If you have sensitive skin, then you are likely already aware of it, as your skin will be reacting to a number of different factors.
Why does it do this?
Because your skin’s natural protective barrier is compromised, meaning that the nerve endings in the top layer of your skin become easily irritated.
From pollution to dust to stress, here are some of the most common sensitive skin triggers that you should try to avoid.
Certain Skin Care Ingredients
There are actually quite a few different skin care ingredients out there that can trigger sensitive skin flare-ups. Even products that are sometimes marketed towards sensitive skin can contain these ingredients, making it important that you check the ingredients label of any product you plan on using.
Wondering which ingredients you need to avoid?
The list includes:
- Fragrances – this is an umbrella term that covers so many different chemicals, and a single artificial fragrance can actually contain more than 200 different chemicals and botanicals, making it impossible for you to ever know what you are applying on to your skin
- Some preservatives – preservatives are often necessary, as these are what keep skin care products fresh, and keep active ingredients stable and strong. However, certain preservatives, such as parabens and methylisothiazolinone, should definitely be avoided
- Citrus and mint botanical extracts – although these are natural ingredients, they can still cause irritations, especially if they are used in high quantities
- Harsh exfoliants – even though your skin is sensitive, it still needs to be exfoliated. Stay away from harsh exfoliants, and opt for ones formulated with fruit enzymes instead
To begin with, all of the studies related to pollution and health focussed on problems such as pulmonary issues, but there has recently been an increase in the number of studies that have looked at the link between pollution and skin health.
How exactly does pollution affect the skin?
Everything from exhaust fumes to smoke have tiny particles that settle on the surface of your skin throughout the day, and end up being absorbed by your pores.
These then damage your skin’s natural protective barrier, weakening it even more.
What can you do about this?
Take a look at the air quality each day wherever you live, and try to stay indoors on days when it is particularly bad.
There are also many anti-pollution skin care products out there that you could try. These will contain higher levels of specific antioxidants and nutrients that will be able to protect your skin from the damage that pollution would have otherwise caused.
A Poor Diet
Many people do not realize just how a big a connection there is between the food that you eat and the health of your skin.
Your skin is your body’s largest organ, so it only makes sense that the way in which it functions can be affected by the food that you provide it with.
Current research suggests that when it comes to sensitive skin, processed and refined carbohydrates, as well as unhealthy fats, can exacerbate symptoms.
Wondering which foods in particular you need to avoid?
- Foods containing additives, such as artificial food colorings
- Excess salt
- Processed fast food
- Spicy foods
But what foods should you be eating instead?
There are certain foods that will not only help to soothe sensitivities, but will also strengthen your skin’s natural protective barrier. These include:
- Red onions
- Olive oil
- Green tea
Of course, simply consuming a diet high in fresh, whole foods, whether or not it includes the above ingredients, will really do wonders for your sensitive skin.
Not only does your skin react to physical triggers, but emotional and mental ones can have an impact on your skin too, with stress being an extremely common trigger.
How does stress exacerbate sensitive skin?
In a number of ways. Basically, a stressful situation triggers an increase in your heartbeat, meaning that more blood is being pumped around your body, away from your internal organs and towards your skin. Your skin will end up looking flushed, and an inflammatory process also begins, as this is your skin’s way of protecting your body from the stressful situation you are facing.
Inflammation is one of the worst things for sensitive skin to face, as this not only weakens the skin’s protective barrier, but also leads to everything from premature wrinkles to a dull complexion.
It goes without saying that the best way to prevent all of this from happening is by reducing your stress levels.
Of course, this tends to usually be far easier said than done.
So, how can you go about effectively minimizing your stress levels?
There are a few different steps that you can take, such as:
- Natural calming products, such as Rescue Remedy
- Breathing exercises
- Taking a walk in nature
- Practising mindfulness
- Finding a hobby that you are passionate about
- Regular physical activity
Cutting back on the amount of stress you experience is not going to be an overnight process, and will definitely take some time. However, the effort you put into this now will pay back big style in the long run when it comes to your skin.
The Wrong Makeup Products
Do you regularly wear makeup?
If so, you may find that this can sometimes cause your sensitive skin to flare up, and this is likely due to the ingredients in the makeup products you are using.
This does not mean that you need to avoid makeup altogether…
The key here is to pick the right products.
Not sure how to do this?
Take a look at the ingredients in your makeup. Any alcohol-based products need to be avoided, as these will really irritate sensitive skin. The same applies for products containing a fragrance, which has been mentioned above in more detail.
When it comes to choosing between different makeup formulas, mineral makeup formulas will likely work much better for you.
Because rather than being absorbed by your skin, these bond to your skin’s natural oils and sit on the surface, but still looks so much more natural.
