Esthetician Approved: 5 Ways to Master Sensitive, Sensitized Skin
What is the difference between sensitive and sensitized skin?
First off, sensitive skin is a skin type, generally you’re born with it, it’s part of your genetics, sometimes it can be hormone related. Sensitized is a skin condition so it’s temporary. It can come and go so you might notice skin is red and flushed one day, whether calm the next.
Often sensitized skin is triggered by something, like the products you use or the environment you’re exposed to. They are both different and sometimes you can have both.
How can I tell if I have sensitive or sensitized skin?
If you’ve been dealing with sensitive skin your entire life, if family members have it, you generally know you have truly sensitive skin. If you’re almost always flushed, struggling with redness, or things can easily break you out. If you’re often dealing with other type of skin issues such as eczema, rosacea, contact dermatitis, you will know you have sensitive skin. Even the most gentle of products can cause redness.
If you’ve been noticing a bit more irritation, redness and flakiness in your skin, then it is most likely you have sensitized that has built up over time.
Does sensitized skin increase with age?It can, the fluctuation of hormones in pre menopause and menopause means that rosacea can pop up more in our 40s and 50s. Skin can become more sensitized especially as we’ve increased our UV exposure over the years, collagen breaks down and so skin becomes more sensitized.
So what are the most effective steps can we take to approach Sensitive, Sensitized Skin?
1. Avoid triggers
Too much cleansing or using cleansers which are stripping. Gel cleansers, acne fighting cleansers or cleansers that strip the skin’s delicate moisture barrier
Then there’s the overuse of products actives, vitamin C and retinoids where you’re just erasing that moisture barrier.
It’s a case of harsh products being used way too much.
(You may find that if you’re constantly stripping away natural fatty acids from your skin, skin over produces sebum to compensate, so sensitive skin can often go hand in hand oily skin as a condition as well.)
2. Look out for these products and ingredients
A gentle oil + cream cleanser. First off, oil dissolves oil, so using an oil cleanser is the first step before any other product or ingredient to look for in a routine – a gentle oil pre cleanser, followed by a non-foaming cream cleanser as a second step.
Good sunblock. For sensitive skin types, it’s a struggle to find something for your reactive skin. Try to find a more mineral based sunblock with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to avoid irritation.
Sodium hyaluronate. Often dehydration and sensitized skin go hand in hand because we’re stripping that lipid barrier away, so often we’re dehydrated. Bringing hydration back into skin using a humectant like sodium hyaluronate to bind moisture into the skin will help the process of healing. Sodium hyaluronate is the salt form of hyaluronic acid, which also has stronger absorption rates.
Cucumber. A natural soother. It has anti-inflammatory properties, plus is loaded with antioxidants.
Niacinamide. A powerhouse ingredient, which reduces redness, calms inflammation and helps to minimize the appearance of pore size.
Kigelia africana. A potent botanical that contains a vast array of bioactive compounds which contribute to its broad spectrum antibacterial and antifungal activity. Kigelia has been traditionally used by African healers to treat skin-related conditions, such as fungal infections, acne, eczema, psoriasis, sunburn and insect bites.
Glycerin. Another humectant, that allows the skin to retain moisture. It can increase skin hydration, relieve dryness, and refresh the skin's surface.
3. Introduce actives slowly for ageing well
Alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, retinoids and vitamin C are all ingredients for ageing well- but they can be harsh – so how can you age well without triggering skin?
- Start with a retinol or retinoic acid that is lower in percentage and work yourself up, talking to ad dermatologist so that you are being careful as you can experience irritation with any type of retinoid.
- Every sensitized skin is going to reactive differently, so start slow, incorporate vitamin C a couple of times a week slowly because it can be harsh and cause flushing. See if your skin tolerates it well, then work up.
- Patch test with AHA and BHA chemical exfoliants first. If you have oily skin then BHAs will be more effective.
- You can try medical treatments such as VBeam or IPL lasers to build up collagen which can help you to age gracefully too
4. Treat skin gently
Do not use steam, use calming ingredients and go slowly. Avoid a lot of heat and cleansing with luke warm water is the best, not rubbing skin when you dry it, but patting skin instead. These are little steps that add up every day.
5. Change your skin routine with the seasons
With harsh winters approaching, it’s important to keep up the hydration, especially with central heating and the strong wind. Marula oil is great at locking in moisturiser especially with a moisturiser on top. It is gentle enough that most sensitized skin types can use it easily and good because there is so much oleic acid, a skin penetrative oil that pulls everything that’s with it deep into layers of skin and locks moisture in. Using a mist that you use throughout the day can help with dehydration too.
Don’t forget, Erin offers complimentary consultations via our Esthetician page, and knows that every sensitive, sensitized skin type reacts differently. Taking a slow, personalised approach, giving advice each step of the way is what she loves most about her job, so don’t be a stranger.