Of all the questions asked in the world, the one we receive the most is "how to care for our sensitive skin?"
Sensitive skin, a phrase that's pretty "universal" in the skincare world, whether being used in our conversations, product labels, or by major beauty brands - It's one of those things that is really complicated to address. While the causes of sensitivity are endless, the solution to avoiding these reactions is simple: Just avoid the ingredients that cause you sensitivity.
But how can one know what to avoid? Are there any particular ingredients that have the most negative reactions to our skin?
In this post, we'll review factors that trigger sensitive skin and also address the most problematic ingredients that you should avoid.
What causes sensitive skin?
Though "sensitive skin" isn't really a clinical term. It's more like an expression for skin that is stingy, itchy, burning, and causes irritation, redness, or tightness.
It is mostly caused when the nerve ending on the top layer of our skin is being contacted by something which is unusual, like a product. Furthermore, it can also happen if our skin's natural barrier is broken, due to some underlying condition or not having much moisturization.
Here are some possible reasons to determine if you have sensitive skin:
You Experience Redness
People with sensitive skin will experience redness at some point in their life. This can take the form of blushing, red bumps, flushing, or even red rashes. You may experience this after you've used a certain product or if you have applied gentle pressure on your skin.
You Sunburn Easily
People with sensitive skin are more susceptible to environmental pollution and UV rays. If you have sensitivity, you are more likely to be affected by sunburn.
You have a Reaction to some product
You may find a product in the market that promises to take you to a tropical paradise, but it's not entirely true especially when you have sensitive skin. You see, ingredients such as fragrance, detergents, exfoliants, and dyes can react to your skin more often.
Your Skin is Triggered by Environmental Change
It's common knowledge that environmental pollution, changes in the weather, and aggravated winds can cause skin problems. This is especially true in winters, as there's less moisture in the air, our skin becomes dry, leaving it to breakouts and even cracking.
You have An Underlying Condition
This is something that needs extra care and a visit to your dermatologist. The most skin-related condition requires a prescription before you try any product or DIY method. So, if you have discomfort or any vague symptoms, consult a dermatologist for proper diagnosis.
Ingredients to Avoid If you have Sensitive Skin
As per the famous saying "it is better safe than sorry", here are some problematic ingredients that you should avoid when buying a skincare product.
The number one ingredient that you should be weeding out of your routine is Alcohol. Many cleansers, toners, creams, and face masks have alcohol, which can snatch up your skin's moisture level and can make it dry, itchy, and overall uncomfortable.
However, it doesn't mean that Alcohol is all the way bad. There are some friendly alcohol alternatives that are less sensitizing and irritating to the skin. You can use these as they are much safer. But before you apply, make sure to do a Patch test.
Often found in cleansers, shampoos, soaps, and other products that make lathers or forms. Sulfates, such as Ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS) and Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) are the most common chemical lathers that you should avoid. They are "too effective" at ripping out the natural moisture from your skin, leaving it dull, dry, and prone to irritation.
These low-cost synthetic preservatives are used in almost all types of skincare products. Although some parabens are free from the growth of fungus or bacteria, they can still cause allergic reactions.
Synthetic fragrance, when applied on the skin can weaken the inner layer of the skin, leading to inflammation. Thankfully, there are many fragrance-free products available in the market. Some companies even use natural fragrances, which are super fun to apply and use.
Chemicals Found in Sunscreens
When it comes to sunscreens, things are a bit complicated. Starting from the basics, there are two types of sunscreens you can find in the market: Physical and chemical.
Chemical sunscreens, as the name suggests may contain ingredients like oxybenzone and avobenzone, that although are perfect to reflect UV rays; are not that much perfect for sensitive skin. If you find trouble in using a chemical sunscreen, opt for a physical one, or make your own DIY mineral formula.
Dyes or Colorants - Like PPD
Formulas with attractive colors might seem like something you should definitely purchase. However, these conventional dyes are mixed with ingredients like PPD, ammonia, and metallic salts that can lead to some serious skin concerns. Switch to plant-based ingredients if you want to color your hair and fight signs of grays.
Do you know the small tiny particles found in exfoliants and scrubs? Well, these particles are used to clean your skin's pores, they can sometimes become harsh for sensitive skin. Opt for natural exfoliants or gentle peel for your skin.
Acidic Essential Oil
Due to its strong properties, not all essential oils are best suitable for your sensitive skin. As there are different types of essential oils, it's very hard to pick the one suitable for your skin. In general, you want to steer clear of the highly acidic oils, this includes lemongrass, lemon, peppermint, etc.
PEGs or also known as polyethylene glycols are compounds used to make a formula thick and soft. As these formulas are directly applied on our skin, they can reduce the natural moisture level. This not only irritates your skin but can also lead to signs of aging.
Use of Salicylic Acid
Salicylic acid is a great ingredient for clearing inflammatory skin. But the usage of any chemically-driven product can lead to irritation. Use fewer products that include Salicylic acid.
How to Patch Test your Skin
If you're suffering from sensitive skin and are unaware of what product or ingredients to use, the best way to find this out is to follow a patch test. Patch testing is an ideal solution for preventing skin irritation. However, many don't have a clue how to perform it.
Here's a step-by-step process on how you can patch test your skin.
- Apply a small amount of product/ingredient at the back of your hand or forearm
- Wait for 8-12 hours for the product/ingredient to fully dissolve in your skin
- After the allocated time, if you have no burning, swelling, redness, or itching, you can use the product
- If you face such conditions, don’t use it!
Products that are Good for sensitive Skin
Now that we've covered products that are not good for your sensitive skin, here are some that will make your skin calm and fresh.
Not all ingredients on the list are guaranteed to have a reaction on your skin, but they can still be more irritating than others. As a general rule of thumb, make sure to do a patch test before you try any skincare product. Also, try to shift to products that are made from natural ingredients.