Mineral makeup formulas also allow your skin to breathe, and tend to be much longer lasting than other makeup formulas, meaning that you will not need to apply quite as much to your skin.
Alcohol consumption has a direct impact on the health of your skin.
Because of the way in which it affects your liver. Your liver is responsible for detoxifying your body, but, when you consume alcohol, your liver stops doing this for a while.
This means that the toxic waste from your body ends up in your system, damaging various parts, including your skin.
Each different type of alcohol out there will actually have its own unique effect on your skin, such as:
- Wine – red wine contains tannins, and can cause irritation and flushing, especially for those who have rosacea. While white wine has less, it still has a high sugar content, leading to a small amount of redness
- Beer – the majority of beers out there are made from a grain that contains gluten, which destroys skin cells, causes puffiness and dulls the complexion. It also affects your digestion, increasing the amount of bacteria in your system, which then also affects your skin
- Liquor – these dilate the blood vessels, causing redness, especially around the cheeks and nose. Light liquors, such as vodka and gin, are better than dark liquors, such as whisky and rum, as these contain slightly fewer impurities
You likely already know how bad smoking is for your health in general, but did you also know that it can trigger sensitive skin reactions?
From the nicotine to the smoke, smoking affects your skin in numerous negative ways.
Wondering how smoking actually damages your skin?
Here are a few examples:
- Damages the skin’s connective tissues, breaking down collagen and elastin
- Speeds up the rate of skin aging, resulting in premature wrinkles and fine lines
- Suffocates the skin, causing dryness and dehydration
- Slows down wound healing
- Reduces blood flow
- Increases the risk of developing psoriasis
- Increases the risk of developing skin cancer
As you can see, this is something that everybody should try to avoid, but especially those who suffer from sensitive skin.
Do you love spending ages languishing underneath a hot shower or in a hot bath?
There is no denying how relaxing this can be, but it does cause quite a bit of damage to your skin, especially if your skin is already sensitive.
How does hot water damage the skin?
It strips away your skin’s natural oils, which sensitive skin will already have less of.
The heat also dries out the skin, and while this occurs with every skin type, the weakened barrier that sensitive skin experiences magnifies this process.
Wondering how hot your shower can be?
Lukewarm is best, which means just above room temperature. You should also make sure that you do not remain in the water for longer than ten minutes.
Over-Cleansing and Using the Wrong Cleanser
Since sensitive skin is very delicate, you need to be extremely careful when cleansing it.
To begin with, take a look at the ingredients in the cleanser you are using, and ensure that it does not contain any harsh, irritating ingredients, such as the ones mentioned above.
You need to also pay attention to how often you cleanse…
While cleansing is essential, even with sensitive skin, it does tend to strip away the skin’s natural oils. Your skin needs these in order to protect itself, which is why over-cleansing can quickly exacerbate sensitive skin.
How often should you cleanse?
Once a day, and this should ideally be in the evenings.
Because this will ensure that you are able to wash off all of the dirt, toxins and bacteria that have built up on your skin over the course of the day. If you do this before bed, and then go to sleep on a clean pillowcase, your skin will still be clean in the morning and will not need another round of a cleanser.
When you are cleansing, make sure that you are extremely gentle with your skin. Do not rub it, tug it or scrub at it, using light strokes instead.
Once you are ready to dry your skin, make sure that you are using a clean and soft flannel, preferably one that has been designed for use on the face. Make sure that you never re-use these flannels before washing them, as this will only spread bacteria back on to your skin.
Do You Actually Have Sensitive Skin?
There are many other issues that are often misdiagnosed as sensitive skin, because the symptoms of both are so similar. From dry, winter weather to over-exfoliating, there could be other factors leading to your skin problems.
So, how do you know if you actually have sensitive skin?
Well, if the majority of the products that you apply to your skin end up causing a negative reaction, whether this may be redness, stinging, itching, or anything else, then this is a sign that you have sensitive skin.
Since sensitive skin has a weakened skin barrier, this means that it is not able to properly retain moisture. If your skin often looks and feels dry or itchy, then it could be due to sensitivities.
Here are a few other signs to look out for that indicate sensitive skin:
- Skin usually feels tight and quite uncomfortable
- Skin can sometimes be sore or sensitive to the touch
- An uneven skin texture, with some parts being dry and flaky
- Flushes easily, especially after alcohol consumption or eating spicy foods
- Becomes itchy or forms a rash after coming into contact with irritants
- Easily dries out after a hot shower
Sensitive skin can definitely be tricky to deal with, which is why it is important for you to be aware of the many different triggers out there. Once you know which triggers are affecting your own skin, you can then take the steps necessary to avoid these, giving your skin the chance to really thrive.