Extra sensitive skin can feel like fighting a losing battle -- especially when so many promised remedies and treatments actually worsen the issue. Effective treatment for sensitive skin usually means scaling back on chemical-laden products, simplifying your routine, and steering clear of extra astringent or exfoliating ingredients. Here we’re unpacking the causes of this widespread skin woe, and diving into the benefits of a plant-based skincare routine. With sensitive skin, it’s all about the quality of the ingredients you’re applying to your face.
What Causes Sensitive Skin?
So what causes sensitive skin? There can be a number of factors at play. Sensitive skin, technically speaking, is caused by nerve endings on the topmost layer of skin becoming irritated. It occurs when skin’s natural protective barrier becomes weakened and compromised, and this can be due to a variety of hereditary, cosmetic, and environmental triggers. Often the skin issues you’re experience (like flaking, inflammation, or redness) are caused by a combination of hereditary predispositions combined with mistakes you’re making in your beauty routine. Here are the most common causes of sensitive skin:
Some culprits behind sensitive skin are unavoidable. Issues like eczema, rosacea, or allergic contact dermatitis are hereditary, and allergies, another culprit behind extra sensitive skin, are often unavoidable in certain pollen or dust heavy locations.
A tendency towards blushing and skin flushing can also be inherited, but can be made more noticable if you’re using products that up the redness factor in your dermis.
Using the Wrong Products
In addition to the reality of inherited skin tendencies, sensitive skin is often also caused by use of the wrong products and improper care of skin. Skin products and household products that come into contact with the skin containing synthetic dyes and fragrances can cause stinging, burning, redness and tightness.
Bad Skin Care Habits
Improper habits, like over-cleansing, sleeping in makeup, and over-exposing your skin to UV rays can also exacerbate the situation. There’s a long list of other environmental factors that can cause skin sensitivity to flare up: extra hot water, chlorine, dehydration, excess alcohol consumption, and frequent changes in temperature are all on the list.
What to Avoid If You Have Sensitive Skin
While it may seem like a daunting task to avoid all of these external factors, it’s within your power (and extremely essential) to avoid conventional skin care ingredients that can exacerbate sensitive skin. Check the list below for sensitive skin triggers, and be sure to cease and desist if any of them apply to your skin care routine!
Conventional cosmetics often contain alcohols, which work to break down the skin’s natural barrier. And while small amounts of alcohol can enhance the penetration of active ingredients, entirely alcohol based products have the potential to seriously disrupt your skin’s natural oil barrier.
Avoid Synthetic Dyes
Dye commonly contains a chemical called paraphenylenediamine (say that five times fast), which can cause rash and skin-scaling.
Avoid Synthetic Fragrances
Harsh chemicals present in a variety of conventional cosmetics are also potentially damaging to the skin’s natural barrier. Synthetic fragrance is one of the first things dermatologists recommend cutting out for sensitive skin sufferers – they are generally packed with hundreds of (unregulated) chemicals.
Avoid Synthetic Preservatives
Certain preservatives can also exacerbate sensitive skin – particularly parabens, which are likely to irritate skin types already suffering from eczema and psoriasis.
Avoid Harsh Surfactants and Detergents
Surfactants and detergents – chemicals designed to cut through grease, like Sodium lauryl sulfate and Ammonium laureth sulfate – need to be used in moderation or ditched entirely. Used on sensitive skin, these surfactants can disrupt the skin barrier’s ability to hold onto H20 through de-stabilizing the protective lipid layer that prevents hydration from evaporating.
Avoid Harsh Exfoliants
Finally, stay away from overly harsh chemical exfoliants, like synthetically derived retinols and lab synthesized acid peels at high concentrations. These sorts of harsh ingredients can seriously inflame already sensitive skin, and lead to chronic discomfort and redness, and long term damage.
In order to avoid these pitfalls, it’s essential to stick with healing plant-based skin care, which is more gentle on sensitive skin, and circumvents the irritation caused by chemicals in conventional formulas.
Helpful Ingredients for Sensitive Skin
A nature-based approach to dealing with sensitive skin is a smart choice, and there are an abundance of plant-based options used in Puristry formulas. Ingredients like rose, cucumber, aloe, and calendula are some of our favorites. They’re all soothing ingredients found in nature, with naturally occurring anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that can greatly improve sensitive skin.
Rose (and rose water) is a naturally antibacterial ingredient that works to reduce any swelling and redness – and the fatty acid packed oils in rose petals lock moisture into the skin, a key action when it comes to battling tightness and dryness associated with skin sensitivity.
Cucumber is an H20 packed skin tonic that contains essential nutrients like caffeic acid and Vitamin C, which help to reduce irritation in the skin. The skin of a cucumber also contains silica, which firms up skin and contributes to its density and tautness.
Vitamin E lis a hydrating anti-inflammatory that’s great for repairing damaged tissue. It hydrates dry, sensitive skin, while soothing and calming inflamed or irritated skin. Vitamin E oil also helps skin maintain its natural water and oil balance.
Aloe is another sensitive skin allstar. Aloe contains naturally occurring aloe gel and aloe juice, which offer a large stock of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and amino acids in addition to higher moisture retention capabilities (important for combatting itching and irritation).
Calendula is a similarly soothing natural ingredient. Calendula is a type of marigold with potent anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that battle both acne and staph-infection-causing bacteria strains.
Jojoba is a shoe-in for sensitive skin care. Jojoba is extremely beneficial for eczema and psoriasis. The liquid wax esters in jojoba are extremely similar to our skin’s own sebum (oil), which means they can replace lost moisture in dry, chapped skin.
Shopping for Sensitive Skin
While these are all excellent plant-based sensitive skin saviors, it’s important to remember that not all organic and plant-based ingredients are good for sensitive skin. Even acidic or highly powerful plant-based ingredients can exacerbate an easily irritated dermis. Plant-based retinol derived from carrots, which we use in some of our powerful Puristry anti-aging products, can aggravate already irritated nerve endings on the topmost layer of skin. Similarly, astringents like witch hazel can strip moisture from sensitive skin and contribute to dryness, and some citrus-based essential oils can provoke inflammation or stinging. Alongside some of these natural red-flags, steer clear of these major conventional baddies: Sodium lauryl sulphate (an irritating foaming agent), synthetic emollients such as liquid paraffin (which can cause a buildup up bacteria), and (already mentioned above) synthetic fragrance, parabens, and surfactants.
As a shopper, navigating ingredient labels can be a nightmare, so here are a few “code” chemicals to look out for (and steer clear of). Methylisothiazolinone is a common preservative that is a major trigger for sensitive skin. Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate will strip skin of its natural oils, and should be avoided. Isoeugenol, Farnesol, Linalool, Citronellol, Benzoyl benzoate, Limonene, Hexyl cinnamal, and Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde can all be nested under a synthetic fragrance label, and can cause allergic reactions and irritations in sensitive skin.
The list goes on, from silicones to alcohol, chemical sunscreens and more. The takeaway is that with a working knowledge of some of the major skin aggravators, you’ll be able to make smarter decisions about the right products for you. A good place to start is with plant-based organic skincare products that incorporate calming waters and oils derived from plants and fruits, sans any long chemical names to trip you (and your complexion) up.