Skin Sensitivity, a Silent Pandemic. What is it, and how to Treat it?
Many seem to be on a constant pursuit of the perfect AHA, BHA, Retinol, or L-Ascorbic Acid percentages. While many brands are busy with R&D fulfilling the demand for potent actives, skin problems keep creeping up trapping many in a cycle of skin reactivity, breakouts, excessive dryness and imbalance. This very much resembles our modern day obsession with prescription drugs. I can’t count how many times co-workers came into the office (when there was such a thing), sniffling and assuring everyone that their mild cold wasn’t contagious because they were on antibiotics. I hope everyone realizes by now that antibiotics are useless for colds, and may in fact cause multiple side effects including antibiotic resistance and weakened immunity. But let’s not digress. The point is that the idea of a powerful treatment being the quick fix for all problems, is not only shortsighted, but dangerous, and can have detrimental consequences.
Let’s jump right in. A few of us are born with sensitive skin, but most are sensitized due to environmental factors, smoking and you guessed it, the overuse of cosmetic actives. This article addresses the latter issue.
Let’s first define sensitive skin. It has three major characteristics; inflammation, barrier defects, and nerve fiber hyper-responsiveness (a mouthful- I know!). All render the following symptoms; irritation, redness, itching, burning, stinging, dryness, eczema and pimples…
Once there is enough inflammation in the skin and its barrier is impaired, sensitive skin becomes harder to manage and increasingly reactive to products. Some conditions, such as rosacea and psoriasis, are chronic inflammation diseases and may need to be treated by a medical professional. However, what you do at home can highly impact the skin’s reactivity and tolerance of topicals. In many cases, a gentle toxic-free routine can do wonders for these conditions. Let’s break it all down.
The basics - prevention
- Skin is an organ that needs the same basic nutrients as the rest of our bodies; water, essential fats, vitamins, antioxidants, etc. So eat your fruits and vegetables and stay hydrated, but most importantly; consume good fats sources such as avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds and salmon.
- Treat the skin as the delicate organ that it is. You don’t need to be abrasive, scratching it daily, or even weekly, with scrubs. Please only use enzymes or mild acids such as Glycolic, Lactic or Mandelic (my favorite) to maintain cellular turn over and a smooth surface, about once per week. That’s it! Keep in mind that these acids make the skin more reactive to the sun, which could result in discoloration. So a good mineral sunscreen is a must!
- NEVER skip moisturizer. This is your first line of defense against pollution, toxins, and the oxidation. Use a good one. Here are some great options.
- Your dishes, not your skin, need to be squeaky clean. Unless you are rolling in the mud, you don’t need cleansers with harsh surfactants. Opt for gentle oil or cream based cleansers. We unanimously love Arcana Viritida Cleansing Balm, and both Blü Fern Cleansers.
- AVOID fragrance like the plague! AVOID long term use of essential oils in high concentrations. These are quite powerful and can help with brightening and other skin aging issues, but consistent use is damaging to the lipid barrier.
- Avoid products with penetration enhancers like EDTA. They are destructive to the skin surface, which means your skin will be more susceptible to damage and will also suffer water loss, leading to aging and other issues.
Are you a little too late discovering this info, or maybe we are late posting it? Let’s forgive each other, move on and go over some practical solutions:
- Take short showers, and avoid hot water.
- Moisturize immediately after leaving the shower.
- Mineralize your skin. Use a mineral spray such as Graydon Skin Food. The Magnesium and Zinc will do wonders for compromised skin. Just make sure that there are no cuts while using this as it has silver.
- Use a Mineral Zinc-based sunscreen. My all-time favorite is Kari Gran Essential SPF 28, AMAZING for dry skin. You can apply it right after cleansing and you’re all set! If you want an option for normal and combination skin types option, go with Suntegrity.
- DO NOT buy a product because it simply says “For sensitive skin”. Cosmetic companies are free to say what they want, but you don’t have to take their word for it. READ your labels. To stay on the safe side, shop from this selection of products. They are all thoroughly vetted and tested on sensitive skin. They are also free of synthetic fragrance, have low or no essential oils, no harsh chemicals, etc.
- SIMPLIFY. SIMPLIFY. SIMPLIFY. The less products you use on your skin, the less chance for irritation, but this doesn’t mean you skip your skincare. You can keep things real simple with a gentle cleanser and moisturizer at night, and a cleanser with sunscreen during the day. These are the absolute basics. You can build from there, adding eye cream and an oil-based serum when ready.
- In order to rebuild your compromised lipid barrier, opt for moisturizers with ceramides, and seed or nut butters. This will take time, but be gentle and patient. If you are at the stage where you need firming products, you can take vegan Collagen and vitamin C daily and/or supplement with Lumity to help maintain your skin’s firmness and glow without having to apply too many serums. You can always supplement with actives once your skin is back in shape. The BEST serum that you can use at this stage is Lina Hanson Global Calm.
- Keep in mind that everyone's skin is different, book a skincare consultation for more personalized advice.
- Cut down on sugar, alcohol, smoking, and get plenty of sleep allowing your skin to repair and regenerate overnight.
Be well. Be safe. Be beautiful!