When it comes to sensitive skin, there are a lot of triggers that can upset it. It can be hard to detemine exactly what they are when our skin is in contact with so many different things every day!
First thing’s first: sensitive skin is not a skin type. Any skin type can experience sensitivity, from oily and acne-prone, to dry and mature. Countless internal and external factors can trigger sensitivity, causing a host of unpleasant symptoms such as redness, prickling and stinging.
Sensitive skin can disturb our beauty sleep, prevent us from taking part in certain activities, and limit our choice of skincare and cosmetics. Basically, it can be a massive drag! To help you get your skin back in the safety zone, you need to know more about possible sensitivity triggers. Here are five of the most common, plus some tips for tackling them head on.
Seasonal pollen levels vary, with many people experiencing vast changes in sensitivity from January through to December. Skin also struggles to adapt to quickly changing temperatures and humidity levels.
LRP Tip: Listen to your body. Try to stay inside as much as possible on high pollen-count days and wear protective clothing. Stay hydrated throughout winter by investing in a humidifier and a good quality moisturiser. Sun protection is also key, and should be an all-year-round effort!
The time of day
Skin has a biologically programmed 24-hour or circadian rhythm. At night, lower levels of the anti-inflammatory hormone cortisol combined with a surge of pro-itch mediator histamine can accentuate skin’s sensitivity, leading to a restless night’s sleep and a tight, itchy and unpleasant sensation upon waking.
LRP Tip: Opt for natural, breathable fabrics, change bedding regularly, and avoid overheating while in bed.
Our life stage
Longer-term physiological changes also play a part.
Baby skin: with a cutaneous barrier still “under construction,” baby’s skin is highly prone to redness and irritation.
Teenage skin: teens often use harsh cleansers and abrasive scrubs to tackle their oily skin or acne, stripping skin of its natural defences and leaving it more sensitive.
Pregnancy and menopause: hormonal fluctuations affect the skin’s sebum secretion, which can lead to a weakened barrier function. These same hormones also influence the skin’s network of blood vessels, causing flushing and redness.
Ageing skin: as we age, sebaceous gland activity diminishes, while both the epidermis and dermis are thinned. Often dehydrated with a weaker defensive barrier, ageing skin is more vulnerable to external aggressors.
LRP Tip: We can’t do much to change biology, but choosing age-appropriate skincare products is essential for maximum skin health.
With its fragile barrier and reactive nerve endings, sensitive skin requires a “less is more” approach. As a rule of thumb, the fewer the ingredients, the more suitable the product is for sensitive skin.
LRP Tip: Look for products that are dermatologically tested for sensitive and allergic skins, and free from known irritants such as alcohol, lanolin, fragrances and colourants.
Author: Pip Jarvis