Tight, Itchy, burning, tingling skin – do you currently feel like your skin’s trying to leave you/look like the creases of an elephant/make you appear like a unique human being with an OCD skin touching need?
If so dear friend, you’ve landed in exactly the right place.
Your tight and itchy skin can’t speak but if it could – right now it’d be screaming.
When skin wants water… instead of giving you puppy dog eyes and asking oh so sweetly – mum please can I have some more water please, skin acts out.
When your skin’s in need of friendly assistance… instead of joining a meet-up group, reading a self-help book or settling down for a heart-to-heart, skin acts out.
When your skin’s craving the pure and simple life… instead of joining a yoga class, scheduling in an afternoon nap or powering up on the veggies, skin acts out.
Skin can’t speak to you but it can act out… and your tight and itchy feeling skin is exactly that.
By the end of this read you’ll know exactly how to
A) Fix tight feeling skin
B) Prevent tight and itchy skin
C) Avoid your skin ever feeling tight and itchy again
Sound awesome? Come learn all dear skin savvy in the making…
What Causes Tight Skin?
When your skin feels tight and itchy you can be sure something about your skin has changed. And best bit – once you know what’s changed, you can prevent it and even fix it.
When your skin feels tight, your skin’s biology has switched from I-do-yoga-everyday-and-eat-like-my-body’s-a-temple to I-forgot-couch-surfing-wasn’t-an-official exercise-and-KFC-doesn’t-count-as-an-official-5-a-day.
To understand this a little more deeply, we need to remember a very important and simple snippet of skin biology – which is – your skin’s top layers are almost 100% oil made.
Your skin’s like a layer cake, lots of water containing cake layers on the inside and one taste-bud tickling oil made frosting layer on the outside.
Now imagine what would happen to your layer cake if it didn’t have a super-yummy frosting layer on the outside. It’d go stale, dry and crumbly ‘eh.
The frosting layer on-top of your favourite kind of anytime cake helps keep your sweet treat moist… which is exactly how your skin works.
See… water can’t evaporate through oil. Which means anything which has oil (or some kind of fat) ontop – is staying put.
Plus, the bonus – oil is a perfect lubricator which means when your skin has the needed amount of natural oils – your skin feels comfortable, conditioned, nourished and unnoticeable.
Why does my skin feel tight and itchy, tingly and burny? You guessed right my friend, your skin is lacking in natural oils. Something’s stealing them away.
My Skin Feels Tight and Itchy…
Help! What do I do? Identify the thing which is stealing away your skin’s natural oils and you can wave a magic goodbye to all feelings of tight and itchy skin. While you could use a facial oil to help give back oils to your skin, if you keep doing the thing which is causing you tight, itchy skin, you’ll only ever cover up a side effect.
Imagine how great your skin could be if you not only stopped/prevented/avoided the cause of your tight feeling skin, but if you also used skincare to reverse/repair/protect against tight feeling skin. Now here’s where great skin’s made.
First stop, the causes of dry, tight, itchy, tingling and sometimes burning skin;
- High pH cleansers
- Body wash/face wash with irritant, too-good-at-their-job cleansing ingredients e.g. SLS – foaming cleansers are a key culprit
- Sun light/sun damage
- Hot showers, hot baths or long and hot showers and baths
- Hard water
- Inappropriate skincare
- Over exfoliating
- Fragrance in skincare
- Alcohol in skincare – the drying kind
Can you see your tight feeling skin trigger here? If you’re not sure, come chat with me in the comments at the bottom of this blog – i’m here for you.
It’s also worth knowing sometimes it can take a while for your skin to react to something. You could be using a new skincare product for a few weeks before you get tight and tingly feeling skin. You might also slowly have crept into over-using territory – exfoliating too often is a very common cause of tight and itchy feeling skin.
How to Fix Tight Skin
So, you’ve got tight, itchy skin – what can you do about it? Have you permanently damaged your skin forever or can you apologise and get everything back to how your skin was before?
Breathe a sigh of relief dear friend because the best fact about your skin is every little piece is constantly renewing. Every individual skin cell averagely has a life of around 30 days – which means, if you’ve experimented a teeny-tiny bit too much, changing your skincare routine and avoiding your trigger cause can make a big and positive difference quickly.
Here’s 4 skincare changes you can make for quick relief now…
1. Use a pH balanced, SLS free cleanser
…and use your pH balanced, SLS free cleanser just once a day – in PM is perfect. Cleansing your skin removes oils from your skin. When those oils are makeup oils, your skin is safe. When some of those oils are your skin’s oils, your skin can become dry, tight and itchy.
Psssst! Even if your skin looks oily, it can still be dry, tight and itchy. In fact a lot of oily skin types are also dry and dehydrated.
