Once you've weeded out the culprits, the next step is to calm and soothe your skin. Opt for skincare products that contain soothing ingredients such as aloe vera, oatmeal and olive oil.
As for your beauty routine, apply fragrance-free, protective moisturisers with creamy textures (cold creams are great). Use a light one in the morning and richer one at night to help repair your epidermis. Make up-wise, go for products designed for sensitive skin..
Sensitive skin is particularly intolerant, meaning that it reacts a lot more than normal skin types. This hyper-reactivity can cause the skin to tingle, itch and heat up. The barrier function of the epidermis layer is altered which encourages dehydration of the skin and, in particular, the penetration of potentially irritating agents. Often accompanied by redness, sensitive skin is particularly reactive to sunlight, cold, temperature changes, soaps, stress, emotions. And often beauty products. This is why you should follow a special beauty routine…
Whatever you do, don’t neglect the cleansing stage. It not only helps to get rid of all traces of make-up, but also all the impurities which build up throughout the day (tobacco, pollution, sweat) and at night. Go for cleansers with a softer texture: sensitive skin is better suited to an oil cleanser, a micellar water or a milk cleanser. And take care to rub it in gently to avoid irritating your skin.
Cleaning Your Face
For those of you who also like to clean your face after cleansing, our tip is to avoid traditional soaps which can damage the skin’s natural hydrolipidic film and make it feel like your skin is being tugged on. You could also try exfoliating once a week using a very gentle scrub, preferably an enzymatic one (any granules or beads could irritate sensitive skin). If your skin is particularly prone to reaction, cut this step out altogether!
In both the morning and evening, the most important thing for sensitive skin is to hydrate it to help stabilize the hydrolipidic film, balance out the skin’s functions and reduce any uncomfortable sensations. It’s a good idea to apply a hydrating and nourishing serum under your day cream to help deeply moisturise your skin and calm any redness. Then apply a moisturising day cream that is suited to your skin’s needs: anti-wrinkle, anti-blemish, radiance boosting, anti-fatigue…This will help form a protective barrier against external aggressors. Make sure to also always have an emergency cream with a rich and nourishing formula with you in your handbag to help instantly relieve irritation or redness.
When it comes to make-up, choose products that are specially formulated for sensitive skin and are non-greasy, non-comedogenic and hypoallergenic. Also try to use as few products as possible to limit the risk of reactions. For foundation, liquid and cream formulas are best as they provide a little more hydration than powders, which tend to be more drying. For blush, also opt for cream or liquid textures to avoid dehydration and discomfort.
In the evening, you need to increase the hydration x10! A cream with a rich formula will act as a bandage to soothe, soften and repair sensitive skin that has been weakened throughout the day. You can also apply a hydrating mask twice a week which will help intensely nourish the epidermis and alleviate any tugging sensations. When you wake up, your skin will be soothed, hydrated and comfortable!
True or False? All You Need to Know About Sensitive Skin
Sensitive Skin is a Specific Skin Type - Just Like Oily or Dry Skin
False: Sensitive, reactive and irritated skin is not a skin type. It's a symptom that can affect all types of skin and, contrary to belief, isn't limited to dry skin. Oily, acne-prone and mature skin can also be affected by a highly sensitive epidermis.
Sensitive Skin is easily Recognisable as it Tends to Redden
True: Skin that reddens and feels hot is hyper sensitive. And it doesn't stop there. Sensitive skin can also sting or feel tight and itchy.
Skin Becomes More Sensitive With Age
False: 'Genetic' sensitivity does exist. This means that we may have a genetic predisposition that increases our skin's sensitivity. Most of time it's fair skin that's affected. So nothing to do with getting old! The good news is that sensitive skin often improves over the years, as the corneous layer of the epidermis thickens and becomes less permeable.
