Sensitive skin is also known as reactive skin, hyperactive skin, intolerant
skin, and irritable skin. It is a very common condition. About 40% people in
the world have a sensitive skin, with female preponderance.
It is characterised by cutaneous hypersensitivity. Affected individuals
complain of itching, burning and stinging sensations with exposure to many
skincare products and/ or environmental factors. The skin feels dry, red and
irritated. Application of a simple moisturiser or even the best quality
cosmetic product leads to severe stinging and burning sensation. It feels as
if “no product suits our skin”.
It has a considerable impact on health-related quality of life. People are
embarrassed and socially isolated as their skin keeps burning and itching.
A person develops a sensitive skin majorly because of four reasons
Defective skin barrier
Hypersensitivity of peripheral nerve endings in the skin
Exaggerated cutaneous vascular response
The triggering factors may be exogenous and endogenous factors.
The important exogenous triggering factors include cosmetics and soaps,
environmental climate like temperature changes, cold, heat, dampness, sun
exposure, stress or emotions, wind, and friction from clothes. Some of the endogenous factors predisposing to a sensitive skin are having
a dry or greasy skin, a history of childhood atopic dermatitis, being female,
and having a fair skin type.
I am sure that by now more than half of the people reading this, would have
identified themselves as having a sensitive skin!
So how do we treat it and take care of it?
If you already have any rashes on your skin, it is highly recommended to visit
a qualified dermatologist for a thorough examination of your condition and
accordingly take the treatment.
For those you do not have any physical signs like redness or rash, here are
the preventive and daily care tips. Routine skin care basically involves three
steps – cleansing, moisturising, and sun protection.
Cleansing - skin cleansers should preferably be nonfoaming, with a pH
around 5-5.5, and contain no exfoliates. Look for a product labelled ‘intended for sensitive skin’. Synthetic detergent cleansers (syndets) should
be preferred because they provide an optimum skin cleansing while
minimising barrier damage. Lipid free cleansers cleansing without water
(non-rinsing cleaning lotions) and leaving a thin moisturising film on the skin
might also be a really good solution. Cleansing masks, peelings, or implements such as a sponge, cotton wool, or
brushing machines should be avoided as they are mostly too rough for
sensitive skin. Finally, cleaned facial skin should be thoroughly dried by gently patting with
a paper tissue.
Moisturisers - this is the most important step in your daily routine skincare
as using a correct moisturiser in cases of sensitive skin will not only help in
rehydrating the skin but also will help in restoring the skin barrier. Our skin
barrier function is majorly because of the lipids present in the uppermost
layer of the skin called as stratum corneum. The main lipids of our skin
include ceramides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids (linoleic acid, palmitic
acid, stearic acid). So you should chose a moisturiser which has all these
three ingredients. Also make sure that the product you chose if free of any
irritant and potential allergens. Look for something labelled as
‘hypoallergenic’. Hypoallergenic implies that the product is based on a
special formulation, is gentle and safe for the skin, and causes less allergic
Sun protection - for people with a sensitive skin, a physical sunscreen is
always preferrred, as it does not react chemically with the skin and also
provides a broad spectrum protection. So always pick a sun block
containing zinc oxide and/ or titanium dioxide. Additionally you should use
physical barrier methods as well like an umbrella or scarf or hat while
How to chose and use cosmetics if you have a sensitive skin?
Use the smallest possible number of cosmetics
Use cosmetics designed for sensitive, intolerant, or hypoallergenic skin
Use preservative and fragrance free, non comedogenic cosmetics
Use powder cosmetics instead of cream-based products
Hypoallergenic makeup should moisturise the skin, act as a corrective, and
must be easy to apply
Mix the corrective foundation with a suitable moisturiser and apply it gently
by tapping with fingers
Liquid foundations should base on silicone derivatives (like
Eyeliner and mascara should be black
Avoid water proof cosmetics
Avoid nail polishes
Clean rushes after each use
Spraying thermal water all over the face after applying makeup will make it
last longer while softening, moisturising, and protecting the skin
Store cosmetics in cool, dry place, and do not leave them uncovered
Avoid cosmetics beyond its expiration date
Avoid soaps, preservatives, alcohol-based, perfumed, or mentholated
Avoid over cleansing the skin
Avoid products known to irritate the skin like low pH alpha hydroxy acids,
Avoid procedures known to irritate the skin like massage, peeling,
dermabrasion, sponges, brushing, and suction
Avoid hot steam and heating masks
Avoid extremely cold compresses and eye cooling pads
Avoid hot or long bathing as well as taking hot and/ or cold showers
Avoid essential oils and aroma therapy
Avoid epilation and depilation (waxing)
Avoid all sources of skin friction (massage, tight clothes, jewellery)