Using a cleanser which is pH balanced, low foaming and SLS free is a great way to guarantee your skin stays hydrated and conditioned.
Here are 2 of my top picks;
- CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser– p.s. don’t worry about finding out the pH of this cleanser, I can tell you it’s pH balanced to be skin friendly at pH 5.5.
- Our own award winning, Honesty Protect Nourishing Cleanse Balm – has no pH as it’s water free (!)
2. Ditch physical exfoliants for this
…or if you’re using salicylic acid or glycolic acid as an exfoliant, temporarily switch your usual flavour for this.
Lactic acid – of which there’s a great purse-friendly choice here.
Physical exfoliants feel great straight away – but are a danger area for your skin. If you use a Clarisonic brush, a muslin cloth, a facial scrub or something similar – rubbing at your skin removes oils and can leave your skin vulnerable aka tight feeling and itchy.
Lactic acid on the other hand, gently and slowly exfoliates without rubbing away your skin’s oils. Out of all the liquid exfoliants available lactic acid is known to be extra-mild and sensitive.
Science factoid coming at you – lactic acid has a larger moleculer size than other liquid exfoliants like glycolic acid, this is fab news for sensitive skin types as lactic acid can therefore absorb more slowly into skin, having a nice, gentle effect. Imagine drinking an entire bottle of wine in 20 minutes vs. over 4 hours with dinner.
— Cheryl Woodman (@HonestyForSkin) 3 April 2018
Lactic acid is also great at helping your skin repair, renew and restore a healthy skin barrier because lactic acid helps your skin to make ceramides – by up to 48% more (!). Ceramides are a kind of oil/fat/lipid which are known to be vital for keeping your skin healthy.
3. Use a barrier repairing moisturiser
…and not only that, but a moisturiser which can help balance your skin’s pH level, soothe, condition and protect.
Which is why I highly recommend this guy.
Containing superstar ingredients;
- Colloidal oatmeal – helps rebalance your skin’s pH to healthy, helps relieve uncomfortable feeling skin
- Allantoin – a registered FDA skin protectant
- Ceramides – yes more of those guys!
Using a barrier repairing moisutiser is the perfect way to help sort out tight, tingly feeling skin now. Kind of like using training wheels while your skin sort’s itself out underneath.
4. Use a facial oil for instant relief
…your skin’s lost vital oils and facial oils can help give them back.
I love to recommend a skin identical approach as much as possible when caring for your skin. When you give your skin what it already knows how to use, you make skin happy. Imagine being given a plate of your favourite takes-2-hours-to-cook dinner vs. wood chip and sawdust.
Squalane is one such oil and is a vital and needed oil of your skin barrier. In fact, squalane out of all oils found on your skin is in a super-high relative proportion.
The Ordinary make a great squalane facial oil at the feels-like-i’m-stealing-price of £5.50 here. A fab choice.
Bonus tip: If your skin’s gotten very dry because of being tight and itchy, you’ll want to sandwich your facial oil with moisturiser. Moisturiser, then facial oil, then a tad more moisturiser. Scientifically like-dissolves-like which also means like absorbs with like. When your skin’s lacking oil, sometimes it can struggle to absorb oil, using a moisturiser sandwich helps.
How to Prevent Tight, Itchy Feeling Skin
Got your get rid of tight, itchy feeling skin, skincare routine sorted? Great stuff, now dear skin savvy, you’ll want to be sure you’re doing or avoiding a few other things to make sure dry, tight, itchy feeling skin can never strike you again.
- Use sunscreen daily like this one – and if your skin’s dry, tight and itchy, be sure to avoid zinc oxide based sunscreens as zinc oxide can dry your skin more
- Choose showers instead of baths – they’re shorter and therefore avoid more skin damage
- Keep your water temperature warm but not hot and steamy
- Wash your skin with cleanser a maximum of once a day
- Use a skin friendly body wash
- Avoid bubble bath like it were a tanning gun set to tango shade
- Avoid skincare containing alcohol high on the ingredients list
- Steer clear of SLS aka sodium lauryl sulphate
- Always moisturise after cleansing
- Always use a moisturiser after a serum – helps to reseal your skin’s barrier
- Avoid highly fragranced skincare – even if it’s with essential oils
With even just a few of these skincare changes acted on, your tight and itchy feeling skin can quickly be shown the way back to healthy skin station. Awesome ‘eh.
What do you think’s the trigger to why your skin’s feeling uncomfortably tight and itchy? What are you going to do to make sure you speed past tight and itchy to healthy and calm? Have more questions? Fantastic – come ask them to me in the comments below…
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who is 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 is 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.