My Beauty Products Are Making My Skin Become More Sensitive
False: Skin can become intolerant to skincare treatments and end up red, hot and itchy. But climate (cold weather, heat, rainy days), pollution, sun and cigarette smoke also play a role. Sensitive skin should not be confused with allergic skin, which doesn't flare up when faced with these external factors.
Watching What I Eat Can Help My Sensitive Skin
True: It's best to avoid extreme climates and smokey environments. Pile your plate with foods that contain plenty of omega 3 and 6, as these will keep your cutaneous blood vessels in shape and restore your skin's hydrolipidic layer. Sensitive skin loves a serving of oily fish, eggs, lamb's lettuce and vegetable oils! And avoid spicy food, if at all possible. You should also drink lots of water - beauty's more than skin deep!
Aloe Vera is the Only Thing That Will Soothe My Skin
False: There are loads of active ingredients that can soothe skin. Oatmeal can, for example, increase skin's tolerance - it's a superb anti-itch remedy that reduces inflammation. Finally, olive oil can be applied to skin - it rapidly soothes the epidermis and restores its hydrolipidic layer.
Tap Water is Sensitive Skin's Arch Enemy!
True: If your skin feels tight and stings, it's because the chlorine and limestone in tap water is too harsh for it to handle. Obviously we're not going to stop washing, but we can avoid spend ages with our faces under the shower - it's bad for both our skin and planet! You're better off spritzing your face with thermal water, which will clean and freshen up your skin. You can always install a water softener, which will purify your tap water by filtering out chlorine and limestone.
My Sensitive Skin Needs Extra Care During Winter
True: Sensitive skin has a rough ride during winter, due to temperature changes, wind and damp weather. It needs to be wrapped up in a protective cocoon! It's best to swap your 'summer' day cream for a product that contains anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory active ingredients. If your sensitive skin is really playing up, you can slather on a comforting, oil-rich cold-cream. If you work in an air-conditioned or centrally heated office, try to apply your cream several times a day.
I Just Need to Swap My Usual Moisturiser for a Sensitive Skin cream to Avoid Ruddy Patches
False: Obviously applying a cream designed for sensitive skin will help, but it's more a question of adapting your entire beauty routine. Opt for hypoallergenic creams, soothing/calming cleansers, dermatological and lipid-rich soaps, alongside thermal water. Bin (or donate!) products that contain alcohol and essential oils. Avoid foamy treatments and anything abrasive - peeling treatments, exfoliating creams, scrubs...
I Should Only Apply Make Up Designed for Sensitive Skin
True: A truth if ever the truth was told! Avoid cotton pads when applying treatments to sensitive skin - opt instead for products, such as face oils, which you can apply with your fingertips. Massage rather than rub them in. This will dissolve any grime, which you can remove with an absorbent wipe rather than a flannel.
If I Use the Right Cleanser it Won't Matter What Make Up I Apply
False: Your entire beauty routine - make up included - should consist of natural, hypoallergenic products. Products containing alcohol will wreak havoc with your skin! Go easy on the war paint - your sensitive skin needs to breathe.
Help, My Sensitive Skin's in a Mess!
Is Your Skin Getting Sensitive Beyond Belief?
Our skin is composed of several layers of tissue that protect us from the elements. It's our body's first line of defence - the wall that prevents enemies from crossing its boundary. Once our epidermis can no longer fulfill its protective function, our skin will flare up, becoming red, hot, itchy and tight. The causes? Our skin becomes hyper-sensitive and reactive when its protective barrier is harmed. Environmental factors (cold, sun, damp) and irritating substances (pollution, allergens, cigarette smoke) are able to penetrate our epidermis. Sending our already sensitive skin into crisis mode.
