Let’s get one thing straight, we are not born with Sensitive Skin! There are genetic disorders such as Rosacea, Psoriasis, Eczema and contact Dermatitis which may result in the skin feeling uncomfortable, but Skin Sensitivity is something different all together. Skin Sensitivity is something that occurs due to external factors, basically, it’s something we unintentionally do to ourselves!
So how do I know if my skin has become sensitised?
Well, there a few key things to look out for. Firstly, stinging and burning when you apply product to the skin is a very clear sign that it has become damaged and weakened. The skin will also appear pink and fragile with capillaries becoming slightly more visible. It will often feel very tight and dehydrated, with fine lines and creases becoming more visible. Dehydration and sensitivity usually appear simultaneously as they are both caused by two main things. Damage to the structural layout of cells at the skins surface, and damage to something known as our Lipid Barrier.
The lipid barrier is a layer of Essential Fatty Acids that sit in between our skin cells at the surface. It acts as a filter, preventing unwanted dirt, debris and pollutants from entering the skin. It also works with the skin cells themselves to lock in vital hydration. Due to sustained exposure to UVA, sun, smog, pollution, harsh wind, extremes of temperature and bad products such as stripping toners and overly aggressive scrubs, the lipid barrier gradually weakens, and eventually small holes appear.
This also has a dramatic effect on the structural layout of the cells, which are normally arranged nice and close together like tightly woven silk. They gradually break down and separate leaving our skin more like a holey old blanket. With both our key defences compromised, water escapes freely out of the skin causing dehydration, and unwanted debris penetrates inside causing irritation and resulting in the skin becoming sensitised.
So, what can we do?
Well, there are 3 main things we need to look at here, making the skin more comfortable, replacing lost moisture, and repairing damage to the barrier and cellular structure. To soothe, calm and heal, I suggest looking for ingredients such as Camomile, Licorice, Allantoin, Aloe Vera and Vitamin E. These will relieve the sensitivity and discomfort as well as reducing any redness and reducing visibility of the capillaries.
For intensive hydration, the best ingredient to look for will be Hyaluronic Acid, this is our skins natural water and the most powerful source of moisture known to us. It can be found in both serum and cream form, but to replenish lost moisture nice and quickly look for it in a rich, luxurious cream form, maybe with some natural plant oils to add extra comfort.
Rebuilding the Lipid barrier can be accomplished reasonably quickly but requires some quite specific essential fatty acids. Ceramides, Cholesterol, Omega 3 and Omega 6 make up the natural barrier within the skin and can be found in some good skin care ranges, usually within a moisturiser. You will most likely need to go for a cosmeceutical range as these have more advanced technologies. Olive oil is another good source of lipids and taken orally cod liver oil is great for promoting barrier strength.
Now that we have repaired our barrier and calmed the sensitivity, we just need to tighten up that cell structure. The best way to do this is with an AHA called Glycolic, which can be found in good cosmeceutical cleansers and serums. It exfoliates in between the cells to bring them back together and is medically proven to reduce sensitivity.
Once we have returned our skin to it’s normal supple, hydrated, comfortable state we need to keep it there. So, this means protection! A good Broad Spectrum SPF is vital every day of the year as are antioxidants to shield our skin from the elements. Make sure you are using good healthy skin care with no artificial fragrance, colour, parabens, harsh granules or alcohols to prevent the same issues from reoccurring.
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