Sensitive Skin: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatments
Can’t even deal with your red, dry, and easily irritated skin? Sounds like you might have a case of sensitive skin on your hands.
Maybe you’re a sensitive-skin veteran looking for new tips and products, or maybe you’ve recently discovered that you’re part of the sensitive-skin club. Either way, there’s no need to fret!
Sensitive skin is super common, and there are plenty of steps you can take to get it under control.
Here at Babo Botanicals, we understand sensitive skin. In this article, we’ll tell you how to identify this skin type, what causes skin sensitivity, and what you can do to manage it.
Symptoms Of Sensitive Skin
First of all, a person can have sensitive skin here, there, or everywhere. Many people find their face to be the most sensitive area, but this condition isn’t limited to one part of the body.
Secondly, skin sensitivity can sometimes be just one part of several skin conditions. For example, if you have rosacea or eczema, you also have sensitive skin.
Regardless of what the underlying condition may be, the symptoms of sensitive skin are the same. We’ve listed the most common ones below.
It’s completely normal to experience occasional redness from using a new or harsh product. But if your skin becomes inflamed frequently or from a lot of different irritants, it’s most likely sensitive.
Redness can present itself in various ways. It may be beet-red and bright, or it could look like subtle splotches that make you do double-takes in the mirror.
The most common place for redness to occur is in those creases in your face and body that experience daily friction. You may notice redness at the corners of your mouth, the edges of your nostrils, or across your cheeks.
Sensitive skin is usually also dry. There can be a variety of reasons for dryness, but we know that the drier skin is, the more sensitive it usually becomes.
Managing your skin’s dryness is essential for containing its sensitivities. You may have dry patches or an overall dryness, which can lead to the next symptom.
3) Itching And Tightness
Dry skin is often itchy and tight-feeling as well. The lack of moisture in your skin barrier can make skin slightly thinner. This can lead to a “pulling” sensation across your skin or create an itch you can’t quite scratch.
You may also notice that your skin itches from a particular irritant. This may indicate a specific allergy to a product or ingredient.
4) Stinging Or Burning
If your skin is sensitive, you probably notice a stinging or burning feeling when you use strong products or creams with fragrances on your skin.
Often these reactions are caused by certain ingredients within products that don’t play too well with your skin. While we’ll get into specific ingredients to avoid later, here are some nasty culprits that can cause sensitive skin to flare:
You’ll want to avoid the things on this list as much as possible. But don’t worry — we’ll dive deeper into this later!
Compared to people with other types of skin, a person with sensitive skin is more likely to sunburn.
Causes Of Sensitive Skin
OK, so you have sensitive skin — you’ve figured that much out. But what causes it? Let’s look at what makes skin sensitive in the first place and what sorts of things can trigger and inflame your skin.
Why Is My Skin Sensitive?
Sensitive, easily irritated skin isn’t due to one particular cause, nor is it a disease (although it can go hand-in-hand with a condition like eczema). It’s just the way your skin is.
Sorry to break that news to you!
But to be more specific, there are three main characteristics of sensitive skin: a weak skin barrier, sensitive nerve endings, and vicious cycles.
Weak Skin Barrier
Your skin has a natural barrier to keep bad guys like allergens and irritants out. This is what we refer to as the “skin barrier.”
To picture it properly, think of your skin as a house. Your skin barrier is the roof of the house with tiles made of skin cells and extra components.
To keep the house from having “leaks” (breakouts, infections, or other skin issues), the skin barrier needs to be properly sealed and nourished.
A skin barrier that is dry, cracked, or otherwise irritated means you lose moisture faster — just like how a cracked roof will let rain puddles into the house and ruin the floorboards. Neither scenario is ideal!
Skin that’s sensitive has a thinner, weaker barrier than normal skin, which means irritants can penetrate it more easily and cause a reaction.
What’s more, all of the extra, unnecessary chemicals in some products can slip through the “cracks” in your skin and further irritate it.
Sensitive Nerve Endings
With sensitive skin, nerve endings are delicate and under-protected. Your face naturally has a high concentration of nerve endings, which is one reason so many people suffer from sensitive facial skin.
