Sensitive skin occurs when the normal protective skin barrier becomes inflamed or the complexion becomes irritated. Essentially, if your skin is inflamed, the immune system is overreacting to an ingredient you’ve become exposed to, perhaps an irritant or an allergen.
What is a sensitive skin type?
The sensitive skin type means your skin is more prone to react to ingredients, more so than other types, like normal, combination or oily skin types. Typically, it’s more fragile and can feel discomfort, hot, tight, red or feel itchy more often. Dry and sensitive skin can sometimes go hand-in-hand due to common characteristics like feeling tightness and dryness and irritation.
However, there is more than one type of sensitive skin - linked to what the complexion is reacting to. There is naturally sensitive, which is generally prone to feel irritated in general and is brought on by certain conditions such as rosacea, eczema and psoriasis, environmentally sensitive, connected to pollution and allergens in the air like pollen and harsh chemicals. Then there is reactive sensitive skin, which flares up after coming into contact with a particular irritant or allergen. Lastly, we have thin sensitive skin, where the protective layer of the skin barrier is thin and weaker.
If you notice you have certain triggers - using a certain facial cleanser, or pollution - then you are one step closer to knowing how to respond and treat your sensitive skin type.MORE: Ultimate cleansing guide - what is double cleansing, face oil and milk?
How to know if you have sensitive skin
What does sensitive skin mean and what causes it?
Some popular key identifiers include red and itchy skin, or it feels hot and swollen. The skin may also sting or burn when touched or if you add a product to the surface. If the surface is overly dry or injured it can mean the protective skin barrier is affected or too thin and cannot protect nerve endings, leading to further skin reactions.
Rashes, sunburning easily, breakouts and dry skin are other signs of sensitive skin types.
Find out what your skin type is here.
Why is my skin sensitive to touch all of a sudden?
Why is my skin feel so sensitive?
Due to the several different causes of sensitive skin, like allergens, auburn, injury, rashes, dry surface or a condition like eczema, the reason why your skin is sensitive to touch is usually down to one of these factors. Analyse your complexion and any recent changes, from changing washing powder to facial cleansers to understand why your skin has flared up.
If you’re unsure as to the root cause of the problem, there are a few steps you can do. First, remove any harsh cleansers and skincare products and use mild and gentle face washes instead. Next, try removing certain products or makeup items in case it’s the cause of your issues. And lastly, if that doesn’t help over the course of a few weeks, speak to your doctor about your next steps. They can also help with allergen tests if it turns out you’re unknowingly allergic to a specific ingredient.
How to treat sensitive skin
In the meantime, there are also a few tips on how to treat sensitive skin. You can avoid taking really hot showers or baths, as the heat will open up the pores more on the surface which could lead to more irritation. Next, swap your normal cleansers for mild and sensitive washes. The same goes for your body washes, sunscreen, face products and moisturisers.
Avoid wearing perfumes and scented beauty products and laundry detergents with fragrances. If your skin is feeling dry and tight, apply kind moisturisers to keep it hydrated. Try not to use harsh exfoliants as this will be too abrasive against the already inflamed and thin skin protective layer.
But, having sensitive skin can also affect how you shave in the shower. Therefore, shave with light and gentle strokes if you don’t want to stop shaving with sensitive skin. Let the razor do the work and don’t press down because the blades can scrape against the skin’s layer. First, shave in the direction of hair growth, and if you require a closer shave result, gently go against the grain. Ensure you moisturise and hydrate the skin afterwards to avoid razor bumps and irritation.
What is the best shower gel for sensitive skin?
Our Activated Charcoal vegan soap is also infused with tea tree essential oil to reduce redness and blemishes for sensitive skin.
Body washes specifically designed for sensitive skin are the best products to use. They tend to be more natural soap based, or don’t include harsh chemicals and alcohol. They’ll often be mild and soothing for the skin so that you can cleanse and not irritate the surface even further.MORE: How does antibacterial soap work and is it better than normal soap?
How to exfoliate sensitive skin at home
You should, if you have sensitive skin, avoid scrubbing or harshly exfoliating, whether it’s your face or body affected. As many methods of exfoliating - even with devices like cleansing brushes - will irritate your complexion even further. It can lead to redness, itchiness and soreness and may even leave you with dry and tight skin.
Try softer and nourishing exfoliants, for example, scrubs made from natural materials like oatmeal, almond or apricot powder and poppy seeds. If you’re using a scrub or exfoliating soap bar, ensure you don’t press down too hard or scrub too much in one particular area. After, use a moisturising soap bar and lotion once you’re out of the bath.
How to get rid of sensitive skin
The good news is that sensitive skin can be treated, and it isn’t always a life sentence. However, if your sensitivity is linked to a health or skin condition, it may not go away completely. Speak to your doctor if you have any further questions about your personal journey.
In general, if you use mild and gentle soap cleansers and the right type of products, as well as the tips above, the sensitivity will be reduced. But any specific incident could cause another flare-up, say you get a sunburn while on vacation or use a new skincare product which has an ingredient that doesn’t agree with you.
How to get rid of sensitive skin when sick or ill
If your skin has changed due to a short illness then react to it quickly so it doesn’t cause more discomfort. Try to wear soft and light materials so they won’t feel harsh or tight on your skin and body. You can also place a cold washcloth in really painful areas to help relieve some discomfort. Avoid rubbing in the area, including less natural and organic skincare and lip scrub products which may feature chemicals and oils that upset it further.
Ensure you stay hydrated and drink lots of water and regulate your temperature, as feeling hot, like having a fever, will have a direct impact on your skin sensitivity too.MORE: What is lavender essential oil good for and how to make it at home?
What is the best facial cleanser or soap for sensitive skin?
Avoid soaps or facial cleansers that leave the skin feeling dry and type for sensitive complexions. Instead, go for natural or nourishing cleansers that have added moisturisers like shea butter, vitamin E, vitamin A, and glycerin.
Glycerin is a fantastic ingredient which continues to work even after you’re out of the shower. It draws in moisture, meaning once you’re dry and dressed, it’s still working its magic to collect moisture and it brings it to the skin’s surface, so it feels smoother and softer for longer.
What should sensitive skin avoid?
There are some ingredients sensitive skin types should avoid. For example, alcohol, sodium lauryl sulfates (SLS), essential oils, chemical sunscreens, harsh abrasive exfoliants and fragrances.
Try reading ingredient lists on skincare products more carefully, if it says ‘parfum’ or ‘fragrance’ then it includes fragrance or essential oils. And sulfates come in any form, any word can have the word sulfate in it somewhere, so there are more than just the common SLS.
Shop our range of vegan soap bars with no palm oil or SLS.