Chances are you’ve heard (or even used) the term “sensitive skin.” Many people may think that their natural skin type is sensitive, however it can be hard to be completely sure. You know if your skin’s oily or dry just by looking at it, but sensitive skin is a little bit more complicated. Many people may not even realize they have sensitive skin until they notice a negative reaction from using some personal care products, explains Joshua Zeichner, MD, Director of Clinical and Cosmetic Dermatology at Mount Sinai hospital in New York City. “People complain of redness, burning, and stinging when they use certain cleansers and moisturizers,” he says.
While every skin type can be irritated by too harsh products, for those with reactive skin, the majority of everyday products (not just treatments like peels or exfoliators) can cause this type of inflammation and sensitivity.
Then there are those that experience sensitivity as a result of environmental conditions and changes. “During cold, dry months, the weather may put a strain on the skin and the skin barrier may not be functioning optimally,” explains Dr. Zeichner. “Microscopic cracks in the outer skin layer leads to loss of hydration, along with inflammation and symptoms like itching.”
Finally, there are some people who think they have sensitive skin who actually have rosacea. “Rosacea is a chronic skin condition characterized by easy flushing and blushing, dryness, burning and stinging, and bumps and pus pimples,” explains Dr. Zeichner. “It is well documented that people with rosacea react more to ingredients like alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids (more commonly referred to as AHAs and BHAs as compared to people who do not have rosacea.”
Despite the cause of the sensitivity, there are two different types of reactions: allergic contact dermatitis and an irritant contact dermatitis. “In the case of an allergy, an ingredient is applied to the skin leading to an immune response — fragrances and preservatives are big culprit here,” he says.
Other times, the skin may develop a direct irritation from caustic ingredients applied to the skin, such as those aforementioned acids, explains Dr. Zeichner. “Some people are just more sensitive to potential irritation than other people because of genetics.”
If you have sensitive skin (or your skin is experiencing some uncharacteristic stinging and redness), stick to gentle hydrating cleansers and avoid exfoliating products. Both manual and chemical exfoliators can disrupt the skin barrier. Reach for simple moisturizers that contain skin-repairing ingredients like colloidal oatmeal, ceramides, panthenol, and aloe. Our new Sweet Chef Kale + Vitamin B Serum Shot is a milky essence enriched with nutritious and naturally calming kale, plus skin-barrier protecting panthenol (aka vitamin B), and anti-inflammatory hydration from aloe extract.
Anti-inflammatory botanicals like centella asiatica — found in the Yuripibu Asiatica Calming Ampoule— instantly relieves dry patches and flakes with a lightweight formula that gets beneath the surface to treat sensitivity on all layers of the skin. Another superstar soother is green propolis, an antioxidant-rich plant extract that both repairs and shields skin from environmental aggressors. You can find it in this month’s Glow Gamechanger, the Make P:rem Safe Me. Moisture Green Ampoule.
Regardless of whether or not your sensitivity is genetic or caused by products and harsh climates, the important thing to remember is that while you do need to be mindful of the products you use, that doesn’t mean you have to skimp on the skincare benefits. Pay attention to ingredients whenever you add a new product to your routine to ensure what you’re using is gentle. That said, if you have rosacea, you should check with your doctor before adding anything new to your routine as the rules are a little different for that one. For everyone else, just keep these tips and products in mind and soon you’ll have skin so calm it could teach its own yoga class.
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