There are many reasons your skin may be reactive: cleaning products, eating certain foods, overexposure to sunlight, or even the cosmetics and skin care products you use. Your skin may be sensitive as a result of an allergy or irritation.
Anyone can have a reaction to a product or specific ingredient, but people with persistent issues are classified as having sensitive skin.
What Causes Sensitive Skin?
The skin barrier typically does a good job of not letting molecules and irritants pass through, but sensitive skin tends to be more permeable than normal skin. This is a problem because natural moisture escapes faster than it should (transepidermal water loss, or TEWL), and harsh ingredients in your products and cosmetics can penetrate into your skin more readily.
Treating your already-upset skin too aggressively could be one reason for sensitivity. The average woman uses 12 different products with 168 unique ingredients every day, plus everything else your skin is forced to deal with: pollution, hormonal changes, emotional stress. No wonder your skin develops strange problems!
What Does Sensitive Skin Look Like?
Your skin may be sensitive if it is:
- Reactive. Common triggers include soaps, fragrances, skincare products, detergents, perfumes, or household products, or natural forces like cold, wind, and sun.
- Itchy & Tight. Feels like it doesn't fit, especially after cleansing with products that are too harsh or using hot water or when air is cold and dry.
- Breakout-prone. It looks like acne, but acne products only make things worse.
- Unhappy in the sun. Showing signs of redness or irritation.
- Red. In the form of rash, bumps, blushing, flushing, or red dilated vessels.
- Stinging & Burning after using skin care products (that don't usually cause these sensations).
- Flaking & Peeling.
How To Care For Sensitive Skin
You can't completely avoid upsetting your skin, but you can follow these steps to make sure you keep skin as happy as possible.
- Watch what you eat. Spicy foods can exacerbate redness, and sugary foods have been linked to inflammation. On the other hand, eating foods rich in probiotics - such as yogurt with live cultures - can prevent sensitivity, redness, and itching by blocking the release of inflammatory chemicals. Healthy eating habits flush out toxins. Drink lots of water and fresh juices to stay hydrated.
- Treat your skin gently. Read your ingredients. Steer clear of anything containing alcohol, and avoid harsh exfoliants, which can worsen the problem. Choose items that contain anti-allergenic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-irritation ingredients. Avoid hot water, and showers that are too long.
- Support your skin. Topical probiotic products help to strengthen the skin's natural defense mechanisms, making it more resistant to damage from environmental stressors by forming a protective shield on the skin's surface. The good bacteria helps to strengthen the skin's immune system, speeding up repair.
- Cleanse gently. Opt for a soap-free cleanser, keeping your routine simple.
- Hydrate. Layer on a cream or serum that has ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and a peptide complex to prevent it from drying out.
- Listen to your skin. Take note when it reacts so you know what to avoid in the future. You'd be pretty safe to plan on avoiding fragrance and perfumes.
- Get some relief. Some topical products can give instant relief. Topical antihistamines help to relieve itching and reduce inflammation for allergies. Hydrocortisone can do the same for contact dermatitis. A cool oatmeal bath can soothe burning skin.
- Watch your habits. Smoking, stress, lack of sleep, and alcohol consumption can cause sensitive skin to flare up.