Since your skin and its various components exist symbiotically, an issue with one element can lead to complications with another. The most common issue with nerve endings typically comes from initial problems with the skin barrier.
When your skin is overly dry or damaged, it can’t keep up with its job of protecting your body from damage.
This means the nerve endings within your skin are exposed and susceptible to damage or irritation that causes skin reactions.
A weak skin barrier and sensitive nerve endings leave skin more prone to inflammation from irritants or allergens, which then creates a vicious cycle of irritation and sensitivity.
This means that until you’ve got a balanced routine that soothes and moisturizes your skin, you may find that your sensitive skin comes and goes in its severity.
Locking down a skincare routine that incorporates products that work for you will mitigate some of these problems!
Sensitive Skin Triggers
Naturally sensitive skin is delicate and highly reactive to…well, lots of things. Some of these triggers might surprise you! Here are several:
- Cold and wind
- Air conditioning
- Hot water
- Irritating skin care products
- Irritating clothing
- Laundry detergent
- Hormone fluctuations (yep, like a woman’s menstrual cycle)
It’s not always possible to anticipate your skin’s reaction, especially when you can’t control how your environmental elements change from day to day.
The good news is that there are some things you can do to give your sensitive skin a fighting chance!
Tips For Managing And Treating Sensitive Skin
Time to get to the tips, tricks, and treatments for sensitive skin. Less talk, more action, right? We’re here for it!
The bad news is there’s not a “cure” per se for sensitive skin. Instead, your goal is to calm the inflammation and help repair your skin barrier.
How? Through the products you use and what you expose your skin to. Let’s get straight to it.
1) Don’t Wash Too Often
Of course, you need to stay clean, but more is not always better when it comes to showering and washing your face.
Your skin needs a certain amount of healthy oil to maintain its barrier, and when you shower or cleanse your face, that oil washes away.
That said, avoid showering more than once a day. And don’t cleanse your face more than twice a day.
2) Incorporate Some Flexibility Into Your Routine
They say too much of a good thing can be, well, a bad thing. The same rule applies to skincare products.
There are tons of skin-assisting products that can overwhelm your skin even as they attempt to relieve it.
This is especially true of acne-fighting products — while fighting to rid your skin of pesky pimples, those products may have the unwanted effect of overworking your delicate skin barrier.
If you find that your skin is overly dry and sensitive, prioritize gentle cleansers over a “deep” clean, even if you think your skin is congested.
We promise less is more here! Being gentle with your skin will give it a chance to correct itself and heal.
This is best done in the mornings if you suffer from acne. Although you accumulate some dirt on your face while sleeping, you aren’t dealing with nearly as many acne triggers cozied up in your bed as you are while walking around the world.
In the mornings, give your skin a break by splashing it with water and rinsing with a gentle micellar cleanser. Don’t forget to follow up with a powerful moisturizer and SPF!
Use more concentrated ingredients at nighttime when your body is naturally repairing itself. This will give your skin a chance to soak in all the hydrating goodness and take a breather.
3) Keep Showers Warm And Short
Taking a warm, short shower can go a long way when it comes to treating sensitive skin.
Hot water is more irritating and more aggressive with your skin barrier than cold water. You don’t have to suffer through a freezing cold shower; just aim for warm (not hot) water.
You’ll also want to keep showers relatively short. In general, water dries out your skin, so cut down your shower time. Your skin will thank you for it.
4) Consider The Effects Of Hard Water
When it comes to sensitive skin, lots of people focus on the effects of skincare products. This is important, but did you know that your water may be a contributing factor to your skin’s sensitivity, too?
Water is often referred to by its “hardness.” Hard water is measured by the amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium in it.
Tap water, which gets funneled through our showers, can often be hard from many trips through water-recycling plants and pipes.
Because water is a solvent, it can easily sweep up and mix with impurities. These extra minerals are not inherently bad for your health — it’s perfectly safe to drink — but they can irritate your skin and become a nuisance.
Check online to see how your city’s water hardness measures up. If you notice hard water is prevalent in your area, consider buying a filtered shower head to filter out some of those extra impurities.
Your skin will thank you!
5) Shower With The Right Products
Our last piece of advice on showers: use products made with sensitive skin in mind. We’re talking about soap, shampoo, conditioner — the whole gamut!
