Is your skin easily irritated by certain products or environmental factors? Do you experience breakouts when you try a new skin care regimen? Chances are you may have sensitive skin. But let’s dig a little deeper at 9 key indicators to determine if you have sensitive skin or when you may need to consult a dermatologist for more serious skin conditions. In the video below, SkinCareTV has categorized sensitive skin into three levels - watch to identify which one you are.
1. Skin is reactive
Certain products can trigger symptoms of sensitive skin like detergent, fragrances, skincare products, soap or even household cleaning products. You may also notice changes in your skin with exposure to cold, wind and sun.
Redness can be caused by a number of things, but people with sensitive skin often experience redness in the form of a rash, flushing or blushing, red dilated blood vessels or red bumps. When the irritant is removed, you may notice the symptoms subside, but sometimes it can persist indicating more sensitive skin.
Tight and itchy skin can occur after cleansing with certain products that may be too harsh. Add on top of that hot water, and you can make it even worse. If you notice itching during the winter months when the air is more cold and dry – you may also be experiencing a reaction of sensitive skin. Scratching itchy skin can lead to additional irritation and even infection. If you have itchy skin that continues to persist, talk to your dermatologist about solutions you can try.
4. Stinging sensation
If you experience a stinging or burning sensation when you cleanse or apply certain products, they may be too strong for your sensitive skin. If alcohol is an ingredient in these products, a reaction to sensitive skin is especially common. Some individuals with sensitive skin may experience breakouts when introducing anti-aging products. These symptoms may be temporary, but they can also be very painful. If you experience a stinging sensation after washing or applying a new product, remove it as quickly as possible and rinse over the skin with cool water. You may even want to apply a cold compress gently on the skin if it is particularly uncomfortable.
Cold winter months can be especially harsh when it comes to sensitive skin. You may experience breakouts due to a lack of moisture. You may have a better chance of combatting dry skin by using a gentle moisturizer. This will not only help fight the elements, but provide a layer of protection for your skin.
If you develop rashes easily that are red, bumpy or flaky when exposed to various products, you may have sensitive skin. If products are left on your skin, the rash may develop quickly or after an extended period of time. If you are experiencing an allergic reaction to something, it can be more serious than sensitive skin. You may also need a prescription to eliminate the irritation caused by the allergy.
7. Prone to breakouts
Sensitive skin may develop breakouts with red bumps or acne. Some harsher products specifically for acne may only make things worse. The dermatologist is the best resource for understanding your breakouts and may be able to help you determine the right products to improve your skin without causing additional irritation.
8. Flaky Skin
Especially dry skin may begin to flake or peel. In addition to potential embarrassment, the skin can become raw and painful which leads to potential scarring and infection. Flaky skin can also be visually embarrassing.
Aside from the painful aspects of dealing with sunburn, it can cause much more harmful, long term side effects. Sensitive skin is naturally more prone to sunburn. Always wear sunscreen when you’re outside, and especially on your face. Because of the harsh ingredients in some sunscreens, sensitive skin is more susceptible to a negative reaction. Look for sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. And a sunscreen with SPF 20 or higher is going to be more effective at preventing sunburn.
When You Have Sensitive Skin
If you are one of the 20% of adults with sensitive skin based on these 9 key indicators, what can you do to cope with this condition and have healthy, beautiful skin?
- Simplify your skincare routine. By overloading your face with abrasive and harsh products, you can add to your skins irritation. Eliminate any product that isn’t absolutely necessary in your skincare regimen.
- Reduce the amount of exfoliation. Many of the exfoliating scrubs on the market are too harsh for sensitive skin. Using a soft wash cloth or skin exfoliating brush with soft bristles once or twice a week will help reduce your skins susceptibility to reacting.
- Don’t over-wash your skin. Washing your skin more than 2 times per day can do more damage than good. Using warm water instead of hot can also help reduce redness and irritation.
- Sunscreen is essential. Everyone should be using sunscreen, but it is crucial if you have sensitive skin. Reapply after sweating, swimming or more than 2 hours in the sun. Get in the habit of using sunscreen everyday with SPF 20 or higher and protect your skin from the harsh elements of the sun.
There are definitely certain ingredients you want to avoid if you have sensitive skin. These are:
Many toners, creams and washes contain alcohol. This harsh ingredient can reduce your skins level of moisture which leads to itchy, irritated skin.
Synthetic fragrances found in lotions and creams can cause inflammation and damage inner layers of the skin. There are many fragrance free options on the market, and these products are less likely to react to sensitive skin.
Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
You may be hard pressed to find a skincare product that doesn’t contain one of these ingredients, but they are out there. And if you have sensitive skin, you may notice a difference in irritation by swapping out products that contain those ingredients for something more natural like a cream cleanser or oil.
This ingredient is a preservative which has been identified as the leading cause of the worst allergy outbreak in history. While the ingredient has good intentions, it can cause a reaction especially to those with sensitive skin.
Derived from petroleum, like in the name, this ingredient was created to build an oily layer over the skin to prevent moisture from escaping leading to a buildup of products. This buildup can lead to bacterial growth, clogged pores and breakouts.