Cleansing Hurts My Sensitive Skin
Does cleansing hurt your irritated skin? Does it turn red at the sight of a cleansing gel? Does it feel tight just looking at a bottle of micellar water? Don't panic! There are plenty of cleansers designed for reactive, sensitive skin. Treat yourself to a cleanser for super sensitive skin that doesn't contain surfactants - these will only further harm your epidermis. Opt for gentle treatments - milks, creams or cleansing oils with rich, emollient textures that will dissolve any make up or grime without the need to rub your fragile face. Rinse off with thermal water to soothe and hydrate your skin. Avoid tap water as its limescale will only dry out your already parched epidermis. Gently mop up any excess with a tissue or cotton pad. And feel your skin breathe a sigh of relief!
My Sensitive Skin can't Bear to be Washed
Don't wash or cleanse your skin in the morning. A morning cleanse does get rid of toxins accumulated during the night, but sensitive skin needs a break if it's to preserve its protective hydrolipidic film. Simply spritz it with a calming thermal or floral water (chamomile, rose, orange flower water) to give it a gentle, refreshing wake up call.
My Sensitive Skin Hates Creams
If your skin can't handle day or night creams, it means its hydrolipidic film is no longer able to protect the epidermis. Your skin will dry out or feel unbearably irritated and itchy. But don't give up on creams, as your skin still needs hydrating, nourishing, soothing and, most of all, protecting from the elements. All you need to do is select a suitable product! Go for creams designed for sensitive skin that contain emollients (such as glycerin) to leave it feeling comfy, calming ingredients (such as panthenol) to soothe irritations, moisturising ingredients (such as shea butter) to compensate for water-loss and filmogenic ingredients (such as paraffin) to provide a protective sheath. Our tip? Apply creams that contain as few ingredients as possible, so as to avoid unnecessary flare-ups.
Even Make Up Feels Horrid
You want to cover up red, irritated patches but your skin wants to run a mile. Don't worry, we won't make you go out bare-faced! Having sensitive skin doesn't mean you have to go down the #nomakeuproute. Quite the opposite - a bit of warpaint can provide an additional, protective barrier. You just need to choose products suited to your skin. Just like cleansers and creams, there are loads of make up products designed for reactive and sensitive skin. They're hypo-allergenic and dermatologically tested. Choose products that let your skin breathe, won't clog your pores, are mineral-based (kinder to skin) and non-comedogenic. Added tip: to camouflage red patches, apply a green colour corrector before your foundation.
How Can I Prevent Flare-Ups?
To avoid flare-ups, you'll need to take some simple measures.
These will all help to protect your skin:
- protect your skin from the elements (cold, heat, sun)
- avoid polluted areas (inside and out)
- don't overheat rooms and keep them at the right humidity level
- stop smoking
- eat a balanced diet, with plenty of omega 3 and 6
- take quick, warm (not hot!) baths and showers
- drinks lots of non-alcoholic beverages and/or 1.5l of water a day
- religiously moisturise with treatments suited to sensitive skin
'Hypoallergenic', A Magic Word for Sensitive Skin
What's an Allergy?
An allergy is excessive immune system response to substances including pollen, certain foods, medicines or ingredients found in everyday products. Allergies vary from person to person - we all have our own way of reacting to these substances.
Skin allergy symptoms include unbearable itchiness, hot or uncomfortable skin, red patches, spotty breakouts and so forth. If you have a food allergy or intolerance you may be more prone to skin allergies.
Hypoallergenic Vs Allergen-Free Vs Controlled Allergens
For those of us with non-scientific minds, product labels are often complete gobbledygook. But if we want to avoid flare-ups, we need to brush up on the lingo:
- Hypoallergenic: a substance or product that's unlikely to cause an allergic skin reaction. These products have been dermatologically tested and approved.
- Allergen-free: these products are completely allergen-free, meaning there's zero risk of a flare-up. Ingredients in question include certain essential oils or natural perfumes.
- Controlled allergens: these products are free of substances considered by experts to be allergy-provoking. The UK is governed by EU regulations, backed up by organisations such as the CPTA (Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association).
