What Is Sensitive Skin? And How To Fix It!
As a sensitive skin gal myself, were you aware that more than 70% of people say they have sensitive skin? I’m not making it up!
According to a 2019 study conducted by the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, nearly three-quarters of the respondents classified their skin as sensitive!
Maybe this surprises you, maybe it doesn’t. It’s definitely a significant number, but in my years as an esthetician, I have seen my share of sensitive skin. Shit, my own skin is sensitive!
Here’s the thing though...you don’t have to have sensitive skin! I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again--you’re not born with sensitive skin! Skin becomes sensitive when skin barriers are broken. But treating your skin the right way can build back those skin barriers and eliminate your sensitive skin. How?
Glad you asked!
1. Avoid the sun and always wear sunscreen!
Never underestimate the power of the sun--and the damage it can inflict upon skin. Not only should you wear sunscreen to protect yourself from skin cancer, you should wear it to protect your skin...period. Sun damage (even if it’s not as severe as cancer) can directly lead to sensitive skin and all of its redness, irritation, wrinkles, you get the idea.
That’s why, if you have sensitive skin, it’s so important to either stay out of the sun altogether or use a sunscreen that won’t further irritate your skin (look for mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide). We all know the dangers of skin cancer--but you also don’t want to look like an old, beat-up catcher’s mitt at the age of 40.
2. Hydrate, hydrate, HYDRATE!
Can’t stress this enough. Hydration is the key to healthy skin, so make sure you nourish it at all times. If your skin is already sensitive, you need to repair it before you start hydrating it (see #3).
Once it’s healed, use products like my Water Balm, a five-in-one multi-purpose gel crème that kicks your parched skin in the ass. Water Balm is your moisturizer, toner/serum, day cream, night cream, and makeup primer all in one. It hydrates, moisturizes, and smooths your skin. But before you start using Water Balm…
3. Add ceramides to your skin prep!
Remember when you read about repairing your broken skin barriers in order to heal sensitive skin? Like 30 seconds ago? Here’s how you do that--ceramides! What are ceramides? For lots of detail, click that last link. A quick definition, though, is that ceramides are a waxy lipid/fatty acid naturally found in your skin, and they create a water-impermeable, protective layer that helps prevent excessive water loss via evaporation. They also create a barrier against microorganisms (like dry air, pollution, etc.) trying to enter the skin.
Ceramides are the key to a healthy skin barrier! But they don’t last forever. That’s why you need to work my Water Elixir into your routine.
Because it’s a light, liquid moisturizer and ceramide serum in one that helps your parched desert skin feel normal again. Water Elixir helps relieve dehydration, dryness, redness, and malnourishment in your skin and helps sensitive skin repair a compromised skin barrier.
4. Don't sleep in your makeup.
Please, darlings, just don’t. Aside from frying yourself in the sun like a pan of bacon, sleeping in your makeup is one of THE worst things you can do to your skin. For starters, makeup traps all kinds of dirt, pollutants, and other nasty-ass shit in your skin. And here’s a little secret--that stuff can cause premature aging, among other things. If you sleep in your makeup and bake in the sun, you might look 60 when you’re 27--and that’s the stuff of nightmares!
Makeup also clogs up your pores, which can result in you looking like a 15-year-old snacking on a bag of potato chips and a fistful of Hershey bars--lots o’ zits. Not to mention, wearing makeup while sleeping disrupts your skin’s exfoliation process, leaving you with dry, dull skin.
Moral of the story, kids--wash your face before bed! And use my Japanese Cleansing Oil to do that. It’s a quick and easy-to-use makeup remover and facial cleanser in one, and it helps your skin maintain that delicate skin barrier.
5. Make sure you take your vitamins and probiotics.
Probiotics are your BFF. Who wouldn’t want a friend that prevents stomach ulcers, lactose intolerance, harmful bacteria, yeast infections (I see you nodding), digestive problems, and icky skin. If you haven’t gotten to know probiotics yet, they’re the “good” bacteria that reside happily in your gut, keeping you feeling your best. A lack of probiotics can result in any or all of the above (hard pass). So, be sure you’re getting plenty of probiotics in your diet.
“But how, Sonia?” Yogurt! Or supplements. Yogurt tastes better. Kombucha and pickles, also. No matter how you get them in your body, just get them in your body. Probiotics can rebuild and strengthen your skin barrier--starting to see a pattern here?
Sensitive skin does need time to repair itself after being damaged, but probiotics can help speed up the healing process. Take a multivitamin, too--there are plenty of vitamins that can help make your skin healthier.
6. Add oils to your routine.
You: “Sonia, have you lost your DAMN MIND?? Oils?” Me: “Yes, sweetheart, I have lost my mind. But not when it comes to skincare.” Yeah, oils might bring to mind breakouts, greasy foreheads, clogged pores, and all that fun stuff. But truth be told, face oils have PLENTY of positives going for them. Like…
- They have antioxidants that prevent wrinkles (yay!).
- They’re freakin’ amazing at moisturizing dry skin, perfect for cold weather.
- Oils penetrate deep (oh, stop it!) to keep the moisture in and the bad shit out--this helps protect...come on, class...your skin barrier!
- Some oils (the good ones) even reduce the size of your pores.
- They can make excellent makeup primers.
- Small amounts of some oils (like jojoba) can actually REDUCE acne! (Ain’t that some shit!)
- Many have anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe rashes.
Remember when I mentioned good oils? Here’s one: my Water Oil. This dual-phase lightweight facial oil lubricates and hydrates and is the PERFECT oil to use before you put on your makeup.
