“Sensitive skin” is a common phrase in the skin-care world – whether it’s being used in beauty headlines, product labels, or just in conversation to describe one’s skin issues.
But what exactly does it mean to have sensitive skin? Is it an actual diagnosis? And how should you be taking care of it?
“Sensitive skin” isn’t really a clinical term. It’s more of an expression for skin that’s easy to irritate.
Skin is usually labelled sensitive when it has a tendency to be more reactive than average and is easily irritated, either by environmental things like sun, wind, cold, or topical products, like, soaps, lotions or fragrances.
That irritation usually manifests with symptoms like redness, stinging, burning, itchiness, and general discomfort after your skin comes into contact with a particular ingredient or environmental trigger.
But how do you know whether you have generally sensitive skin or might be dealing with an actual condition?
If you put a product on and you feel stinging or burning, or you get a little red from it, that’s usually general sensitivity. However, indicators that you may have a diagnosable skin issue include persistent symptoms such as extreme redness and irritation, painful burning or stinging, itching, blistering, rashes, scaling, which appear suddenly or stick around regardless of which products you use. If this is the case, a visit to a skin specialist is in order.
Skin sensitivity actually has to do with the fatty outer layer of your skin.
We all have a protective fatty outer layer on our skin. This is often called the lipid (fat) barrier, and it performs two main jobs: keeping water in, and keeping potentially damaging things, like UV rays, wind, heat, and harsh chemicals, out. In people with sensitive skin, this barrier is typically weaker, thinner, and more easily damaged, making it easier for irritants to penetrate the skin and cause inflammation.
The natural construction of your lipid barrier is partly up to genetics, but all of us will see that lipid barrier break down as we get older, which can cause increased sensitivity over time. As we age, that lipid barrier replaces itself less frequently, so people can become more irritated more easily. That’s why products you used to use with no problem can suddenly mess with your skin as you age. You also might experience more dryness as you get older, since your skin can’t hold onto moisture as well.
At DRV Skin we often have patients present with ‘sensitive skin’ who are worried that they won’t be able to tolerate our skin treatments. The good news is our skin clinicians can adjust all of our treatments to suit the skin sensitivity level. What’s even better is the skin care products we use are medical grade products, which means they have better, less toxic ingredients with superior delivery modes than you’re supermarket brands. Moreover, our doctor and skin clinicians will evaluate your skin and be able to recommend the right treatments and products, helping you avoid wasting time and money on products that aren’t right for your skin type.
Experienced DRV Skin dermal clinician Tracy, recommends Aspect DR Redless Serum to many of her patients with sensitive skin. “It is a popular product we sell for red and sensitive skin sufferers. People who use this notice the difference within weeks, as signs of irritated stressed skin slowly decrease. I also recommend patients look at what’s in their makeup, they are often packed with harsh chemicals, dyes and fragrances that irritate the skin. We sell Colorescience Mineral Make-up, with SPF 50+, it stays on top of the skin so it won’t clog pores, making it an excellent option for both sensitive and acne-prone skin types.”
10 tips to help with sensitive skin at home:
- Take short 5 to 10 minute showers with warm (not hot) water and use cool or lukewarm water on your face.
- Avoid harsh astringents and exfoliants near the sensitive areas.
- Use a gentle, fragrance-free soap or body wash.
- Read the ingredients in your makeup, the less the better. Avoid fragrances, preservatives, parabens, sulfates and botanical extracts. Rather opt for mineral based makeup.
- Use a gentle, fragrance-free laundry detergent.
- Try using organic cleaning supplies or make your own with natural ingredients.
- Always use a shaving cream, oil or gel.
- Gently pat yourself dry after a shower (instead of rubbing) and apply moisturiser right away.
- Do a patch test with new products on a discreet area of skin and read the list of ingredients!
- Use diluted essential oils rather than perfumes.
Basically, be mindful of the ingredients in the products you use and DO not over wash your skin! If you have sensitive skin and would like to book an appointment with our doctor or skin clinician call today and see just how we can help you leave that redness and irritation behind.