When you look in the mirror, do you see red? Is dry and itchy skin commonplace for you? If you experience these symptoms, it sounds as if your skin is trying to tell you something – and with it being the body’s biggest organ, it’s important to pay attention. Here are six common warning signs of sensitive skin:
- redness and excessive flushing
- dryness and flaking
- burning sensations
- sudden reactions to irritants, such as fragrance, chemicals and harsh weather conditions.
What causes skin sensitivity?
The skin acts as the body’s barrier and needs to maintain a healthy pH balance in order to do its job. When that stability is compromised, irritants are able to get through and sensitivity and inflammation can occur. Common causes of irritation include:
- Dehydration. Your skin cells are designed to hold water, and insufficient moisture can lead to dryness, cracking and tightness.
- Harsh weather conditions. Exposure to the elements – particularly sun, strong winds and extreme hot or cold weather conditions – can harm the skin and strip it of moisture, disturbing the fine balance between alkaline and acidic.
- Dirt and pollution. Smog, dust and fumes can flare up sensitivity.
- Excessive cleansing and exfoliating. It may seem counterproductive, but too much cleansing and exfoliation can further irritate sensitive skin.
- Lifestyle factors. Poor diet, smoking, too much alcohol, lack of sleep, excessive stress and not drinking enough water can all affect your skin’s health.
- Products containing irritants. Cosmetics, skincare and household cleaning products can contain harsh ingredients that your skin doesn’t like – these may include chemicals, fragrance, parabens and high levels of minerals.
- Genetics. Skin conditions linked to sensitivity, such as rosacea, eczema and psoriasis, can be inherited.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, it might be worth consulting your GP so you can be tested for allergies or referred to a dermatologist. However, if your skin’s irritation is mild, there are several steps you can take to try to remedy and repair.
- Switch products. If your skin irritation is exacerbated by makeup, skincare, soap or cleansers, opt for products that are free of fragrance, alcohol, parabens and retinoids. Product marketing guidelines are vague around these items, so terms such as ‘hypoallergenic’ may not necessarily be most suitable for you. A good rule of thumb is to choose products with only a few ingredients and aim for as natural as possible.
- Moisturise. Regular moisturising will help your skin lock in hydration and prevent dryness, flaking and cracking. Try to find a product containing vitamin E and UV protection.
- Eat well, drink water. Your skin reflects the health of your body, so good nutrition and plenty of hydration will only help your cause.
- Wear natural fabrics. Smooth, natural materials, such as cotton and silk, are kinder to your skin and allow it to breathe. Synthetic alternatives can be inhibit air flow and aggravate your skin.
- Water filters. If you suspect your household has ‘hard water’ – containing high levels of minerals, chemicals and other irritants – try a filter on your showerhead and taps. The presence of lime scale is often an indicator of harsh elements.
What do you find irritates your skin? Which remedies work best for you?