How to treat sensitive skin
While avoiding acne, dry spots and an oily T-zone is a tough enough feat as it is, sometimes we’re faced with an even bigger issue: sensitive skin. Sensitive-skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis and rosacea, are often the result of immune or genetic disorders and can be tricky foes to beat. Lucky for you, though, we asked the pros for the lowdown on these common skin sitches and how to treat them. Here’s what they said…
WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE: If you’re always flushed after a glass of champers, a stressful convo or exposure to the sun (and if that flush lasts for a prolonged period of time), Fiona Tuck, nutritionist and skincare expert, says you might be in the early stages of rosacea. Visible blood vessels, small red bumps across your chin, cheeks, nose, forehead and neck may also pop up and, as Emma Hobson, education manager for the International Dermal Institute and Dermalogica, adds, the more frequent and intense your facial flushing becomes, the more likely you are to develop long-lasting redness, swelling, papules and pustules.
WHY IT HAPPENS: While the exact cause of rosacea is unknown, Hobson says its top triggers are sunlight, emotional stress, hot weather, wind, heavy exercise and irritants found in skincare products and hairsprays. “There are also many scientific links between rosacea and poor digestion, hormonal imbalances and the overgrowth of skin mites,” notes Tuck.
HOW TO NIX IT: Before you get stuck into your skincare routine, it’s a good idea to ditch alcohol and spicy foods from your menu (since they’re known to irritate), and pay a visit to your doc or naturopath to ensure your digestive system’s in good working order. Once that’s done, Tuck suggests clearing your vanity of any prods with over-stimulating ingredients, such as hydroxy acids, retinols and heavy creams. What do you re-stock it with? According to Hobson, first you’ll want to reach for a creamy soap-free cleanser that’s enriched with anti-inflammatory ingredients. Apply a serum containing raspberry seed oil, which will help strengthen your skin’s capillary walls. Next, follow with a moisturiser rich in chamomile, evening primrose oil or shea butter to nourish and repair your skin barrier.
WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE: Also known as dermatitis, eczema shows up as dry, itchy red patches on the skin, which sometimes crack and weep. The spots usually pop up around the crooks of the elbows and the backs of knees, says Tuck, but they can also spread all over the body.
WHY IT HAPPENS: When your skin’s natural defence barrier (aka, the epidermal lipid layer) is in tip-top shape, it’s pretty good at locking in moisture and filtering out irritants, microbes and allergens. If you’re stuck with a malfunctioning lipid layer (like those with eczema), though, nasties can creep in, water can seep out and irritation and dehydration can occur. Often seen in people with allergies, asthma and hay fever, Hobson says eczema can be sparked by internal factors (like stress and foods such as dairy, wheat and citrus fruits), as well as external factors (such as pollen, dust mites, cleaning products and cosmetics).
HOW TO NIX IT: Keep a diary of your meals and eczema flare-ups, Tuck recommends, as this way you’ll be able to pinpoint which particular foods may be aggravating your symptoms. When it comes to topical care, Hobson advises you wash your skin with a milky or oil-based cleanser for a softer, smoother complexion. To revive dry, tired skin, treat yourself to a face mask loaded with soothing ingredients such as oat extract, rosehip oil, vitamin E and panthenol, or massage an anti-inflammatory serum into your face after cleansing.
WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE: “Psoriasis can occur anywhere on the body and appears as red patches of raised skin,” explains Tuck. The inflamed spots are usually covered by a flaky build-up of white or silver-looking skin and can be mostly found covering the face, arms, back, chest, elbows, legs and nails. Since psoriasis is the result of a chronic autoimmune disorder, you may be stuck with it for the long haul, but the pros say its symptoms are defs manageable.
WHY IT HAPPENS: According to Hobson, healthy skin cells mature and replace themselves up to every 30 days, but with psoriasis, the skin cells mature in less than a week. Because your bod can’t shed its old skin as rapidly as it appears, a build-up occurs and raised patches are formed. Psoriasis tends to be more severe throughout your 20s and 30s (thanks to fluctuating hormones), if you have low vitamin D levels, and during periods of stress. It can be irritated by extreme weather, cuts and allergies, too.
HOW TO NIX IT: “Avoiding alcohol and high-sugar foods is beneficial,” says Tuck, as is keeping your vitamin D levels within a healthy range. UV light therapy may also help keep your skin under control, so pay a visit to your nearest skin therapist and ask if you can go under the light. To slough away that dead, scaly skin, ditch the physical face scrubs (as they can actually cause further damage) and opt for a chemical exfoliant. After your exfoliation or cleansing sesh, follow with a serum or moisturising cream loaded with vitamin B3 and oatmeal (to reduce redness and itchiness), avocado and sea buckthorn oils (to help maintain your lipid barrier and promote tissue regeneration) as well as ginger, lavender and chamomile extracts (to soothe inflammation).
A version of this story appeared in the March 2017 issue of Women’s Fitness.