Is your skin thin – so thin that you can actually see your capillaries below it?
Does it turn red or irritated at the slightest provocation?
Those are signs of sensitive skin, by far the trickiest skin condition to deal with. However, with the right knowledge and care, your skin can be calmed and soothed quite easily.
I find that thinking of “sensitive skin” as a skin type confuses more than it helps. Skin type generally refers to how much oil the skin produces – and it’s something that cannot be changed with topical products.
Having sensitive skin, on the other hand, can actually be one of multiple conditions and symptoms. This means that oily, dry, normal, and combination skin types can all suffer from sensitive skin.
How to recognize sensitive skin?
Sensitive skin can be recognized by two major signs:
When both occur frequently and with little cause, it’s a sign that the skin is chronically sensitive. Irritation can express itself as pain, heat, itchiness, or just a “raw” feeling.
Some people may have this reaction only when exposing their skin to a specific product or environment. For others, their skin may become sensitive after using an overly harsh product.
This may also be accompanied by skin conditions like rosacea, eczema, or acne, which can cause or aggravate sensitivity. In that case, it is important to regularly see a doctor to help manage the condition.
1) Mitigating inflammation
The important thing, when dealing with sensitivity, is first to mitigate the redness and irritation. This is where ingredients with anti-inflammatory properties are especially beneficial. There are plenty of natural ingredients with different compositions that make them excellent at mitigating inflammation. Some wonderful ingredients for sensitive skin include oils rich in linoleic acid (like sunflower and apricot kernel oil), many essential oils (especially lavender, chamomile, and patchouli), and polysaccharide rich plants (aloe vera is a great example).
Sunflower oil, spike lavender and patchouli essential oils were our go-tos in the Nairian Sensitive Skin line, thanks to their potent anti-irritant and anti-redness constituents.
2) Repairing the skin barrier
Our skin barrier, also known as the stratum corneum, is the top layer of the epidermis that keeps bad things outside our body and good things inside – especially water. The skin barrier is comprised primarily of dead skin cells which are maintained supple by the sebum our body produces.
People with sensitive skin often have a compromised skin barrier, which must be repaired in order to alleviate the sensitivity. When the skin barrier is compromised the skin is more likely to misbehave – it becomes dehydrated, easily irritated, and easily infected.
By using “skin identical” ingredients, the skin barrier can be repaired and maintained. This makes the skin stronger and less prone to sensitivity. Natural oils rich in essential fatty acids do a wonderful job of mimicking sebum, and thus filling in any gaps between the cells that make up the stratum corneum.
For our Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin we chose sunflower oil as our main oil, because it’s light and non-comedogenic, making it ideal for both sensitive-oily and sensitive-dry skin types. We’ve also added apricot oil and shea butter, making for a comprehensive blend of three essential fatty acids: linoleic, oleic, and stearic.
A side effect of a compromised skin barrier is dehydration, so hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and beet sugar extract also go a long way towards repairing the damage and improving the way the skin feels.
If you have sensitive skin, it is important to avoid the following:
- Washing the skin with hot water (stick to warm water, instead)
- Using products with SD alcohol or synthetic fragrances
- Using bar soaps, or cleansers with a pH higher than 6
- Sun exposure
Sensitive skin is especially vulnerable to sun exposure, which can badly exacerbate its sensitivity. However, many chemical sunscreens can be irritants themselves.
Mineral sunscreen, based on zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, can protect the skin without irritating it. You can learn more about sun protection here.