Beautiful Skin 101
Most women shy away from being called 'too sensitive.' But when the subject is kin, they're all too willing to wear the scarlet S. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, at least 40% of women believe they have sensitive skin, although most dermatologists report that only a fraction really do. Sensitivity "defined as skin that's prone to irritation from products, weather, or stress" is a real (albeit misunderstood) condition. It's not the same as an allergy. It means you have a lower tolerance for irritating ingredients, such as fragrances and dyes. The evil twist here is that the more skin reacts, the more sensitive it becomes. Imagine normal skin having a natural barrier like Saran Wrap. People with sensitive skin have a disrupted barrier all the time. But by identifying what disrupts that barrier and protecting it with the right moisturizer, you can develop a thicker skin.
Read Labels: Before applying creams, lotions, or makeup, read the ingredients list. The fewer ingredients on the label, the better. All products and formulas should be free of fragrance, dye, and isopropyl alcohol (commonly known as rubbing alcohol). And beware of botanical ingredients and oils. Test each new product on the side of your neck for a few days before using it on your face.
Cleanse: Wash you face with a milky, non-foaming liquid cleanser or a soap-free bar. Do not use a washcloth or any rough scrubber, which can be too abrasive for sensitive skin. Rinse face well by splashing with lukewarm water and pat with a soft towel, leaving skin slightly damp. There is no need to use a toner, which generally contains drying and irritating isopropyl alcohol.
Moisturize: Dab moisturizer onto damp skin in the morning and night. Look for one that contains ceramides, fatty acids, or cholesterol, all of which help form a protective barrier against irritation. In the morning, when the moisturizer is absorbed, apply a sunscreen (with an SPF 15 or higher). It should also contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which are least likely to cause reactions. Cheat Sheet
Choose the right products. 'Allergy-tested' means it doesn't have ingredients that cause common reactions. 'Noncomedogenic' means it won't clog pores.
Read labels. Not everyone with sensitive skin is troubled by the same thing, but the most common irritants, in order, include fragrance, isopropyl alcohol, dyes, PABA, lanolin, sorbic acid, formaldehyde, and benzoic acid. Don't assume that natural products are safe. Some botanicals (rosemary, sandalwood, arnica) and essential oils (jojoba, tea tree, lavender) may irritate.
Test samples on the neck for several days. If they don't irritate you, they'll probably be fine for your face. Don't try an arsenal of new products at once. Similarly, if skin breaks out, stop using everything, and reintroduce products one by one.
Be as gentle as possible. Use a creamy, liquid cleanser or a soap-free bar and rinse with lukewarm water. Avoid Buf-Pufs and washcloths. Pat with a towel and leave skin slightly damp.
Moisturize with a product for sensitive skin, or one that contains fatty acids, cholesterol, and ceramides. Every day, be sure to apply a PABA-free sunscreen that contains titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Daily Basics
Wash with a milky, non-foaming liquid.
To soothe redness, dermatologists recommend using a fragrance-free treatment. A dime-size dab of an over-the-counter 1% hydrocortisone cream also relieves itching.
Tricks of the Trade
Don't' shower or bathe for more than 20 minutes, or you'll dry out your skin. Use lukewarm water.
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