Sensitive Skin – Causes and Treatment
If you have sensitive skin, you need to be extremely careful as several emotional and environmental factors can have a negative impact on it. Starting from pets and weather, to stress and dust, there could be several triggers involved here.
What are the causes of sensitive skin?
Sensitive skin is caused when nerve endings on the topmost layer of skin become irritated. It happens because the skin’s natural barrier function becomes weak, and when triggered, it completely breaks down. Here are some of the causes:
- Exposure to sunlight
- Getting exposed to air pollutants
- Water with high mineral content (hard water) and very hot water
- Sudden and quick changes in temperature
- Cold, harsh weather
- Lack of sleep and late nights
- Hormonal changes that occur during menstrual cycle or pregnancy.
- Stress and tension
- Chlorine used in swimming pools
- Dry skin
How common is sensitive skin?
Rest assured, sensitive skin is more common than you think, even if the extent varies from person to person. It can be occasional reactions or extreme sensitivity that occurs on a daily basis. This kind of everyday reaction can cause discomfort, dry, flaky patches, blemishes and redness, which in turn has a knock-on effect on a person’s confidence, mood and self-esteem. If you aren’t sure that you have sensitive skin, here are some indications when the skin experiences the following:
- Feels tight and uncomfortable
- Could be sore or sensitive to touch
- Dries out during flights
- Can be oily in summer
- Needs to be hydrated more in winter
- Flushes easily after a spicy meal or drinking alcohol
- Gets patches of redness that fades (or might not)
- Has severe reactions to skincare products
- Becomes itchy or develops a rash after contact with irritants
- Can feel itchy after wearing coarse, synthetic fabrics
- Turns red and dries out after a hot shower or bath
- Becomes irritable after continued washing with hard water
- Develops areas of uneven texture, characterized with flakiness and dryness.
What is the difference between allergic reactions and sensitive skin?
If you have a skin allergy, then coming into contact with a certain allergen causes a reaction like rashes, itchiness, or burning sensations. Allergic skin reactions usually tend to be more severe than sensitivity. In extreme cases it can lead to vomiting, swelling up of skin, difficulty in breathing, and so on. Immediate medical attention is a must at this time!
What makes it worse and how can it be treated?
Sensitive skin patches can appear anywhere on the body, but it is most visible on the face. It happens when the natural barrier function of the skin is compromised, which causes water loss and lets irritants penetrate. Symptoms can worsen with exposure to the sun and certain ingredients in cosmetics and cleansers.
If you are suffering from skin sensitivity, there are some ways to ensure it doesn’t become worse by keeping the natural barrier intact and preventing it from weakening. First of all, try not to touch your skin or scratch any itches, and keep your hands clean at all times so as not to spread bacteria.
Apply a high-factor sun protection cream or lotion to the face and body, so you can minimize exposure to the sun, and prevent UV rays from causing more damage. Don’t forget that UV rays are present all year round, even when it is cloudy and grey outside. So don’t skimp on your moisturizer just because the sun isn’t out!
While you can definitely eliminate some of the causes of skin sensitivity, it can never be completely healed. However, with the right skincare regime, you can protect and prevent your skin from irritation, keeping it hydrated, smooth and glowing. Use products made with natural and organic ingredients, which are free from harsh chemicals. Some are specifically formulated for sensitive skin.
Why is hydration necessary for sensitive skin?
Made up of over 60% water, the skin is a natural barrier against the outside environment, which helps to preserve a plump, youthful look while fighting the effects of external aggressors such as UV rays and pollution. The more you hydrate, the better your skin can be protected.
When you have sensitive skin, it suffers from an altered barrier function, which means that negative visible effects linked to external factors, (such as extreme weather or UV rays) can often feel or appear to be more prominent. As mentioned, there are other triggers associated with sensitive skin, which can be tackled with proper hydration.
Why use products that are free from harsh chemicals?
For effective long-term hydration, it is important to look for products that meet the specific needs of sensitive skin. Hypoallergenic formulations tend to be gentler on delicate skin, so choose a product that has undergone testing for hypoallergenicity as well as having been tested on sensitive skin. It is advisable to stick to natural, organic, and vegan products:
Less exposure to chemicals
If you have sensitive skin, you know how easily it can get irritated, so skincare products that contain harmful components like parabens, synthetic additives, colorants, artificial fragrances, preservatives, alcohol, etc. often leave your skin feeling dry, red and sore. Using such products mean your skin is absorbing toxins that can wreak havoc. You can find natural alternatives to all skin products, whether you want to get rid of spots, wrinkles or just want your skin to feel clean and healthy. They don’t cause underlying damage, nor do they trigger sensitive skin.
An average synthetic skincare product contains about 5% of active ingredients while an average organic product is made up of 95% of active ingredients which makes it so effective on your skin.
The beauty industry has received considerable backlash for testing products on animals. But organic and natural skincare items are not tested on animals, so you can use it without worrying about cruelty to animals. Do check the label of the product if it says “cruelty-free”.
Don’t panic if you have sensitive skin – there are others in the same boat, so if you stick to the right products, it won’t be an issue at all.
- ‘The Symptoms of Sensitive Skin & How to Treat Them’, AVEENO®. https://www.aveeno.com/skin-hair-solutions/sensitive-skin (accessed Apr. 18, 2020).
- ‘Chapter 4: Hydrating sensitive skin: tips and tricks’. https://www.vichy.ca/en/hydration-tips/et-chapter-4-hydrating-sensitive-skin-tips-and-tricks.html (accessed Apr. 18, 2020).
- N. Begin, ‘The 15 most important reasons to use natural and organic products on your skin’, Naturals Begin, May 07, 2018. https://naturalsbegin.com/the-15-most-important-reasons-to-use-natural-and-organic-products-on-your-skin/ (accessed Apr. 18, 2020).