What is it? What causes it? Do you have it? How to care for it?
Stinging, burning, irritation, flushed skin, breakouts – does this happen when you apply skincare or cosmetics, if your answer is yes, you might have sensitive skin.
Did you know?
- Upto 50% of women and 40% of men globally might have sensitive skin, with some surveys indicating the number is as high as 68%.
- In India, survey* findings indicate at least 37% of women and 28% of men have sensitive skin and are aware of it. Many more don’t even know they have sensitive skin.
These surveys and reports suggest that sensitive skin is not as uncommon as it was thought to be.
Of course, you might feel like you don’t know what sensitive skin is. You’ve seen it on social media, in your favourite magazines, and probably your most loved influencers have talked about it. But there is also a lot of vagueness around it, like how do you know if you have sensitive skin or what is sensitive skin, to begin with? Read on to find answers to these questions and the ways in which you can care for your sensitive skin.
What is sensitive skin?
Sensitive skin is defined in clinical terms as subjective cutaneous hyperreactivity to environmental factors. Typically, the skin (cutaneous) reacts to elements or ingredients in our day to day life that are not usually considered irritant. This reaction does not necessarily have obvious visible signs. Many times, sensitive skin, when exposed to irritants, will feel uncomfortably tight, sting, burn or itch without any other symptoms. On other occasions, there may be redness and mild swelling.
Interestingly, skin sensitivity is not uniform across the board. Some people might be sensitive to one or two ingredients, while others may find their skin reacting to a whole host of environmental factors, and most ingredients found in your typical skincare and cosmetics.
What causes my skin to become sensitive?
The widely accepted explanation for what causes sensitive skin is that an imbalance occurs in the intercellular lipid of the stratum corneum resulting in declined barrier function in sensitive skin. Okay, let’s break that down. So, the skin is made of three layers:
- Hypodermis: this is the deepest layer of the skin.
- Dermis: This is the middle layer and contains cellular collagen that accounts for a significant part of the skin’s thickness.
- Epidermis: It is the outermost layer that you see and touch and contains the layer stratum corneum.
Such fun names. You are probably getting flashbacks from your biology classes. But hold on a bit longer; this is essential in helping you understand what’s going on with your skin when you feel that burn or sting.
Stratum corneum is the outermost layer that prevents your body from losing moisture and water and prevents any outside element (e.g. bacteria, microbes, chemicals, air pollutants, temperature) from getting into your body, i.e., offering a barrier against everything. The stratum corneum is made up of cells and lipids matrix. The matrix mainly contains ceramides, fatty acids and cholesterol, which helps the skin act as a barrier against external aggressors.
Several factors like harsh ingredients in cosmetic and skincare products, environmental factors, chemicals, etc., compromise the skin’s ability to guard itself against these elements. Few factors that may be triggering sensitive skin are:
- Harsh chemicals and ingredients that are not compatible with your skin
- Blue Light rays that come from your digital gadgets, LED screens and even from the sun
- Excessive sun exposure, which includes exposure to UV rays;
- Ageing: Ageing skin loses its ability to repair itself and defend against dryness
- Lifestyle choices: poor diet, smoking, insufficient sleep, stress etc., also affect skin’s sensitivity.
How do I know whether I have sensitive skin?
Below are few symptoms to let you know that your skin has become sensitive or is sensitive to certain elements:
- The skin feels dry and might even be itchy
- Your skincare and beauty products sting or give a slight burning sensation, or turns your skin red and flushed
- Products with regular fragrance and/or essential oils irritate your skin; look for fragrance free products or those with certified allergen free fragrances
- Your skin breaks out easily
If you face one or a few of the above-listed symptoms, your skin is likely to be sensitive. But there is no need to be alarmed. There are steps that you can take to reduce, prevent and avoid skin sensitivity.
How do I care for it and prevent it?
- Eliminate harsh chemicals and ingredients that have the ability to act as an irritant or an aggressor. The EU Cosmetics Regulation recognizes 1300+ ingredients that are deemed unsafe for the skin – watch out for these in your products and avoid them
- Use products designed specifically for your skin type
- Don’t forget to wear sunscreen with SPF30 or more, preferably a mineral based one, many chemical sunscreen agents have been known to cause cancer, hormone imbalance and other health issues
- Use fragrance free products or those with certified allergen free fragrances
- Avoid harmful colorants such as synthetic dyes, instead look out for products with no added colors or that have food grade, plant based coloring agents
- Avoid known irritants such as essential oils, silicones, drying alcohols such as acetone or ethanol
- There are numerous brands claiming to be “hypoallergenic” or “organic” that contain irritants and do little to help you. Some such irritants that you should avoid are heavily scented/perfumed products, products with essential oils, silicones, artificial dyes, products containing acetone or ethanol.
So what can you use? When buying products for sensitive skin or trying to avoid getting sensitive skin, look for products that are free from nasties. Products that have received certifications from dermatologists and various certifying authorities for their safety standards, products that control the use of irritants – both chemical or natural.
A great way to strengthen your skin barrier is by using products that are enriched with barrier strengthening ingredients such as minerals, vitamins, peptides and other nutrients that are critical for building skin’s immunity, which then enable your skin to fight off aggressors and avoid becoming sensitive.
Rebeaut products embody this philosophy. Born out of years of struggle with sensitive skin and frustration with the options available in the market, Rebeaut was conceived in the kitchen of the founder to offer safe, gentle and effective products designed specifically for sensitive skin. The products address the daily challenges faced in finding ingredients that don’t exacerbate sensitive skin. Every Rebeaut product has been dermatologically tested as Safe for Sensitive Skin and non-irritant, and is certified internationally for safety by Safe Cosmetics Australia certificate for being toxic-free, made safe, and allergy certified.
Hopefully, you have followed all the sciency mumbo jumbo and are now armed with the knowledge to take care of your skin. This information will lay the foundation for your understanding of your skin and how the products specifically designed for sensitive skin should be
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