Some of the products we use on our skin, are not healthy for our skin. Confusing ‘eh? These unhealthy skincare products are the reason behind why your skin suddenly feels tight, taught and sensitive. Today, I’m going to be talking you through why your skin is getting that ‘tight’ feeling, which unhealthy skincare products are causing it and what you can do to reverse outta, ‘skin tight alley’.
Why Your Skin Feels Tight
Yur skin could definitely be up there with one of the 7 wonders of the world, or wait *scratch that*… let’s give it the number one seat to the list of, ‘7 wonders of your body’.
Skin is a vital organ. It’s exactly as important as your heart or your brain.
Not many people think about skin this way because it’s (normally) so quiet and passive about what it does (high-5 for the introverts of the world).
Skin keeps the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. Skin holds us together, skin protects our insides from UV damage, skin stops us from overheating and skin gives us important clues about what’s going on inside our bodies. It’s pretty darn awesome at doing all that stuff.
When skin feels tight, it’s a sign that your skin has become damaged or temporarily defeated by an external stressor.
The magic of how your skin works is thanks to this science factoid – water and oil don’t mix. These 2 are never going to be best pals and that’s ok, because this is one of the key reasons why your skin biology works so well.
The top layers of your skin are oil based.
Even if you have a skin type that isn’t oily or combination, the top layers of your skin are still oil based. This means skin hydration is locked in without a ‘Prison Break style’ map to find the exit. When there is just the right amount of this naturally protective skin oil (that also gets called the lipid barrier or sebum), skin will look healthily dewy and radiant. It’s this perfect balance of skin oil and hydration that’s the secret behind a normal skin type.
So what happens when skin feels tight, taught and sensitive?
Skin that feels tight, or squeaky has a damaged lipid barrier. What that means is your skin has been stripped of its natural oils. The ones that protect skin from dryness, sensitivity, irritation/looking like a blobby mess on the floor ;).
When skin is stripped of its natural oils it becomes dry, sensitive and irritated. Skin also becomes significantly less flexible, as oil is great at making things slippy, aka lubricating… and skin that can’t move well has a pesky attraction to fine lines and wrinkles.
Which Skincare Products Cause Skin to Feel Tight?
There is one step in your skincare routine that is danger alley to your skins natural lipid barrier. That step is cleansing. Traditional cleansing picks like face washes, soaps, shower gels all have ingredients in them that love to eat up your lipid barrier. They are like an oil loving Pac-Man being let loose on your skin barrier.
You’ve probably heard of at least one of these oil loving ingredients… It’d bet a guess at it being Sodium Lauryl Sulphate/Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLS/SLES).
— Cheryl Woodman (@HonestyForSkin) 8 June 2016
SLS & SLES are 2 types of ingredients that come from an ingredient family with the surname, ‘surfactant’.
A surfactant’s job in life (it doesn’t get more exciting than this) is to mix oil with water and wash it down the plug ol’. They are pretty unusual ingredients as they don’t take a side in the oil: water relationship battle. They ‘sit on the fence’, sink a leg into each and then wash both off your face.
How to Reverse That Skin Tight Feeling
My friend if your skin is feeling tight, that feeling can absolutely be reversed and you can also add some preventative steps into your skincare regimen to avoid more of those ‘tight’ situations.
1. Switch anything that foams for something that doesn’t. Skincare that foams has a good dose of the surfactant family. Not many people know this but skincare formulations don’t actually need to foam to cleanse your skin. In-fact some formulations that foam actually have ‘foam boosting additives’ that make them foam more, just so we see more foam and believe it’s a super-powered cleansing machine. I’d recommend switching foaming face washes and soaps for cleansing creams/gels/balms/oils. You can also do the same thing for shower gel. For example, try Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser (£14/100ml) or Green People Neutral Scent Free Cleanser (£18/150ml) at 150ml this lasts a long, long time.
2. Double Cleanse. Whether it came out of Japan or Korea, double cleansing is a saviour for avoiding tight feeling skin. It works by using an oil based cleanser, followed up with a water based cleanser. That means it does the job of a surfactant without having to actually use a skin up-setting surfactant! Bingo! Look out for skin cleansing balms and oils for your no.1 step and follow that up with a cleansing cream, milk or gel. For example try our award winning Honesty Protect Nourishing Cleanse Balm (£15/90ml) followed by our previously talked about Green People Neutral Scent Free Cleanser (£18/150ml).
3. Use Luke warm water. Hot water is like ‘speed’ for surfactants. If you have a product favourite that foams and want to keep using it, use it with cooler water and the surfactants will eat less of your skins natural oils. It’s also a great tip to follow anyhow. Given enough time with your skin, water damages your skins lipid barrier. There’s only so much battling it’s shield can take. If water is hotter, it’s pounding away on your skin shield with a battering ram instead of a drum stick!
4. Use a super conditioning face oil. Tight feeling skin has an upset and in need of rescue skin barrier. Most people make the mistake of trying to re-hydrate tight feeling skin when actually what skin needs is condition aka to be nourished with oils and butters. It’s why skin can feel tight after moisturising. Here’s what you need to do instead – add a nicely absorbing nighttime face oil into your skincare routine after your moisturiser – try our Honesty Renew Antioxidant Night Oil (£25/30ml).
5. Avoid over exfoliating (physical). Physical exfoliation is kind of like using a duster to polish up your face. It hurries dead skin that are making your skin tone dull and tired, to wave you goodbye. Exfoliating with a ‘physical exfoliant’, that’s things like exfoliating brushes, scrubs and even your plan old muslin cloth or cotton pad isn’t selective about what it brushes off. It’ll take your dead skin, and it’ll also wipe away some of your skins natural oils. Always keep physical exfoliation gentle, never do it with hot water and remember less is more. Learn how to exfoliate your skin sensitively here.
6. Cut down on the shower gel. (channelling the Bisto gravy granny ?*winks*). Shower gel works because of Pac-Man-esque, oil eating surfactants. The thing about our modern day technology boom, is that most of us work in offices and wear office clothes that cover up skin. Although we might go through the odd emotional sweat, we aren’t working down a coal mine collecting up soot and sweat. Cut down on your shower gel usage or switch it for a shower cream or oil e.g. Bioderma Atoderm Shower Oil (£8.50/200ml). I challenge you – how little can you use while still feeling (… and smelling!) clean – you might be surprised.
Have you ever gotten that ‘skin feels tight’ (like you have a face mask on, that’s dried and won’t wash off) type feeling? Come chat to me in the comments below…
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.