If you have skin that suffers frequently and persistently from dryness, itching, flaking, breakouts and rashes, you have sensitive skin. As the name suggests, sensitive skin is the skin type where the skin tends to over-react to certain irritants. Irritants could include sunlight, fragrances and certain chemicals in skin care, cosmetics and other personal care products.
Skin care for sensitive skin demands special care and attention when compared to that for other skin types. The trick is to find out what irritants your skin is sensitive to. With products containing the right ingredients and steering clear of irritants, along with some good skin care habits, you can have healthier skin for longer periods.
What kind of products to avoid for sensitive skin?
Most skin sensitivity is the result of using skincare and other products that are not right for you. Here are some of them:
- Products with artificial fragrances
A number of skincare products like soaps and lotions come loaded with fragrances to make them more appealing. However, these fragrances are usually notorious skin irritants and you should avoid them like the plague. Also, many detergents come with added scents which can linger in your clothes and trigger your skin.
- Products with alcohols
Many skin care products like cleansers and toners as well as cosmetic products contain alcohols. They are usually included to serve as astringents to deep-clean the skin. However, they have a severe drying effect that can trigger sensitive skin and cause breakouts and rashes.
- Products with artificial dyes
It is not uncommon for skincare products to come with dyes to look more attractive. Soaps, lotions, creams, shampoo – all contain dyes! Check the labels to see if the ingredients include the terms ‘D&C’ or ‘FD&C’ – avoid them.
- Products containing certain acids
A number of skincare products include acids to fight off acne. However, your skin could be sensitive to some of them. These acids are known to cause flare ups and outbreaks in some sensitive skin.
Avoid products that contain AHA’s (alpha-hydroxy acids) and BHA’s (beta-hydroxy acids). Many cleansers and soaps also come with boric acid, kojic acid and ascorbic acid. Steer clear of them.
- Other chemicals in products
Other personal care products like shampoos, bleaching creams, cosmetics and even household products like cleaners can trigger flare-ups in sensitive skin. Chemicals like acetates, sulphates and hydroquinone are common irritants. Avoid products containing them. While handling household cleaners, protect your skin with gloves or go for plant-based, natural products.
What products to use for sensitive skin?
- Fragrance-free products
Go for an organic brand that uses natural ingredients. While products with the natural fragrance of the ingredients are okay, avoid those that have added synthetic scents.
- Products without dyes
Go for products that are colorless or have the natural color of the ingredients included in them.
- Hypo-allergenic products
Luckily, the awareness about the harmful effects (on the skin and environment) of these chemicals is increasing. A number of brands now have products labeled ‘hypoallergenic’. These have fewer irritants and are a good option for those with sensitive skin.
- Mild products
Look for mild products like baby soap, lotion, shampoo, etc. which are specifically designed for delicate skin.
How to protect sensitive skin from getting triggered?
Some simple tips can increase your sensitive skin’s resistance to irritants and protect it from flare-ups. These include:
- Protecting your skin from the sun
The sun’s UV-radiation can damage the skin’s natural protective barrier and make it prone to inflammation. This is why you should always wear sunscreen or sunblock before you step out.
Use physical sunblock instead of chemical sunscreens as the ingredients in them are less likely to trigger your skin. Look for titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as they reflect UV radiation effectively. Again, avoid sunscreens with fragrances and dyes.
Wear protective clothing like hats, scarves, sunglasses, gloves, etc. and avoid the afternoon sun as much as possible. While it might seem unnecessary, make sure you stay sun-protected even on cloudy days.
- Protecting your skin from dryness
Dry skin tends to get itchy and flaky and cause inflammation and breakouts. In fact, a number of sensitive skin conditions like rosacea and eczema are primarily caused by extreme skin dryness.
Use moisturizing creams and balms to protect the skin from dryness. Ingredients to look for include ceramides, fatty acids, glycerin and petrolatum. Petroleum jelly, commonly known as Vaseline is also a great option for sensitive skin if you’re looking for something that’s cheap and easily available.
- Protecting your skin from inflammation
Sensitive skin gets easily inflamed with rashes and redness. Using anti-inflammatories can calm the skin and reduce the allergic response. Some effective natural anti-inflammatories include rose water, aloe vera, shea butter, chamomile oil, clary sage oil, jojoba oil and calendula oil. Use these soothing ingredients directly as a face mask or look for products containing them.
What skin care habits should you cultivate for sensitive skin?
A few, simple changes can make an enormous difference to your skin and keep it healthy. Here are some of them:
- Change your bathing routine
Long showers with hot water are the worst for sensitive skin. They strip away all the natural oils that protect the skin and make it prone to irritants. Take warm water baths and limit your bath-time to 5-7 minutes.
- Moisturize frequently
Dryness protection is crucial so you need to make it a habit to moisturize frequently. Moisturize right after you shower to keep the moisture locked. Also, moisturize before putting on makeup and before you go to bed.
- Handle your skin gently
Using harsh scrubs and exfoliators as a means to cleanse the skin is a terrible idea for sensitive skin. Avoid physical scrubs and rough washcloths. Look for moisturizing cleansers and use your fingers or a soft sponge with gentle motions to clean your skin.
Pat-dry your skin after a shower instead of rubbing it with a towel. Whenever possible, simply air dry your skin.
- Take care of your diet
Finally, it’s not just what you put on your skin that matters but also what you put inside you. Your diet plays a big role in your skin health. Eat foods rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and healthy natural oils. Avoid processed and sugary foods as they can increase the risk of inflammation.
Include ample amounts of prebiotics in your diet including yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, sourdough etc. These will replenish the skin’s microbiome and strengthen its immunity making it less prone to irritants.