If your skin is itchy and irritated, going for skincare as mild as your manners could be the way to go, writes
Rosacea is often dubbed the Curse of the Celts, but skin sensitivity is another skin concern that those of us of Celtic descent tend towards more than others. Pair our skin’s inclination towards not handling things as well with harsh, cold weather and we’ve got ourselves a national heritage of redness, flakiness, itchiness and other skin annoyances. Those of Irish origin have a specific gene known as SLC24A5 that means we have paler and more sensitive skin, so it is a tiny bit out of our control.
However, I do also feel that many who say their skin is sensitive actually have something called sensitised skin. Both have similar symptoms: flushing redness, inflammation and itchiness. But sensitive skin is, as mentioned, down to your genes, whereas sensitised skin is conditional, caused by pollution, over-exfoliation, using harsh or stripping skincare products, diet, smoking and chronic stress.
Your skin’s barrier is a layer of lipids (fats) and dead skin cells that work together to lock in skin hydration and keep out irritants that lead to these symptoms. In both the case of sensitive skin AND sensitised skin, these issues are arising from what we call a compromised barrier, a protective layer that has a proverbial hole in the bucket.
In the case of sensitised skin specifically, there’s some quitting and pulling back to do for the sake of the skin. Step 1 would be to reduce exfoliating products meaning those that include acids like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid and others, as well as ditching any scrubs or exfoliating brushes entirely. Hyaluronic acid isn’t exfoliating so there is no need to get rid of it!
Step 2 would be to ensure you’re taking care of yourself. Manage your stress, try to ditch the cigs, and eat a rainbow of foods that are high in everything you need especially essential fatty acids, which are believed to be integral for your skin’s barrier function.
From our speaking with over 10,000 Nerd Network members, we have found that products high in fragrances, both synthetic fragrances and essential oils, face wipes as they are often high in drying alcohol and the aforementioned fragrances, and astringent toners can contribute to sensitisation.
Both sensitive and sensitised skin benefit from the same types of skincare - although sensitised skin can go back to more potent skincare once the barrier is in good nick again and with expert guidance of when to use what. Sensitive skin needs milder skincare that works to help the skin to do the jobs it needs to do, including protecting itself, remaining hydrated and healing itself, for example.
Some key words for those with sensitive skin to look out for in the skincare aisles: anti-inflammatory, anti-itch, nourishing, ceramides, fats, alcohol-free and fragrance-free. Thank the skincare gods that brands are in tune with these needs now! The Bia Collection from Codex Beauty, created by herbal scientist Tracey Ryan, features the BIAComplex, a blend of herbal infusions that is soothing and anti-inflammatory, making the Bia Collection ideal for sensitive skins. Ranges like the IMAGE Ormedic range and the REN Evercalm range are full to the brim with soothers like liquorice, aloe vera and fatty acid rich botanicals, and in formulating Skingredients, I was very focused on including soothing, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients, featuring a patented anti-itch ingredient in Skin Good Fats.
If you’re just starting out with this type of skincare, Cerave is fantastic too, being an accessibly priced US favourite filled with ceramides and hyaluronic that’s main goal is to strengthen and repair the skin’s barrier.
The Nerdie Pick: Avene Skin Recovery Cream
The Avene Skin Recovery Cream is an award-winning sensitive skin favourite. It’s basically a very simple, highly moisturising cream for those going through a period of skin sensitivity, whether due to how their built or due to external factors.
It’s fragrance-free, preservative-free and alcohol-free and contains different forms of hydrators, like glycerin, ahumectant that draws moisture into the skin, and mineral oil, which is both emollient (skin-softening) and occlusive (film-forming) to protect the skin. The cream also includes Avene thermal water.