Living with sensitive skin can be a right royal pain in the backside, especially during winter when the lack of moisture in the air – and artificial heating – can lead to angry flare ups. To help you navigate the colder weather beautifully, we sat down with dermatologist Dr Adam Sheridan to discuss the dos and don’ts of sensitive skin.
# 1 Determine if you have sensitive skin
“In a sense we all have sensitive skin,” says Dr Sheridan. “In other words, if treated inappropriately, all of our skin types will react poorly and become irritated. Classic mistakes are to underestimate the potential dehydrating and irritant effects of cleansers, scrubs, toners, makeup, fragrances and other commonly used cosmetic products.
“Common endogenous (internal) causes of sensitivity include allergic dermatitis, psoriasis and acne rosacea. Exogenous (external) causes include irritant dermatitis from an applied product, photo-damage and ageing.”
# 2 Treat the skin at a functional rather than cosmetic level
“It is important to remember that your skin is a finely tuned and balanced microenvironment designed to keep bad things out and good things in. Any applied skin care that ignores this fact and prioritises the skin's appearance over function is headed for trouble.”
# 3 And know which ingredients to avoid
According to Dr Sheridan, “common culprits include foaming agents, toners, micro-bead scrubs and non pH balanced products. These may give the impression of an initial lift or pop to the skin, but in the longer term will compromise the healthy skin barrier and lead to irritation, flaking, redness and break outs etc.”
# 4 Don’t over treat aggravated skin
“The classic mistake is to over treat and fiddle with skin care at times of stress and break outs,” warns Dr Sheridan. “Think a sore shoulder. You wouldn't go to physiotherapy and pilates every day, rather you would gradually build up and adjust treatment according to your needs and response, and allow time for recovery. The same goes for the skin.
“At times of flare ups look to simplify your regime. Cut back on active and potentially harsh products and focus on gentle cleansers, moisturisers and sunscreens.”
# 5 Look at your lifestyle
It pays to take a holistic look at your skin health. “A further mistake is to ignore the impact of your general health measures upon the skin. Never discount the value of a balanced diet, reduced stress lifestyle, adequate sleep and daily hydration.”
# 6 Cleanse, hydrate and protect
Dr Sheridan advises a ‘reset’ for sensitive skin, “through use of a gentle cleanser, moisturiser and environmental protection regime. A quality cleanser should ideally gently clean the skin to rid it of unwanted debris and pollutants; replenish lost hydrating elements; and preserve the skin's natural acid pH and barrier function. Good cleansers contain non-comedogenic moisturising elements (emollients and humectants) and are pH balanced to the skin. They should not contain unnecessary foaming agents, surfactants, preservatives and fragrances.
“An effective moisturiser should ideally contain ingredients that both add moisture to the skin (emollient action) and seal in existing moisture (humectant and occludent action).”
# 7 Be patient
“The skin turns over once every 28 days or so,” says Dr Sheridan. “Positive benefits tend to take this long to flow through; as do negative impacts. Be patient and allow your skin time to do what it does best; self renewal. Should your skin fail to respond to simple measures over 3-4 weeks then of course it is often advisable to see your doctor.”
Our top 3 sensitive skin buys
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleansing Cloths
We’ve long had a love affair with the Cetaphil range of products for sensitive skins, and we’re more than a little smitten with their innovative new cleansing wipes. Super soft and gentle, they’re fragrance free and remove all traces of makeup, dirt and grime without stripping the skin with harsh ingredients, or leaving a pore-clogging residue. Skin is left soft, clean and hydrated. These are our lazy-girl go-to after a night out on the town.
Cetaphil RestoraDerm® Eczema Calming Body Moisturiser
This soothing, calming body moisturiser is a must for anyone with super dry skin or eczema. So gentle it can be used on babies from three months up, it relieves the itchiness and discomfort of atopic skin conditions, helps restore hydration and strengthens the skin’s natural barrier. Rich and nourishing for dry, cracked, compromised skins.
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
This best seller is never out of our shower! Unlike drying soap, this gentle, dermatologist recommended, pH balanced body wash is suitable for all skin types, soothing as it cleanses. The mild formula maintains the skin’s natural oils for optimal hydration.