There are some tell tell signs that indicate if you have sensitive skin, which include:
Blotchy or red skin
A feeling of tightness to the skin
Reacts quickly to pollution, clothing or some topical treatments by going red
What triggers sensitive skin?
There are many causes to skin sensitivity, and with increased pollutants around us skin sensitivity in the population is increasing constantly. Factors that can affect skin include:
Hormonal changes such as pregnancy and the menopause
Underlying medical conditions such as eczema and psoriasis
Changes in climate temperature
Harsh chemical based products
Certain fabrics and wools
What actually happens to skin to make it sensitive?
The outermost layer of the skin is called the 'skin barrier; or stratum corneum. This is made up of skin cells which we often call 'the bricks' and lipids which we all 'the mortar'. So imagine that your skin is like a brick wall, and you are looking to have all layers of your skin fully aligned, with lots of lipid keeping the gaps filled. The skin barrier is compromised and the skin cells and the lipid layer the 'bricks and mortar' of the skin may not be arranged in an optimal structure. Uneven shapes and sizes of the cells leave larger gaps in the stratum corneum often exposing the more sensitive inner layers of the skin.
When this skin barrier is compromised, the bricks and mortar are not correctly aligned or arranged, allowing gaps which make space for dirt, pollutants and other irritants to literally get under your skin. And this in turn irritates the lower layers of your skin which are much more sensitive.
This then stimulates an inflammatory response in the skin resulting in redness and irritated skin associated with sensitive skin.
How best to care for sensitive skin
Keeping your skin clean and moisturised is the key to long term healthy skin. It ensures that the bricks and mortar of your skin remain aligned, and work together to prevent irritation. We would recommend the following:
Gently cleanse skin to clean it without stripping it of essential lipids but ensuring dirt and grime that could be potential irritants are removed
Moisturise to keep the skin hydrated to support the optimal functioning of the skin barrier.
Use warm not hot water when washing to prevent stripping the skin of crucial moisture
Understand the triggers that make your skin sensitive - foods, fabrics etc - and avoid them.
Always use a sunscreen to protect from sun damage and burning which is bad news for sensitive skin.