Looking After Sensitive Skin

There is no universally agreed definition of sensitive skin. The one definition that I came across which does not overlap with problem skin definitions (e.g. rosacea, eczema etc.) is based on the  relative thickness of the outermost skin layer, called the stratum corneum. This is the definition I will use in this post.

Stratum corneum is made of dead skin cells embedded in a mesh of  fatty molecules called the intracellular matrix. Yes, it is odd to think that our entire bodies are covered in dead skin cells (the average adult caries about 2 kg of them) but they’re really important – a barrier between the living tissue underneath and the outside world. Sensitive skin has a thinner stratum corneum than average. To this it owes its beautiful fine texture and supple look. It also means that people with sensitive skin are less able to tolerate cleansers and moisturisers containing harsh chemicals like preservatives and alcohols. Mineral particles in make-up may feel gritty on sensitive skin, as nerve endings are closer to the skin’s surface.

Here are a few tips for looking after sensitive skin:

  1. Cleanse with an oil instead of water-based lotions or wipes. The latter rely on surfactants as cleansing agents, and these wear down the fatty molecules that hold the stratum corneum together.  An oil will do less damage. It will also remove water-proof make up quickly and easily, so you will be able to cleanse your skin thoroughly without applying too much pressure.
  2. Cleanse only when necessary i.e. when there is make-up or dirt to remove. On a day you have not applied any make-up and didn’t get exposed to dust or sweat, skip the cleansing or simply rinse with water and pat dry with a clean face towel.
  3. Use a moisturiser without harsh chemicals. I talked about these in a previous blog post  – “Sensitive Skin? – Why Water-Free Moisturisers are Better for You
  4. If you use an exfoliating face mask, choose a gentle one, free of AHAs or other chemical exfoliating agents. Keep the face mask on for no longer than 5 minutes and allow at least 4-5 days between exfoliations.
  5. It’s a good idea to sample any skin care and make-up products for a couple of days before buying  full size items.

With the correct skin care routine and using gentle products, sensitive skin can feel perfectly happy and you can enjoy its delicate beauty in comfort.

Do you have sensitive skin? If so, what sort of skin care routine have you found to work?

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