Here’s how to keep calm and carry on…
Sensitive skin in the form of redness, chapping and spots is like an unwelcome house guest. It appears out of the blue and before you know it, it’s completely taken over.
But fear not, says skincare expert Debbie Thomas, ‘almost everyone experiences sensitive skin at some point. When skin is exposed to changes in weather or allergens such as dust and fragrance, it can read them as the enemy. Your skin then produces inflammatory hormones, enzymes and free radicals to fight them off, which unfortunately damages the skin.’
Pollution is a culprit
The rise in air pollution may also explain the recent surge in sensitive skin cases. According to a study earlier this year by Friends of the Earth, over 2,000 UK locations have unsafe air quality.
You see, pollution doesn’t just sit on the surface of your skin, muddying it up like a windscreen. Car exhaust fumes and toxic oily molecules attached to soot (also know as particulate matter) can seep into the skin.
‘Once inside they cause chronic inflammation,’ says Dr Tom Mammone, Vice President of Skin Physiology and Pharmacology at Estee Lauder companies.
Antioxidants are your first line of defence against pollution, followed closely by hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid.
‘We’ve been able to prove that pollution tears tiny holes in the skin’s barrier, causing moisture loss,’ says Mammone. This can then go on to create a chain reaction of dryness and irritation.
Most irritation is self-inflicted by an overzealous regime
To top it all off, overloading the skin with harsh anti-ageing products or the wrong mixture of ingredients can be enough to set off stinging code red. For example, applying an exfoliator containing AHAs followed by a slick of a retinol overnight.
‘Microscopic cracks appear in the skin that enable toxins and irritants to seep in and cause further problems,’ explains Thomas.
If you want your sensitive skin to recover fast, resist the temptation to throw lots of products at the problem.
Stick to a bare-bones regime for two weeks using a gentle cleanser and sensitive skin moisturisers packed with anti-inflammatory ingredients, before gradually reintroducing your usual products.
The best products for sensitive skin
This one-pot wonder created from vitamin E and mango butter deserves a permanent place in your beauty arsenal. Use as an overnight mask or repair cream – it’s instant salvation for allergy-stricken skin.
Think of this 15-minute mask as your skin’s very own burly bodyguard: thanks to a clever white mushroom extract, it blocks the irritation and pain messages to the brain for instant relief.
A capsule cocktail of skin-repairing ceramides and moisturising lipids, this will help to seal the cracks between cells and strengthens skin's protective barrier. Basically, your fiercest protection against lizard-skin nightmares.
Skin so sore you can practically hear it screaming? Mist on this therapeutic blend of glacier water and botanical oils, including lavender and chamomile, whenever your face is in need of rescue.
If irritation is a persistent and pesky problem, you may want to break up with any harsh anti-ageing products. Opt for this delicate twice-daily serum rich in lentisk gum, an anti-inflammatory spice, plus antioxidant green coffee to prevent wrinkling.
Pretty sciency but all you have to know is a special marine ingredient joins forces with the antioxidant herb purslane to neutralise pollution particles. This keeps the skin’s barrier strong, preventing irritation.
The idea with the Youth Serums is that you rotate serums depending on which concern you’d like to treat. Dial down sensitivity with a few drops of this one containing cotton peptides.