This might surprise you - but the number of people who suffer from sensitive skin is pretty high. It’s been said that 20% of adults suffer from sensitive skin, while according to the American Academy of Dermatology, almost 50% of US residents have experienced inflamed skin at some point in their lives.
Some of you may wonder if you really do have sensitive skin or are just experiencing a temporary skin irritation - how do you know for sure? And if you really do have sensitive skin, what is the best way to care for it?
Signs of sensitive skin
If you are prone to skin irritation and suspect you might be suffering from skin sensitivity, here’s how to tell if you are:
Blotchy and flushed skin – The redness you experience may be a symptom of rosacea, which is a sub-symptom of sensitive skin. It is a skin condition that causes broken blood vessels and clusters of small pimples to appear around the nose, cheeks and chin. Rosacea may even produce a stinging feeling, especially in darker skin tones (although the redness may not be as visible as on those with fairer skin tones). Don’t confuse acne for rosacea though - the difference is that normal acne may appear alongside blackheads while a red flush usually accompanies rosacea. People who suffer from sensitive skin might also suffer from eczema or psoriasis.
Frequent itching - People with sensitive skin have a thinner skin barrier and are more vulnerable than others. Due to a malfunction, the skin barrier cannot retain moisture and hence, causes dryness – which in turn triggers itching. If it gets serious enough, you may even experience flaky skin.
Easily irritated skin – Dryness can also be caused by topical ingredients you may be sensitive to – such as artificial fragrances, preservatives and additives, or certain chemicals – and dry, cold weather can also contribute to dry skin. Makeup or skincare products that have these will probably cause your skin to sting, burn and become inflamed.
Caring for sensitive skin
While you can surely visit the dermatologist to get medication for your inflamed skin, it is also important that you be mindful of the products you use and take care of your sensitive skin. These are some ways you can start:
Switching your cosmetics – This seems like the most obvious option. Instead of giving in to the temptation of using popular, well-known products that probably contain a lot of chemicals, additives and artificial fragrances, switch to fragrance- and preservatives-free cosmetics that are gentle on your skin - your skin will thank you for it! Always go for something that has natural ingredients and products that do not have too many ingredients or those that contain anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredients. You can also do a patch test by rubbing a small amount on the inside of your elbow to see if you get a reaction in the next 24 hours.
Cold water rinse – Should you experience burning or stinging due to a product you have rubbed into your skin, quickly rinse yourself with cold water or wipe with a soft cloth soaked in cold water. Repeat this several times if you have to. Cold water will remove the product effectively without transferring any new or additional ingredients to the skin.
Hydrate yourself regularly – Due to your thinner skin barrier, it is inevitable that your skin will lose moisture more quickly than people with normal skin. Drinking more water and applying more moisturiser throughout the day will help. For a more effective method, you can also look to applying products with hyaluronic acid – a moisturising substance that heals and hydrates your skin.
Simplify your skincare routine – People with sensitive skin should use a soap-free cleanser and alcohol-free toner when you wash your face. If you need to clean your face more than twice a day, wash it with lukewarm water instead and then apply moisturiser. To avoid getting a reaction, use as few skincare products as possible and only what is necessary. Additionally, stay away from water that is too hot as it dries out your skin, and try to limit your bath or shower time to less than 20 minutes.
Exfoliate lightly - Certain exfoliation scrubs may be too harsh or abrasive on your skin and cause more redness and irritation. Instead, use a brush with soft bristles or towel and gently rub your skin in a circular motion to remove any flakiness or dead skin cells. In the same note, avoid rubbing or massaging your skin too hard.
Avoid being in extreme temperatures – Weather can greatly affect your skin. Keep away from the sun when it’s at its hottest and away from cold and windy weather. If you need to be outdoors, make sure you cover up and don’t let your skin get exposed. Remember to wear a mineral sunscreen too – look for one that has zinc oxide as it is both anti-inflammatory and soothing for your skin.