Your skin puts up with a serious onslaught of attacks every single day. From the sun’s rays to pollution (and even your own body!), our skin acts as the first line of defense and protection against the elements we expose ourselves to whether indoors or out.
One of the most common skin complaints that dermatologists and estheticians tackle is sensitive skin. It is so common, in fact, that some studies report as many as 50 percent of people suffer from some skin sensitivity issues and categorize themselves as having “sensitive skin.”
So, what exactly is sensitive skin, anyway?
A sensitive skin condition can be defined as a skin condition in which skin is easily irritated, prone to drying out, or itches when exposed to certain things. Most commonly, these irritations are spurred on by cosmetics, detergents, and other chemicals that sit atop our skin and interact with it. Other, more severe sensitive skin issues can also crop up including eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, and rosacea.
What makes skin so sensitive in the first place?
Our skin is a living organ that is constantly renewing and replacing itself as is covers our bodies with waterproof, temperature-controlling, vitamin D-absorbing protection. 22 square feet of it, in fact (for the average adult). Many of our skin issues are related to our genetics, race, age, gender, and lifestyle.
Because skin is designed to take the brunt of the hits from the outside world, it is disposed to react to this stimuli and alert us to dangerous situations or underlying health issues. These reactions include everything from welts to flaky, dry skin and blemishes, all indicators of an adverse reaction to something. In the case of eczema, dermatitis, and rosacea, our own bodies are responsible for our skin’s reaction.
In these cases, the skin’s dry, flaky, and burning presentation is an autoimmune response, either from allergies or an immune deficiency.
More often, skin sensitivities are caused by much more basic triggers which can be exacerbated by others. Pollen, mold, dust, pollution, wind, sunburn, excessive heat and cold, hormones, stress, hydration, and diet can all affect your skin’s sensitivity. Tack on notorious skin irritants like hard water, harsh cleansers, cleaning products (including detergents), clothing, and metal jewelry and you are likely to see at least half of the population experiencing some form of skin irritation and sensitivity.
How do you care for sensitive skin?
Because skin reacts easily to a large number of factors, it is important that you first speak with your doctor, dermatologist, or qualified esthetician about any concerns you have about particular products or issues that your skin is experiencing.
Since so many things can lead to skin irritation, it is wise to treat your skin as well as you can and see if you can eliminate or at least minimize the skin’s reaction. Beginning with a healthy diet which will provide your skin with the nutrients it needs to do its job well, a balanced approach creating a strong, healthy body and mindset to tackle sensitive skin will yield the best results. Because stress is a common factor in skin health, ensuring that both your mind and body are stress-free can be achieved with things like massage therapy, meditation, and exercise.
Delicate cleansing is important keeping sensitive skin from flaring up, and regular cleansing should be limited to mild, formulated cleaners that are designed specifically for sensitive skin. Regular skin treatments by a professional esthetician can help keep even sensitive skin healthy and glowing and treat dry spots and other kinds of irritation.
Be certain to add sunscreen with proper SPF and UV protection to your daily morning routine, whether you leave the house or not. Sun damage is preventable, and by applying sunblock every day you will keep sensitive skin protected from harmful rays that can burn and dry out your skin. Burned, dry skin exposes nerve endings to damage, which in turn can lead to even more sensitive skin issues. An SPF rating of 30 in any product or through a combination of products is recommended for everyday protection.