“I have sensitive skin.”
This is one of the most common concerns that our Customer Happiness Officers get. In the world of skincare, the term “sensitive skin” is ubiquitous in product labels, ads, and beauty headlines.
However, what does it actually mean to have sensitive skin? How can you take care of sensitive skin? Can it be “cured”? Here is what you need to know about this very common condition.
Sensitive skin is not a diagnosis or a condition
Unlike other common skin concerns like dry skin or acne, sensitive skin isn’t really a condition. The reality is, you don’t “suffer” from sensitive skin, your skin is simply irritated by a certain set of skin care ingredients.
Frequent irritation will often lead one to think that they have sensitive skin and that multiple products aren’t working for them. What could be happening instead is that a particular ingredient in their current skincare routine is causing the irritation.
Sign of sensitive/irritated skin includes redness, itchiness and inflammation. (Photo via: Hero Cosmetics)
Healthy, well moisturised skin can protect against irritation and sensitivity issues
The skin barrier (the fatty outer layer of the skin) forms a protective layer on top of the skin that protects it against irritants. When the skin barrier is damaged or weak, it makes it more permeable and allows irritants to penetrate deeper into the skin, potentially causing irritation.
This is one reason that dry and sensitive skin often go hand-in-hand, as dry skin is more easily irritated. This is also the reason why certain spots on the face are more vulnerable to irritation, such as the area around the eyes - the skin barrier is simply thinner at those areas.
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Your immune system is what’s causing the sensitivity
Once an irritant gets through the skin barrier, what causes the irritation is actually your immune system. The irritant appears as a threat to the immune system, so the immune system “attacks” it by going into overdrive, causing redness, pain, and/or itchiness.
You can develop sensitivity towards an ingredient/product over time
Unless you are exposed to something very irritating like poison ivy, which will almost certainly trigger a reaction, some sensitivities can take a long time to develop. Repeated exposures to a skin care ingredient - fragrances, for example, can cause the immune system to become more and more sensitive to the ingredient. This means a product can start irritating your skin, even after years of using it!
If this happens, it is time to move on from the product and find an alternative. There is very little you can do to continue using the product without irritation.
Skin can become more and more sensitive as you age
Since the skin barrier gets weaker as you grow older, more irritants will go through as well. Because of this, skin not only gets drier as you age, but it gets more sensitive as well.
This is why as you age, you might want to switch to cleaner, less irritating, and more hydrating products.
The worst thing you can do? Washing too frequently
Washing is necessary to remove dirt, grime, and microbes, however, it also damages the skin barrier. A damaged skin barrier leads to more irritants seeping through and that leads to.. you guessed it, more irritation. The same thing applies to exfoliating as well (which is even harsher). Washing once a day with a cleanser is usually enough.
To minimise damage to the skin barrier as you cleanse, follow these simple tips:
- Wash once or max twice per day with a cleanser.
- Don’t wash for more than 60 seconds.
- Don’t use water that is too hot or too cold.
Use a gentle cleanser
Our Pure Castile Face Wash is a two ingredient wonder that gently cleanses without stripping your skin of its natural oils.
Use simple, high quality products with minimal ingredients
The longer an ingredient list a product has, the higher the risk of sensitivity or irritation, simply because there is more potentially irritating stuff!
From our experience, a lot of people find their skin condition improving not because they introduce a new product, but rather because they cut out a product that has been irritating their skin.
For more detailed info on what ingredients to avoid, refer to our previous post here. One special mention that should be avoided at all cost is the ingredient Fragrance or Parfum. Fragrance is a catch-all term that could represent up to 200 different types of chemicals. On the average product, it represents 50 different chemicals! This means that with a single Fragrance on the ingredient list could mean from 50-200 chemicals, all that could potentially be irritating!
As it is our brand philosophy, we have a lot of products that are suitable for sensitive skin and have less chance of irritation due to the simple ingredients. Some of the ones that are very safe for sensitive skin are Pure Castile Face Wash, The Gentle Oil, and the Pure Oil series.
Our Gentle Oil's healing agents in Gromwell extract help to combat redness, inflammation and acne bacteria.
Patch test, Patch test, Patch test
We say it a lot, and we are saying it again, we always recommend it before integrating a new product into your routine. No matter how safe a product is, there is always a chance of irritation.
We #TeamRR highly recommend our customers to patch test new products before including them into their skin care routine. (Photo via: Remaja)
To patch test, simply apply a product on a small area of the side of the neck, do not wash this area for 24 hours. To be on safer side, you can also do it for 3 days consecutively. If any irritation occurs during the test period, then the product very likely contains something that is irritating you.