Sensitive skin. What's it all about?
Dryness, tightness, redness, itchiness and breakouts - Sensitive skin can be a pain, literally, and it’s affecting more and more of us. Here’s our quick guide to skin sensitivity and what you can do about it.
What triggers Sensitivity?
To paraphrase the Bard, some are born with sensitive skin, some acquire it and some have sensitive skin thrust upon them. Yes, you can be genetically predisposed to sensitive skin and skin is prone to higher sensitivity as we age. Your skin can become sensitised due to weather, pollution, food, stress, lack of sleep, hormones, repeat exposure to specific items and of course your skincare regime.
What’s the underlying cause of sensitivity?
Beyond allergies to specific items such as fragrance, the key factor driving skin sensitivity for the majority is a weakened skin barrier and a disrupted microbiome which heightens the skin’s inflammatory response.
Your microbiome and skin barrier work together to form a strong defensive shield, when this is weak skin is left ‘exposed’ and less able to cope with what life throws at it each day. It can lead to dry, more porous, more sensitised skin.
Disruption to the microbiome and the skin barrier can also trigger heightened inflammatory responses that put skin on red alert, making it prone to sensitivity and flare ups. Nerve receptors such as TRPV-1 also trigger skin reactions in response to heat, foods and alcohol causing redness and discomfort.
How to overcome sensitivity with your skincare routine
The first step in combating sensitive skin is to ensure your microbiome and skin barrier are kept strong and healthy. This means respecting the skin’s acid mantle, lipid matrix and microbiome, keeping skin optimally hydrated and nourished while encouraging skin to renew, thicken and strengthen itself. Damping down the skin’s inflammatory response also actively calms and reduces sensitivity over time.
Conversely, it’s best to avoid known disruptors such as over cleansing which poses the greatest danger to the skin’s ecosystem, very hot water, rubbing of skin, wrong pH products like soap, harsh exfoliators, obvious sensitivity triggers like fragrance and high doses of ingredients such as glycolic acid and retinol which can over-exfoliate the skin leaving the surface of the skin ‘raw’ and compromised.