It can be complicated and confusing. And so much trial and error. And so much time on Google looking for solutions.
Some will tell you natural and organic is best for your sensitive skin. While other’s may say keep it as simple as possible, soap and water and Cetaphil cream.
And, it seems you can’t step into a cosmetic department or visit an online beauty store without being bombarded with the latest products and what might be good for you.
Maybe you gave up, tossing your hands in the air, saying you don’t care, the fewer products, the better. Really, you can’t be blamed for that.
It’s frustrating, but you shouldn’t give up.
Understanding your skin’s unique needs will help you work out the best approach.
So, before we jump into what I think you should be doing at home, let’s look at what might be happening to your skin to render it sensitive?
A compromised skin barrier function?
This can be something you’re born with, but more often, it’s acquired. Maybe it was during your teen years when you used too many harsh products, desperately trying to get rid of your oily skin and pimples.
Unfortunately many stick with the same routine years later and eventually, like a pebble on the beach, your barrier function becomes worn away. Ouch.
Is sensitive skin genetic?
It can be something you’re born with. A genetic condition where the skin is unable to form an effective barrier properly.
The skin barrier is incomplete or unable to form properly. If this is you, then you’ve probably been suffering from sensitive skin since you were a baby.
As well as a basic skincare routine you man need an emollient moisturising barrier cream to mimic your natural barrier function.
A diet lacking in essential fatty acids?
Yes, your diet can play a part in sensitive skin. In particular, the skin needs Essential Fatty Acids and in particular Omega 3.
We all hope our diet gives us what we need. But sometimes, even with our best intentions, it can fall short. Omega 3 is essential to the health of your skin and the formation of a well-functioning barrier.
Even if your skin is not sensitive but chronically dehydrated, then you probably need the Essential Fatty Acid, Omega 3 oil. Your body does not make Omega 3 so it must come from the foods you eat. If you’re on a low-fat or vegan diet, you may need to find a supplement.
If you’re okay with animal products then Fish oil supplements are your best option, or Flax Seed Oil if you prefer not to eat anything sourced from animals.
You’ll need anywhere between 3000 – 6000 mg a day*. This will depend on the severity of your skin sensitivity or chronic dehydration.
If your symptoms are mild, start with 3000 mg and see how things improve. If your skin is not improving, you may need to increase 6000 mg a day for a short time and then return to a lower dose when the skin looks and feels better.
*Before you embark on any supplementation check in with your doctor or health care professional.
A skin suffering from rosacea?
Rosacea stands alone as a sensitive skin condition and needs support from a dermatologist. I’ve just written a big article on rosacea. But even so, the skin still needs skincare support. So, if you want all the ins-and-outs of this topic, head on over here: Rosacea, what causes it, and what can you do about it?
Sensitive skin caused by dermatitis?
Dermatitis is an umbrella term for a variety of skin conditions. Some can be temporary such as contact dermatitis while others like psoriasis and eczema can be long-term and more challenging to manage.
If you have an allergic-type of skin, working out what triggers an allergic response is is the first step. Your GP can help with this or provide a referral to a dermatologist.
You may also need to use protective barrier products to mimic your skin’s barrier and increase Omega 3 in your diet.
What would skincare for sensitive skin look like?
Your cleanser should be mild. A milk lotion and a pre-cleansing oil if you wear makeup. Even if you have a little oil in your skin, stay away from foaming cleansers.
Add vitamin A to your daily routine. All skins need nutrition, and your sensitive skin is no exception. But rather than bombard your skin with potent vitamin A serums. Start with a vitamin A ester.
Choose wisely how you exfoliate. You may wonder about whether to exfoliate your skin at all? Well, yes you can, but not with a mechanical scrub. Nope, never do that.
It would help if you turned mechanical scrubs away at the bathroom cabinet door.
If you’ve got a scrub lurking in your bathroom cabinet, keep it for your hands and feet where the skin is a little thicker. But not for your face. Especially if your skin is sensitive, and especially, especially… if your sensitive skin is flaking.
Exfoliate with a mild chemical solution or cream. The Alpha Hydroxy Acid, lactic acid is my personal favourite, but there are others. Mandelic Acid is another great chemical exfoliant for sensitive skin.
We all need to help move dead cells that accumulate on the skin’s surface, and if you have sensitive skin, you need to approach it a little more gently. There’s no need to bombard your skin with AHA’s in every product that touches your skin.
A step by step skincare routine for sensitive skin.
Step 1 – Double Cleanse & pre moisturise
Skincare for sensitive skin always starts with gently cleansing the skin every night. Never go to bed without cleansing. Steer clear of foaming cleanser if your skin is sensitive, even if it’s a little oily.
Once the skin is better supported and balanced with proper cleansing which can take a few weeks, then you can introduce Environ’s Skin EssentiA Botanical Infused Moisturising Toner which contains antioxidants and niacinamide and prepares the skin for any serums and moisturisers that come next.
Step 2 – Morning and Night
Environ’s Skin EssentiA Vita-Antioxidant AVST Moisturiser #1 and Focus Care Comfort+ Vita Enriched Antioxidant Gel contain low concentrations of vitamin A.
Gentle enough for sensitive skin to tolerate. Your skin needs vitamin A for everyday skin health and to build resilience.
Now is not the time to introduce a retinol serum as you need to take things slowly.
If you need extra moisture protection, you can mix either with Environ’s Moisture+ Super Moisturiser for greater skin barrier protection.
Step3 – A few times a week
Skincare for sensitive skin can include mild exfoliation. Perhaps not initially, but if you give your skin time to build a little resilience you’ll be able to introduce a gentle chemical exfoliant.
Environ’s Focus Care Moisture+ Alpha Hydroxy Night Cream is a gentle lactic and glycolic cream formulation that you apply to your face and neck to encourage exfoliation and improve moisture balance.
It’s gentle enough to use a couple of times a week, however, start with a weekly application to see how your skin responds before moving to more frequent use.
Step 4 – Hydration boosters (Optional)
When putting together gentle skincare for sensitive skin, sometimes a lightweight serum with hyaluronic acid will provide short term relief while your skin is normalising during the early stages of your Environ skincare journey.
Youth+ Avance Moisturiser is my preferred option if you want the added benefits of anti-ageing peptides.
Step 5 – Broadspectrum sun protection.
Never go a day without sun protection. Even during the winter months. If you have sensitive skin, the sun will exacerbate your skin issues.
Environ offers broadspectrum sun protection in their RAD Antioxidant Sun Cream SPF15+
And now you?
This is a basic skincare routine for sensitive skin. There could be variances to this routine depending on your specific needs or a skin condition.
If you have rosacea? This would still be a good routine for you; although I suggest booking an online consultation or if you’re unsure then a visit to a dermatologist can confirm whether you have rosacea.
See you next time,
*Before you embark on any supplementation, check in with your doctor or health care professional.