Nobody puts baby in the corner, and nobody can put just ONE label on themselves… OR their SKIN! We are all perfectly UNIQUE and amazing at different things which complement the things that other people around us are all amazing at! Here, here! Imagine you were a SIM (those computer people that wait for you to tell them when to visit the toilet), and you had a set of sliding bars for humour, sensitivity, hunger, sleep need… etcetera. Well your combination of bars would be crazy unique than someone else’s. THAT’S THE SECRET YOU FORMULA! Think of skin as being like this sliding scale, it has a sensitive, a normal, a dry, and an oily scaled [at least!]. So what does that mean? How can our sensitive skin scale effect our skin and what should we be doing about it?
YOU MAY NOT THINK OF YOUR SKIN AS SENSITIVE… BUT…
All skin is SENSITIVE, it just depends HOW sensitive and WHAT it is sensitive to! Your skin can also be sensitive to something without you realising, as it is good at ‘sorting out the sensitive reaction’, more on that later.
So you have a sensitive skin scale. That means that you have an imaginary number on HOW sensitive your skin is. This can and WILL change because skin adapts and our bodies like to keep things exciting. #NothingStaysTheSameForLong. Not only that but it has a different sensitivity scale for ALL different kinds of skincare ingredients, sunlight, clothes, the dyes in your clothes. So that means you could be best buds with Vitamin C, but hide from witch hazel like you where auditioning in a pantomime!
SENSITIVITY CAN COME OUTTA NOWHERE – SENSITISATION
Here is when the sliding scale comes into play. Think of your sensitivity slider as at 0%, your skin is just fine and dandy and you don’t know what flair up means, hell it’s not even something you know how to say! Now let’s bring in a sensitivity threshold, say your skin can adapt itself until it gets to around 50% sensitive – that’s when you’ll know about it. SO, you’re using this ‘GETS THE BUSINESS DONE’ cleanser that melts makeup off like it where ice-cream in the sunshine. The more you use it, the more it pushes your slider towards sensitive, that’s because your skin is having to work SUPER hard to rebalance itself. It disrupts your NORMAL MOJO! What you don’t realise is that it’s starting to push your slider of sensitive UP, because your skin is PRETTY DARN GOOD at adapting. THEN it reaches 51% and BOOM, you start to see your sensitive skin personality taking over.
This whole sensitive slider thing, is technically called ‘SENSITISATION’, which basically means, the more you use something, the more likely you are to have a reaction to it. It’s like the theory of being allergic to a bee-sting. #IKnowILookLikeAMadWomenRuinningAwayFromABeeButTheyHURT!
Getting all science nerdy with you, this happens A LOT in the lab! A scientist works with the same chemical for weeks, months, maybe even years. They are FINE, getting on with the job, THEN one-day they take the lid off THAT chemical and within seconds break out in hives, rashes and want to scratch like only a dog can!
WHAT KINDS OF SKINCARE INGREDIENTS ARE BAD FOR SENSITIVE SKIN?
SLS and similar soapy based beauty products, the things you find in shower gel and shampoo. These guys are ACE at their job description, they actually are a little TOO good #TooMuchOfAGoodThing. What that means is skin has to pull on its energies to re-balance after they are used. ‘N actually soapy based ingredients like SLS are KNOWN irritants.
Fragrance and essential oils. Smell GORGE, it’s hard to believe they might not be too good for skin, and a bit like the feeling we got when our primary school friends told us father Christmas wasn’t REAL – I mean WHAT? Essential oils can do a lotta good, sometimes more so through inhalation than actually putting them on your skin, they are SUPER concentrated, imagine the taste of neat orange squash, makes you wince (?), that’s what skin feels like when there’s TOO much essential oil.
Skincare acids, AHA’s and BHA’s. These guys get your skin looking FRESHER than a still warm baguette. This is because they help skin on its way OFF your face, get those ‘skin cells turning-over’. That CAN be irritating, as you’re speeding up skins version of NORMAL. This is all in the dosing, less is less irritating and more is more irritating. Simples. It’s all about getting the perfect balance for your skin, to stop sensitive reactions you might want to use these every other day, or once every 3.
Skincare vitamins like A and C. A GREAT skin drink, but not ALL the time. These are like a long island iced tea cocktail, great, punchy and full of juice, but not meant to be consumed every day. #VirginLongIsandIcedTeaAnyone?
Here is a GREAT overview of the different types of Vitamin A by Futurederm, which talks about WHICH works best and also WHICH are more sensitising. So the big hint for sensitive skin, you want to opt for the MILDER one. BINGO! Similar thinking when it comes to vitamin C, a 15% serum might do a job FASTER, but be way more sensitising, so looking for lower percentages is a good idea.
WHAT SIGNS ARE THERE THAT YOUR SKIN IS SENSITIVE?
1. Skin reactions. That’s things like spots, skin bumps, skin rashes, contact dermatitis. Personally I think this one is completely unique to you. YOU and only you, know what is NORMAL for your skin, so if something ABNORMAL starts to happen, that’s a sign you’re using something sensitising to YOUR skin. Of course those having sensitive skin ALREADY, will have this as their ‘normal’ version and will probably already be PRO’s at managing its tantrums.
2. Crazily DRY skin. Dry skin has much LESS natural and in-built PROTECTION than normal or oily skin. It’s skin oils that help keep our skin healthy as if it were a vegetable itself. #SkinVEG. Dry skin is like the dream you have when you leave the house having FORGOTTEN to put clothes on #SleepWalker? It is much more vulnerable. It needs some cotton wool treatment.
3. Your skin FLUSH’S [goes RED] easily. That ‘blushing’ look on skin is just a RUSH of blood to your face, or anywhere else. You’ll probably have experienced it the last time you bumped your knee on the corner of the bed, while somehow thinking you could walk through it (oops! #SuperHuman), OR when you nick yourself with the razor, and the skin around it reddens. When it comes to skincare, reddening is usually telling you there’s some kinda allergy or skin inflammation happening (like when you get a spot). So it happens A LOT more when your skin is sensitive.
IF THERE IS ONE THING TO TAKE FROM THIS POST…
Remember you don’t have to borrow one, we ALL have a SKIN sensitivity slider *wink wink*. So that means it’s a good idea to switch-up hard-core skincare with milder versions, to keep that concentrated skin acid or vitamin for every few days AND a great excuse to PAMPER your skin like you were setting up business as a SPA!
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.