Have you ever experienced a time when your skin was not happy? Maybe it was red and felt hot, tingling or stinging or burning, maybe it actually feels raw and tender. And nothing makes it feel better, sometimes water even hurts.
Sensitized skin can affect any one, any age, any race, and any skin type from dry skin to acne. Today, studies are showing that we are experiencing the highest number of cases of sensitivity, particularly in the cheek area due to environmental factors such as pollution. Here’s what you need to know to prevent and treat your sensitized skin.
Typical signs that you can watch out for may be:
• Nasal congestion and sinus problems, watery or itchy eyes and dark circles
• Exposure to high levels of pollution, pollen, dust mites, and other airborne allergens
• Stress! This can cause a lot of skin sensitivity, irritation and possible reactions
The Science Stuff
Under a microscope, our skin looks a lot like a brick wall. The skin cells are moisture filled bricks surrounded by a mortar made up of natural lipids and ceramides. Sensitization is caused by the erosion of the “mortar” which then allows dust, dirt, pollen, pollution, and even our products to penetrate the skin too far and too quickly. This erosion can happen due to a series of problems including stress, friction, incorrect product usage, medication, sun, pollution. Even the environment can be damaging, the cold weather, artificial heating, air conditioning, and exposure to sun or wind.
It’s easy to notice the stinging sensation you experience when you apply moisturizer to your nose corners when you have a cold and have been blowing your nose a lot. It’s harder to spot incorrect product use. Often we experience oil stripping cleansers and toners, or irritation from over exfoliating or harsh chemicals. This is why it’s important to shop for skincare products that are free of known skin irritants such as artificial colours, fragrances, alcohol, detergents, and other chemicals.
The key point is that the skin’s barrier is impaired, which means there are gaps in the wall protecting the deeper layers of your skin and body. To calm and correct sensitization we need use products to fill in those gaps in the barrier that have anti-inflammatory and healing properties to help calm and soothe redness and irritation.
There are some exceptions to this:
The Sensitive Skin Type: This skin type is genetically predisposed to be sensitive. Instead of being put on high alert by your immune system when come into contact with an irritant, your skin is constantly calling code red due to a higher than normal level of histamine in your skin. There is often a family history of hay fever, asthma and eczema. The medical profession calls this the atopic triad as these 3 complaints are often experienced by the sufferer.
Rosacea: This is a genetic vascular disorder without an exact cause. All our blood vessels function by expanding and contracting with the pulse of blood moving through your body. With rosacea, the capillaries under the surface of your skin stop functioning normally staying open longer and leading to excess redness. This leads to a thinning of the skin, permanently dilated blood vessels, and possibly swelling of the skin as there is a larger quantity of blood underneath. The thinning of the skin and proximity to immune receptors in the blood is what may cause the irritation that many people with rosacea experience.
The Herbalist View
Avoiding sensitizing triggers and harmful ingredients is just one piece of the puzzle. We also need to look at the deeper connection between our body processes and what we’re experiencing on our skin.
Stomach acid and digestive enzymes are very important in the early stages of the digestion process as they breakdown food into smaller molecules aiding in better absorption. If you’re not creating enough stomach acid, symptoms may include; acid reflux, belching, bloating, gas, and skin redness. Lacking digestive enzymes will lower the fat and protein amounts that your body absorbs, leaving your skin dry, dull, dehydrated, and lacking that healthy revitalized glow. Common skin conditions that may arise include eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and acne.
There is a pretty simple solution that works for most with low stomach acid production. Consume the juice of half a lime or lemon in a small amount of water before meals, and ideally first thing in the morning before consuming anything else. This will help to jump start your stomach to create more acid for optimal digestion. Limiting drinks around meals will also help, as too much liquid will dilute your stomach acid and digestive enzymes leading to a weaker digestion.
It is also recommended to avoid dairy for optimal skin health, as a recent scientific study estimates that potential lactose and dairy intolerance is approximately 70% of the world’s adult population. Consumption of dairy by an intolerant system can result in inflammation of the digestive tract, which often shows up as inflammatory reactions on the skin, such as eczema, dermatitis, rosacea or acne breakouts.
Now we know why we’re experiencing sensitive skin and how to prevent it, what do we do to help calm our skin when we’re inflamed? The key here is the old rule of Less is More: Less heat, less friction and touching, less products and ingredients. Here are some ingredients that you want to use to soothe and promote healing.
Calendula officinalis has been scientifically demonstrated to promote rapid healing of compromised and wounded skin, promoting healthy skin formation through fast healing, improving hydration & firmness levels in skin, and possessing potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities. Calendula returns skin to optimal health, reduce redness, soothe irritation, promote healthy skin and helps to maintain it.
Here’s a skin myth that’s actually true! Oatmeal has a high yield of Beta-Glucan which has incredible anti-inflammatory properties. It is often used as a soothing agent and is considered an excellent ingredient for minimizing redness and other signs of sensitive skin. Beta-Glucans protect against irritation and environmental stressors. It can boost hydration levels and skin barrier function, along with decreasing the look of wrinkles, redness, and irritation. Additionally, Beta-Glucans act as a humectant in the skin, which means they lock hydration in and prevent moisture loss.
Borage (aka ‘starflower’) is nature’s richest source of GLA containing approximately 20-27% GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid), which is an essential fatty acid that protects the skin from trans-epidermal water loss, while improving skin’s moisture balance and retention, and has the added benefit of increasing skin cells’ ability to absorb oxygen, which provides skin with a rejuvenated appearance.
CoQ10 is a vitamin-like molecule that behaves similar to Vitamin E and is critical to the production of energy in every cell of the human body. CoQ10 decreases in the body as we age, however it is crucial to effectively support stimulation of the body’s immune system response, increases tissue oxygenation and circulation, and delivers exceptional antioxidant properties. CoQ10 has been scientifically demonstrated as effectively counteracting free radical damage, providing significant protection against UVA-induced depletion of the skin’s cell membranes. This key function helps to prevent damage to skin’s collagen and elastin production process and helps diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Whether it’s a DIY masque or a luxury lotion, armed with this knowledge you are well on your way to calm, healthy skin that glows with your inner radiance! If you have any questions or want more information drop me a comment or book in for a virtual consultation.