Choose products like Babo Botanicals’s Smoothing Detangling Conditioner, which is specially formulated with natural ingredients to help detangle and smooth unruly hair.
Full of evening primrose oil, provitamin B, and coconut oil, this plant-based conditioner will moisturize and soften your hair without inflaming your skin.
6) Use A Good Moisturizer
A good moisturizer is essential to calming your skin and repairing its barrier.
Babo Botanicals’s Miracle Moisturizing Face Cream is great as a moisturizer for adults with sensitive skin. (If you have little ones, we’ve got lotion for them, too. Keep reading!)
Our soothing face cream contains the perfect blend of natural botanicals to help protect delicate skin, with absolutely no gluten, dairy, soy, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, sulfates, parabens, phthalates, or synthetic fragrances.
It’ll keep your skin nourished and hydrated without causing any pesky sensitivity!
7) Spot-Test New Products
Whether it’s a new body lotion, foundation, face cream, or any other skin care or cosmetic product under the sun, one word of advice — don’t apply it to your whole face or body the first day!
If the product irritates your skin, you could end up with a red, inflamed mess! Nobody wants that to happen.
Test new products on a small area of skin (maybe your wrist or behind your ear) and give it a day. If your skin isn’t stinging, irritated, or red, you’re probably good to go.
Although it’s exciting to get a new product and we know you want to jump right in, patch-testing will ensure you aren’t sacrificing all the hard work you did to keep your skin barrier intact.
8) Use A Safe Sunscreen
With sensitive skin, you can’t afford not to wear sunscreen.
Sunscreen is the number one product that will help you protect your skin from further irritation and damage. Without SPF, your skin’s sensitivity will only get worse.
But that doesn’t mean you can use any ol’ sunscreen and call it good. Lots of sunscreens can be just plain irritating. They are often packed with unnecessary, irritating ingredients, so make sure you read your labels!
Choose a sunscreen with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide as the active ingredient(s). These minerals are safe for your skin and non-irritating, unlike many of the chemicals in traditional sunscreens.
9) Avoid Triggers
Earlier, we mentioned some potential triggers — things that cause sensitive skin to flare up — like cold and wind, clothing, laundry detergent, chlorine, etc.
Figure out your triggers and do your best to eliminate or avoid them. This might mean using a sensitive-skin laundry detergent, protecting your skin from winter weather, or buying light, soft clothing.
You’ll also want to watch out for chemicals and other irritating ingredients in skincare products. Some people find they are especially sensitive to silicones or alcohols, while others are sensitive to essential oils or other plant-based ingredients that cause allergic reactions.
Look for products that contain calming ingredients, like calendula, colloidal oatmeal, aloe vera, chamomile, shea butter, squalane, beeswax. Avoid chemical sunscreens, harsh exfoliants, sulfates, and fragrances.
Remember — the key to checking for sensitivities is patch-testing! Stick to it and be patient. You’ll have your skin’s particular mix figured out in no time.
10) Minimize Physical Exfoliants
We all probably went through that period in our life when we thought scrubbing away with peach-scented beads would rid our skin of bacteria and dirt. But this isn’t necessarily true!
Dermatologists have warned against the negative effects of physical exfoliants in your skincare routine. Instead of pushing dirt and oil out of your pores as advertised, they often cause microtears in the skin barrier, which leads to even more irritation.
Exfoliation is critical for maintaining smooth, healthy skin. However, exfoliating too often can cause more damage than you started with!
Incorporating the right exfoliation once or twice a week can be beneficial, but remember to choose natural, gentle products.
We recommend checking with your dermatologist to find an exfoliating routine that’s perfect for your sensitive skin.
11) Care For Your Baby’s Delicate Skin
But we didn’t stop with lotion. We’ve got you covered with Sensitive Baby Zinc Diaper Cream, Shampoo & Wash, Baby Skin Mineral Sunscreen, and All Natural Healing Ointment for all of your baby’s skin care needs!
Be Gentle With Your Skin
The redness, dryness, and itchiness of sensitive skin can be a bummer. But by following our tips and tricks and showing your skin some TLC, you can soothe inflammation and manage your symptoms.
Your skin just requires a little gentleness and special care!