Hypoallergenic Skincare Products - The Specifics
Cosmetic products designed for sensitive skin must respect our skin's pH level, be non-irritating and gentle enough for our fragile epidermis. Hypoallergenic beauty products (skincare treatments, shampoos, cleansers, make up...) are manufactured according to the latest, allergological guidelines. They must limit the risk of an allergy or flare-up. However, they're not entirely risk-free - we may not know in advance if we're allergic to a certain ingredient. To be classified as 'hypoallergenic', treatments have to undergo a number of dermatologically controlled tests. Treatments are repeatedly applied to volunteers with allergy-prone skin to see if there's an allergic reaction. The slightest hint of a flare-up means that a product won't be licensed for sale and must be reformulated. The best hypoallergenic treatments are completely allergen and perfume-free. This includes preservatives such as MIT (methylisothiazolinone), which is known to cause flare-ups. In other words, an ideal hypoallergenic product will contain as few ingredients as possible - think "less is more" when scouring labels!
Who Should Use Hypoallergenic Products?
Hypoallergenic products are geared towards fragile or allergy-prone skin. That said, they also cater to sensitive skin. However, it's important to know the difference between sensitive, easily-irritated and allergic skin. Sensitive and easily-irritated skin isn't necessarily allergic. Sensitive skin is usually caused by a frail cutaneous barrier that leads to inflammatory conditions (for example red patches or irritated skin), without there being an allergic reaction to a particular substance. Easily-irritated skin flares up when external factors, such as sunburn, cold temperatures, harsh cleaning products or stress temporarily throw it off kilter. Allergies, however, result from an abnormal immune system response when our skin comes into contact with particular ingredient. Eczema, hives and severe itching may all stem from an allergic reaction.
If in doubt Our tips:
- Book an appointment with a dermatologist, who'll be able to diagnose a skin allergy and advise you on which products to use.
- Test products before use by applying a tiny amount to the inside of your elbow or behind your earlobe. Doing so will show you if your skin's allergic to one or more ingredients.
- If you have sensitive skin or have previously suffered from allergic reactions, then it's best to go down the hypoallergenic route.
- If you know that you're allergic to a particular ingredient, read all product labels and avoid it like the plague.
Hyaluronic acid's hydration is key
Summer's here and boy, did we miss it. Our sensitive skin, however, isn't jumping for joy. So here are some tips for preparing your skin for the sun, ready to safely soak up the rays!
The Sun and Sensitive Skin
Sun-induced flare ups vary from red patches to skin that feels scorched, sunburned, itchy, with a crop of pimples thrown in for good measure. These reactions are caused by exposure to UV rays and can easily ruin a well-earned holiday. Plus the more we expose our skin to the sun, the worse these flare ups get! So unless we plan to spend summer watching our mates from the shade of a parasol, we need to prep and protect our skin.
The first step for beach-ready skin is to scrub. This removes dead cells and grime that prevents our skin from breathing. Apply a fine grain scrub (coarse ones are too harsh for sensitive skin) and work it on using light, circular movements. Scrub your face and body, paying attention to rough patches such as your heels, knees and elbows. Added plus? Scrubbing keeps tans looking uniform!
Slather on a Moisturiser
As the mercury rise, we need to guard against dehydration : we should drink lots and religiously moisturise our skin. The problem with sensitive skin is that the slightest change in temperature can throw it off kilter. So we must keep it hydrated and nourished. Morning, night and after sunbathing, cleanse your face and follow with a moisturiser designed for sensitive skin.
Invest in a Good Sunscreen
Sensitive skin needs time to adapt to the sun, so at first limit exposure to 10 - 15mins max - you'll still get a healthy glow. But don't even think about donning your bikini/skimpy dress if you haven't applied a sunscreen. Even if you're just stopping for an al fresco coffee or doing your weekly market shop, protection is sacrosanct. Added tip? Go for a two-in-one solution, by applying a moisturiser that contains a sunscreen!
Article supplied & written by Marie Claire, part of Hearst Communications, Inc.