error to find the right products that won’t irritate your skin. This can add to a lot of money spent over the years on unsuitable products that have to be discarded or given away. How do you know if your skin is sensitive? Sensitive skin is usually dry, reacts badly to certain skin care products, can react to certain foods (for example spicy foods) and tends towards redness, swelling and itchiness.
There are a number of symptoms which may help you to identify whether or not you have sensitive skin (should you be in any doubt):
- Your skin reacts quickly to both heat and cold; sensitive skin burns easily, when exposed to wind or sun.
- Skin is easily irritated by detergents, cosmetics and alcohol, leaving the skin red and blotchy, with visible surface veins.
The key to ‘normalise’ sensitive skin is to use a good quality, natural skin care system and follow a daily skin care regime. The following is a simple step-by-step process anyone with sensitive skin should follow:
- Use a deep cleansing mask specifically formulated for oily skin two or three times a week.
- Wash your face no more than twice a day using a natural pH balanced cleanser.
- Use a toner that is appropriate for oily skin.
- Use a moisturiser designed specifically for dry and sensitive skin. Combination of essential oils revitalises the skin and soothes and softens irritated, sensitive skin.
- Use your natural skin care regime every single day.
- Ensure your diet is high in nuts, grains and vegetables and very low in saturated fatty foods.
- Drink plenty of water each and every day to help keep your skin hydrated.
The American Academy of Dermatology offers the following recommendations:
Choose powder when possible. Powder cosmetics are not only great at removing shine, they have very few preservatives and contain few ingredients that can cause skin irritation compared with liquid makeup.
Avoid waterproof cosmetics, which require a solvent to remove them. They also remove sebum, the oily substance made by the sebaceous glands in the skin. Without this oily barrier, sensitive skin is exposed to potential irritants that can cause a beauty breakout.
Select hypo-allergenic and fragrance-free products. Hypo-allergenic is no guarantee that a product won’t react badly on your skin but it reduces the likelihood of that happening. Hypoallergenic products usually leave out known allergy causing ingredients so that they have less chance of irritating the skin.
Throw out old cosmetics. Keep track of cosmetic expiration dates and throw out any items that have passed their peak. Old makeup products can spoil or become contaminated. This is especially true for eye products, which should also be discarded if you experience any type of eye infection. Typical life spans for cosmetic products include 1 year for foundation and lipstick, 3 to 4 months for mascara, and 2 years for powder and shadows. It also is important to wash makeup brushes and sponges regularly to remove accumulated dirt and germs that can aggravate sensitive skin.
Use black-coloured eyeliner and mascara products. Dermatologists feel that black is the least allergenic of all colorants used in eye products.
Use pencil eyeliner and eyebrow fillers. Pencil eyeliner and eyebrow pencils are wax-based and contain pigment and minimal preservatives. They are much less likely to cause problems than liquid eyeliners that contain latex, which may cause a reaction in latex-sensitive individuals.
Stick to earth-toned eye shadows. Lighter earth tones, such as tan, cream, white, or beige, seem to cause less upper-eyelid irritation. The higher concentration of pigments in darker colours, such as navy blue, can cause an adverse reaction in women with sensitive skin.
Choose a natural sunscreen. Sensitive skincare requires a sunscreen as the sun can irritate and burn the skin. Dermatologists recommend daily use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor 15 or higher. Trouble is most sunscreens bought commercially contain a host of nasty chemicals. Opt for sunscreen containing zinc or titanium dioxide as these will block UV rays on the skin’s surface rather than being absorbed.
Use products that contain no more than 10 ingredients. The fewer ingredients in a product, the less likely it is to cause a problem.
Avoid nail polishes. Wet nail polish can be transferred to a person’s eyes and face before it dries. This casual transfer can cause problems for women with sensitive skin or allergies to any of the components of the polish.
Use foundations with a silicone base. Although powder is preferred to protect sensitive skin, women choosing a liquid foundation should look for one with a silicone base. Liquid facial foundations based on silicone do not cause acne, and silicone has a low incidence of skin irritation.
Don’t use a lot of different products on your face. It stands to reason that the more stuff you put on your face, the greater the chance that some of them will have an ingredient which irritates. Find sensitive skin care products that you know your skin will tolerate and use these regularly.
Don’t exfoliate. Exfoliating your skin using scrubs is designed to remove dead skin cells, but will irritate skin that is sensitive. Using a product containing salicylic acid provides a milder form of exfoliation and effectively cleans out the pores. Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid which is non irritating if used sparingly. Pregnant women are not advised to use it as the effects on the foetus are unknown.
Don’t use an astringent. It is commonly believed that astringent will dry up the oils in your skin. Well it will, but oil production will then increase to compensate so it’s a never ending cycle. Astringent is harsh on sensitive skin so, bottom line, just don’t use it.
Use mineral or water based make up. Oil based make up can clog the pores and also contains many harsh chemicals. Water based make up is non-comedogenic and a better option. Mineral make up is a more natural choice and a lot of brands are chemical free.
Sensitive skincare is an ongoing and often tedious process. However the benefits are worth the trouble. Follow the above tips and you’ll have beautiful healthy skin for life.