Sensitive skin. You, me, everybody. We all had days where our skin stings. We all had days where our skin burns. We all had days where our skin itches.
Its boxing day. And happy you are faced with an avalanche of presents. And lo and behold, many of which are skincare products. So the question is, how do you choose a skincare to use? Do you choose everything, or do you choose nothing? The skincare you select for your skin will determine how sensitive your skin becomes.
What is sensitive skin? How do I know if I have sensitive skin?
Basically, I will like to group it into subjective and objective measures.
Subjective: Let me share with you the SBI principle, which is stinging, burning and itching, which is a subjective sensation unique to yourself.
Objective: Easy flushing and blushing, skin reactions like bumps and lumps, these are objective measures of sensitive skin.
If you find that you experience these sensations commonly, then it’s time to see a dermatologist. Common triggers are the following.
- Environmental factors like sun, the wind, the rain, spicy food, alcohol
- Mechanical factors like waxing, rubbing, shaving
- Chemical factors like cosmetic products, cleansers, toners, soaps, detergents, fragrances, preservatives
Why do I get sensitive skin?
There are 2 main reasons for this. Let me explain.
- Loss of skin barrier – Which causes your skin to lose its hydration. Hence, your skin becomes drier, which is more susceptible to the elements.
- Exposed and high nerve ending density – Hence you can experience sensations of stinging, burning and itching.
Who is prone to sensitive skin?
- People with family history of skin ailments
- Skin that that is too dry,too oily, blushes or flushes easily
- Underlying skin condition – eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, contact dermatitis
Is sensitive skin for life?
- Younger patients tend to have a more skin reaction. This is because of the higher nerve ending density.
- With ageing, skin becomes less reactive
- Your dermatologist can prescribe you products to improve your skin integrity
What are common factors triggering sensitive skin?
- Enviromental – Weather changes. So if you travelled to a cold and dry place, same Korea, Japan, Shanghai, then return to Singapore, the change in climate can trigger stinging, burning and itch.
- Lifestyle – Spicy food, alcohol. An interesting study done in Sichuan province, China has documented that more than 50% of the local population to have sensitive skin. A correlation was found between spicy food and sensitive skin.
- Use of multi types of cosmetic products – The more facial products you use, the higher the risk of irritation. So more is not always good.
How can I treat sensitive skin?
Treatment is individualised.
First, we must understand the role of the skin.
- Barrier – Against UV damage, oxidative stress, mechanical trauma
- Antimicrobial properties
- Moisturizing – By locking in hydration and moisture
Next we need to know what our skin is made of.
- Lipids – ceramides, cholesterol, fatty acids
- Cells – keratinocytes, corneocytes
Your skin is like a brick wall. (wikimedia.org)
Here is a simple analogy. Just imagine a brick wall. The bricks are your keratinocytes, and the mortar and cement, the lipids and peptides. As the layers of bricks increase, the wall is stronger, similarly, when your skin thickens, it gets stronger. Gold standard for skin renewal and antiageing is the retinoid. Your lipid and peptides lock in the moisture in your skin, keeping it supple and plump.
Moisturizers can help.
- Occlusives – These serve as a layer on top of your skin to lock in the moisture in your skin. Examples include mineral oils.
- Hunmectants – These are like sponges that absorb the moisture, examples being glycerol and urea.
How to tell if a skincare product is suitable for my skin?
You may apply it behind your ear overnight. Do this for 5 days in a roll. If no irritation occurs, the product is generally safe on your skin. Remember, always start low and go slow.
How can I treat sensitive skin?
- Restore your skin barrier function
- Slow incremental
- Maintain your physiology. Stay healthy, stay happy. Be bold and beautiful
- Apply the MARS principle
M: Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise (Moisturizers help your skin resist drying and abrasion)
R: Retinoids (Gold standard for antiageing, reducing fine lines and wrinkles)
S: Sun protection
So be bold and beautiful. Making Raffles Place more beautiful, one face at a time.
Hi Dr daniel,
I have an issue which is sensitive skin. May i know whats the process and duration of the treatment?
Thank you for your enquiry.
Sensitive skin covers a wide range of conditions. Depending on your skin condition, your skin doctor can assess and tailor a customised plan for you. Treatment commonly involves lifestyle changes, skincare, plus minus the use of light/ laser therapy.
Hope this helps.
Dr Daniel Chang