The ins and outs of Sensitive Skin

The ins and outs of Sensitive Skin

Published in Peninsula Living February 2016 

Sensitive skin is extremely common with around 50% of the population experiencing some form of skin sensitivity and it tends to occur mostly among women, says Gina Gatford - Founder of AbsoluteSkin and qualified Beauty Therapist.

Many people perceive their skin to be sensitive, however, a true sensitive skin is a generic trait whereby people are born with delicate and sensitive skin and are usually allergy prone. Not many people are born with a true sensitive skin but many have a sensitised skin, brought on by environmental and lifestyle factors. Anyone can develop a sensitised skin regardless of skin type and age.

Characteristics of a sensitive skin:

  • Red and blotchy
  • Tightness after washing
  • Prone to blushing, itching and stinging
  • May have dry skin
  • Dilated capillaries across the cheeks and nose
  • Small red bumps
Regardless of the classification of skin sensitivity, the underlying thread is skin inflammation due to a breakdown of the skin’s protective barrier. This means that the skin has lost its protective layer of oils and lipids allowing unwanted agents to penetrate the skin, causing inflammation and irritation. The loss of this barrier also means that moisture is not being retained in the skin. One or many of the following can cause the breakdown in the skin’s protective layer:
  • Climate: especially wind, heat and air conditioning
  • A diet low in essential fatty acids and high in processed foods
  • High consumption of alcohol and caffeinated beverages.
  • Stress
  • Incorrect skin care product selection. Using products not specifically designed for your skin type can lead to an impaired barrier
  • Over use of exfoliating products. Whilst we love that “squeaky clean” feeling – the overuse of exfoliants, chemical peels or retinol products can cause a breakdown in the skin’s barrier resulting in sensitised skin.
  • Skin care products that contain parabens, artificial fragrances and colours or cleansers that contain Sodium Laureth/Lauryl Sulphates can also strip the skin of its protective barrier.

The good news is that sensitised skin can be treated. It needs to be strengthened, rebuilt and then protected. Going back to basics with a simple skincare routine to gradually strengthen and rebuild the skin is the best way to go. The skin is the largest organ and has an amazing ability to repair itself. Look for products that are designed for sensitive skin; that are fragrance free, gentle and free of any harsh chemicals. Eliminate exfoliating products until such time that your skin has improved and signs of sensitivity have reduced. Use moisture rich creams that hydrate, reduce redness and inflammation as well as daily use of a sunscreen (specifically recommended for sensitive skins) to complete your skin routine. A sensitive skin needs moisture, comfort, soothing and nurturing. If you have sensitive skin, it is best you seek advise from a qualified skin therapist who can discuss your skin, your lifestyle and then recommend ways and appropriate skincare to help overcome all the symptoms associated with having a sensitive skin.

A few lifestyle tips:

  • Avoid overuse of exfoliating products
  • Eat a diet rich in essential fatty acids to help combat inflammation. Foods rich in essential fatty acids are: oily fish, nuts, flax seeds, avocado
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine intake
  • Exercise regularly to stimulate blood flow and nutrient supply to the skin
  • Be careful of hot or spicy foods, which can aggravate the skin.
  • Never use hot water when cleansing, lukewarm water is always recommended.