Skin sensitivity is a bitch. It can make your skin feel dry, itchy and like someone has lit a fire on your face. Some combination of redness, dry patches, rashes, hives and breakouts usually crops up when skin is truly sensitive. It’s typically caused by allergic reactions or irritation to a product ingredient or ingredients, but can also be brought about by environmental allergens (plants, pollen, trees, etc.) and food or medicine allergies.
If you suspect your skin sensitivity is related to product ingredients, the best thing to do is the skincare version of the elimination diet. Forgo your face makeup for a week and use nothing but a gentle cleanser like Dermalogica Ultra Calming Cleanser and a fragrance-free moisturizer like Cetaphil Fragrance Free Daily Moisturizer. After a week, add in one of the products (i.e. a primer, foundation, face mask) you normally use. Wait a day and see if you experience redness, itching, hives, rashes, dryness, breakouts or any other type of flare up. Continue to do this until you have incorporated all of your regular products back into your routine. If the offender makes itself known, you have your answer (kind of). It could be any of the ingredients in that product, so I suggest finding out what they are, noting them, and comparing that list to the ingredients list on any products that irritate your skin in the future. You’ll eventually be able to pin down the ingredient(s)you are allergic to. You can also go to a dermatologist who specializes in testing for skin allergens.
Sometimes people think they have sensitive skin when they really have rosacea, eczema, or even certain types of skin cancer that show up as dry, scaly patches. There is also something called dermatographism, which is when the skin is extremely sensitive to physical touch. In those people, their skin cells release histamine at the slightest touch, causing redness to appear. If you have sensitive skin and are unsure of what’s causing your sensitivity, definitely see a dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment.
If you have truly sensitive skin, there are some things you can do to avoid further aggravating your skin. Like:
- Don’t rub, scrub or otherwise manhandle your skin. Doing so will aggravate it and cause redness, splotches or dryness. Avoid using at home mechanical cleansing brushes, laser devices or acne treatments.
- Use fragrance-free products. Fragrances are a very common irritant for sensitive skin. Luckily, the beauty industry is aware of this and many lines carry fragrance-free products. Beauty Without Cruelty, Dr. Hauschka, Burt’s Bees, Almay, Clinique and CoverGirl all carry some fragrance-free products.
- Patch test everything. Before committing to any skincare or makeup product, first apply a small amount to your neck and wait 48 hours to see if you have a reaction. If you do, return that product and try again.
- Avoid physical exfoliants. Any kind of exfoliant with granules or beads will only further irritate your skin. Chemical exfoliants like Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant are best, but always patch test first and only use once a week. Some skin may be too sensitive to tolerate any exfoliants, so you may need to skip this step altogether.
- Don’t assume natural is best. If you have environmental allergies and your skin is sensitive, you may have better luck with products that contain only synthetic ingredients. Most people assume that products with natural ingredients will be more gentle, but that’s not always the case. Think about it: If you went out into a field of flowers and couldn’t stop coughing and sneezing, why would the pollen from those flowers not affect you if it was an ingredient in your moisturizer?
- Use gentle cleansers. Anything too strong will strip your skin and likely cause irritation (so skip the foaming cleansers). As mentioned, Dermalogica Gentle Cleanser is a solid choice. Cleansers like that will not thoroughly remove makeup though. If you wear makeup, you’ll need to remove it with an oil makeup remover, like Dermalogica PreCleanse, or micellar water, like Bioderma Sensibio H20, before cleansing. If your skin can tolerate some light rubbing, an oil cleanser like Josie Maran Argan Cleansing Oil will both remove makeup and cleanse your skin.
- Read my post on the acid mantle.
If you take care of your sensitive skin, you can minimize or erase any physical signs of irritation. So do right by your dermis, okay?
Have a beautiful day 🙂