7. Don't stop at your jaw line.
Not what I’m talking about! What I mean is, bring your skincare routine down from just your face to include your neck/decollete area. Why? Think for a minute to those, umm, older celebrities who have clearly had some work done on their faces--only to leave their necks looking like their wrinkly, leathery, and, well, old selves. Hey, it happens to the best of us, right? But by working your facial routine into your neck/decollete area, you can stave off that 30-year-old face/65-year-old neck dichotomy for a while.
8. DO exfoliate, but DON’T overexfoliate.
Exfoliation is good, and it’s necessary. But not all the time. I mean, nobody wants dead skin cells hanging around--so exfoliation is smart, but only in moderation. The irony here is that the exact conditions exfoliation is meant to fix (peeling skin, breakouts, etc.) are the same that can show up after overexfoliation. You might notice irritation, redness, and blotchy skin as a result as well.
So, here’s what to do: keep your exfoliation (especially on your face) to a minimum. There’s no need to exfoliate every day--two or three times a week is plenty. Use my sexApeel Instant Exfoliation Spray to exfoliate your entire body (well, not your ENTIRE body--you get my drift) a couple times a week and your skin will be soft, smooth, and healthy.
9. Don't try too many new products at once.
Hey, I love trying out new products as much as the next gal--but there needs to be a limit if you’re trying to get your sensitive skin healthier. Look, I get it...I have sensitive skin myself. And anyone with sensitive skin is gonna want to get rid of it as quickly as possible. But overdoing it with multiple products is a bad, bad thing. BAD!
The key is to find products you like and stick with them. Switching up your regimen can be a recipe for disaster for your skin barrier. “But Sonia, my skin looks terrible...how am I supposed to get it better without switching my routine?” Fair question. Take it slowly. Try one or two new products at a time, and give them a chance to work. If you’re not seeing the results you want, try something else until you get it right. Once you’ve found that perfect product, stay with it. Otherwise, your sensitive skin will stay red, irritated, and dry.
10. Skip foaming cleansers.
So, yeah, the feeling after a nice, foamy wash is kinda heavenly--I admit it. HOWEVER, don’t let that fresh foam aftermath fool you--foaming cleansers are not good for sensitive skin. All that foamy goodness, and the foaming agents in the product, can actually leave your skin irritated, dry, and prone to more breakouts and--gasp!--premature aging!
What I’ll tell you is, “F the foam!” Use oils to cleanse your delicate skin. If you don’t remember why, go reread #6 above.
11. Don't go overboard on alcohol and spicy foods.
I’ll give you a moment to pick yourself off the floor. Go get a brown paper bag and take a deep breath. I’ll wait. OK, now that you’re conscious again, let me explain. Not everyone has a reaction to spicy food or alcohol. Some people do. “But Sonia, how the hell are a few hot wings, some salsa, and a couple shots of tequila bad for my skin?” Science, dear. Science.
[Puts on white lab coat, adjusts glasses.] Skin science class with Professor Sonia is now in session. Spicy foods, while delicious, often contain acidic lycopenes that can irritate your skin, throw off the balance of your pH levels, and trigger breakouts and cause skin irritation.
“Professor Sonia, what about alcohol? I still want my drinks.” Feel free, dear pupil. Just be prepared to look a whole hell of a lot older than you already do. Alcohol dehydrates the skin and can cause irritation and redness to your already sensitive skin. Drinking in moderation (or not at all) will help keep your skin hydrated and healthy.
12. Adjust your routine according to season and location.
Mother Nature giveth and she taketh away. And she can be a real bitch sometimes, especially when it comes to messing with your skin. Temperature, humidity, and a variety of environmental factors play a big part in healthy skin. If you live in a hot, dry area like Arizona, Nevada, anywhere else that’s an actual desert, your skin is going to become dehydrated, which will leave it red, dry, and irritated. The solution? See #2 and take it to the max. You’ll probably need to hydrate even more than you normally would to account for the desert conditions.
Say you live in Alaska or the North Pole, or Minnesota--it’s gonna get frigid up there. And that means--yeah, dehydration also. But for different reasons. The freezing temps and low humidity take the moisture out of the skin, leaving it dry, cracked, and kinda painful. Dry indoor heat only compounds the problem. Moisturize and stay out of the sun whenever possible, and you should be able to keep the dry skin in check. Or just move somewhere warmer.
If you’re living in the Amazon rainforest, southeast Asia, or, umm, Florida, you’re going to deal with your share of humidity. The kind that punches you right in the face as soon as you step outside. The kind that makes you feel like you’re walking through soup. It’s gross, and it messes with your sensitive skin. Too much humidity opens your pores, leaving them prone to dirt, oil (the bad kinds), and allergens, which can lead to acne, irritation, and flare-ups of skin conditions like eczema. To avoid this scenario, gently exfoliate (sexApeel!), use water-based sunscreens, and use light oil (Water Oil!) for hydration.
13. Maintain a consistent routine.
Finally, as I alluded to in #9, be consistent with your skincare routine. It may take a little bit of experimenting with products to find the right match for your sensitive skin (remember, don’t go overboard with too many new products!), but once you get there, stay there! Use your tried-and-true products (hopefully from the Sonia Roselli Beauty line...wink wink) to keep your skin healthy, hydrated, and luminous!
Sensitive skin sucks, but it’s not the end of the world. Repair the skin barrier and then follow this list of DO’s and DON’TS and you’ll be golden. If you’ve got any sensitive skin tips or routines you’d like to share, please do in the comments!
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