Skin Nerd: Do you have sensitive skin? Here's what to do

Jennifer Rock explains sensitised skin and what to do in a flare up
Skin Nerd: Do you have sensitive skin? Here's what to do

Skin Nerd: What is sensitised skin and do you have it?

If you typically consider your skin to be “normal,” but it’s suddenly feeling itchy, red or has become dehydrated, it’s possible that your skin has become sensitised. Suddenly reactive, ‘stressed out’ skin is often confused with sensitive skin, but sensitised skin differs in that it can occur suddenly due to an external or internal trigger, whilst sensitive skin is akin to a skin condition and is something you are born with. 

Skin can be sensitised by several external or lifestyle factors such as the misuse of harsh skincare ingredients, over-exfoliation, not moisturising or using SPF or simply changes in temperatures, such as going from freezing weather outside to an overheated indoor environment.

When your skin barrier becomes weakened or compromised by a trigger, the stratum corneum (aka the outermost layer of skin) becomes permeable which allows moisture to escape and harmful aggressors to enter. Irritants that pass through the barrier provoke an inflammatory response in the skin, and moisture loss causes dehydration. 

Whilst sensitisation can present itself in the form of redness, tightness, stinging, flakiness, small bumps, or dehydration, you can be comforted by the fact that this is temporary. 

Any inflammation will pass if you become aware of and avoid any flare-up triggers. It can also help if you strip back your routine to the essentials: a gentle, non-stripping cleanser, hydrating serum, and my number one essential - SPF.

What to do in a flare-up

  • Avoid physical exfoliants and minimise use of chemical exfoliants until the response has passed or follow the guidance of your skin therapist
  • Take ceramides internally and use them topically to restore and maintain the skin’s barrier.
  • Use a soothing, hydrating mist for a calming “Spritz O'Clock” every hour, if possible, to combat effects of central heating, wintry weather and wearing of face coverings and PPE.
  • Always wear a minimum of SPF30 for extra protection.

Sensitised skin heroes

Ensure that the products you do use on your skin do not add to any irritation. REN Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Milk, €25, is a great cleansing milk for sensitised skin, containing blackcurrant seed oil, which is rich in omega 3 to calm the skin, seabuckthorn berry oil containing omega 7 to soften dry skin and fennel seed extract, which is high in antioxidants to help reduce damage from pollution. 

Not only does this cleanser remove the day's dirt and make-up but it also boosts the skin's resistance to harmful free radicals and calms the signs of irritation to leave skin refreshed and soothed. Apply this to your face with your hands and gently rub into the skin before rinsing with warm water. 

Hydrated skin is less reactive and so incorporating a humectant like Declare Ocean’s Best Triple Hyaluronic Acid Booster, €65, into your routine will benefit sensitised skin. This hydration boosting product contains three molecular sizes of hyaluronic acid - a moisture-retaining, hero humectant. 

It also contains algae and seaweed extracts which are known to calm irritation and soothe sensitivity in skin. Apply morning and evening to refresh and revive skin in need of extra attention.

Nerdie Pick

Containing soothing aloe vera and cucumber extracts, Exuviance Gentle Cleansing Crème is a soap-free formula that gently dissolves makeup and impurities without drying out the skin. 

Also including Gluconolactone – a polyhydroxy acid to mildly exfoliate and antioxidant-rich rosemary leaf extract, sensitised skin is not only in safe hands with this gentle formula but is treated to that freshly cleansed feeling you get from a thorough face wash.

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