Bringing back memories of 7th grade science class? Formaldehyde can be found in nail polish, but is the most common cause of eyelid dermatitis – an inflammatory reaction triggered by contact with formaldehyde that causes redness, itchiness and burning. Yikes!
Tiny little granules in your exfoliating face wash are not perfectly round. The irregular shape makes them especially harsh for sensitive skin. While this exfoliator is perfect for keeping feet, knees and elbows soft and smooth, opt for a gentler exfoliator for your face.
Chemicals in Sunscreen
Chemical ingredients like avobenzone, oxybenzone and octinoxate are used in chemical sunscreens and can cause problems for people with sensitive skin. With more physical or mineral based sunscreens on the market, you may choose a sunscreen free of chemical ingredients to protect your skin from a reaction.
Ingredients for Sensitive Skin
It may seem like there are a lot of ingredients to avoid and that you may have trouble finding products that are well suited for your skin, but take a look at 14 ingredients that are awesome for sensitive skin.
White Tea ExtractWhite tea’s natural formula is loaded with antioxidants that help improve the skin’s circulation.
Green Tea Leaf ExtractWith its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits, green tea leaf extract is gentle enough for sensitive skin.
Chamomile ExtractChamomile extract can be used on your body, hair and face. It helps to soothe skin (and an upset stomach too).
BisabololThis ingredient can be found in serums and moisturizers and is known for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties.
Sunflower OilIf you’ve ever heard Vitamin E is good for your skin, it is! And Sunflower oil is loaded with Vitamin E. It can be a great moisturizer for dry, irritated skin.
Calendula ExtractIf you forget the sunscreen or spend a little too much time outside and get sunburned, calendula extract is proven more effective than Aloe Vera at treating a burn.
PanthenolPantheon is a skin builder, a great way to get your skin healthy again after some wear and tear. It’s also known as pro-vitamin B5.
OatmealAside from making a delicious breakfast, oatmeal has incredible moisturizing benefits to dry, irritated skin. Create an at-home mask or take an oatmeal bath and enjoy the nourishing moisture.
Cucumber Seed OilInstead of putting cucumbers on your eyes to soothe puffiness, cucumber seeds can produce oil full of phyosterols. This oil has essential fatty acids that is a powerful skin builder. But don’t look for cucumber seed oil on the label, it will be called cucumis sativus seed oil.
LecithinAlso an ingredient extracted from seeds, lecithin is great for sensitive skin because it’s similar to our skin and sort of “speaks our language” when it comes to skin, so it helps to restore the natural skin factor through lotions.
HoneyFound as "mel" on skincare labels, honey is so gentle on sensitive skin. Honey has anti-bacterial qualities and improves overall skin smoothness and moisture levels.
Shea ButterShea butter is the go to for skin conditioning. It contains steric acid and is packed with vitamin A and vitamin E. Ideal for sensitive skin because of its mild nature and ability to improve skin quality.
Borage OilWith so many oils available, it’s hard to know which one is right for you. Borage oil is unique because it is the highest natural source of gamma-linolenic-acid. This is essential to repair damaged skin and produce radiant, healthy skin.
AllantoinAllantoin is a phytochemical extracted from plants. It is beneficial to sensitive skin because it helps to soothe overstressed skin and stimulate skin tissue to regenerate new, fresh skin.
Caring for Sensitive Skin
If you’ve determined that you are one of the many people with sensitive skin, know that you’re not alone. Keep these final tips in mind to take care of your sensitive skin.
Drink lemon waterThe Vitamin C and other antioxidants in lemon help to overcome damage from environmental factors such as free radicals. Lemon eliminates toxins in your bloodstream, improves skin clarity, brightness and signs of aging.
USE SUNSCREENThis cannot be stressed enough. For an excellent sunscreen and moisturizer, try this one specially formulated for sensitive skin. Apply sunscreen 20-30 minutes before exposure to the sun and reapply after 2 hours.
Buy the right productsRead the labels and watch for ingredients listed above that may contribute to a reaction of sensitive skin. Avoid using products with abrasive exfoliates, alcohol, synthetic fragrances, coloring agents or chemicals.
Don’t overdue the makeupThe more products you apply to your skin, the more you increase your chances of causing a reaction to sensitive skin. Use products containing fewer preservatives for minimal irritation. Even using waterproof cosmetics can amplify your skin’s reaction. Throw out old make up and avoid using too much.
Coconut oil, periodThe natural moisturizing components of coconut oil make it a gentle moisturizer for even the driest, most sensitive skin. Apply it to your face, arms, legs, hands, feet, even hair before you go to sleep. Rinse it off in the morning and notice the difference in your soft, smooth skin. Or take a coconut oil bath using 1 cup of raw coconut oil in a warm bath. Soak for 15 minutes and pat dry. Not only will you feel a difference in moisture, but the coconut oil also helps to create a barrier for your skin to protect it from the elements and bacteria.
Implementing these simple strategies and introducing a few new products to your skincare regimen will improve your overall skin quality while helping to protect and manage even the most sensitive skin.