• Sensitive skin

Sensitive Skin

Spots, bumps, chapped red skin, itching; half of the people in the Netherlands regularly suffer from this. And the industry has conveniently dived on this. The shelves are full of soothing creams and ointments for sensitive skin. That we suffer massively from sensitive skin is not so surprising if you think that the Netherlands woman uses on average between 9 and 12 skincare products per day and doesn’t actually know what she should be aware of when buying a product. The latter became painfully clear to me last week when analysing results of a study that I, together with the Erasmus MC, conducted and have just completed (but more about that later…)

Having sensitive skin is really frustrating; I meet people daily who don’t know what else they can do about their skin. So It’s good that I get the chance to tell more about it on my blog, but also next Monday 5th March during the broadcasting of ‘Koffietijd’.

How do you actually get sensitive skin?
Sometimes the skin can become sensitive due to a skin disorder. It can also be caused by an allergy to an ingredient in your cosmetic products. A lot of people with sensitive skin are not allergic at all, but just use too much, and unsuitable cosmetics for skin. And then there are still the people for whom there is no real reason. Their skin is extremely sensitive, or highly sensitive.
The First steps with sensitive skin:
• Don’t use old fashioned soap or bath foam. Furthermore; the more foamy a product is the worse it is for sensitive skin.
• Scrubs, loofahs, steamy baths, hot and cold showers – they irritate sensitive skin even more. So avoid them.
• Don’t be easily led into buying products because it says on the label that they are “hypo-allergenic” or “dermatologically tested”. Hypo-allergenic products usually cause less irritation but there is definitely no guarantee. There is no control over the granting of this term on these products either. Dermatologically tested only means that it has been tested. The number of people tested or the results of the tests are not known. So this is certainly no guarantee.
• I often get asked which natural products I would recommend. A very difficult question! ‘Plant-based’ or ‘natural’ doesn’t mean that it is mild. As well as there being excellent natural substances, there are certainly also substances that you would rather leave in the nature…. A number of plant substances are actually notorious “allergy-triggers”. Tea tree, lavender, mint; these are just a few examples of substances with a natural image that cause problems for many people. Most Dermatologists advise people with allergies or very sensitive skin to just avoid plant-based products. Luckily there are many good natural ingredients; such as green tea, grape seed or liquorice root.
• Always test a new product on the inside of your arm first before using it. Ask for samples if you suffer from sensitive skin. Test products one at a time and wait a couple of weeks before trying something new.

Watch out for the following ingredients if you have sensitive skin:
• If you have sensitive skin choose products which are un-perfumed, de-natured alcohol and colourings. These substances often cause problems. Moreover, perfume is the number one cause of allergies. For other ingredients which are not so suitable for sensitive skin you can read more in the blog ‘Ingredients to Avoid’.
• Choose products with anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredients. These are, for example, Allantoin, Niacinamide, green tea, Beta-Glucan or liquorice root.
• Look at which preservatives are used in your products. Preservatives are notorious for causing cosmetic allergies. On the contrary to what most people think, parabens are actually the least allergenic out of all the traditional preservatives. Preservatives such as Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Quaternium-15 but also tea tree oil often cause problems.
• Be careful with chemical sun filters if you have sensitive skin. The physical (mineral) variation – Titanium Oxide and Zinc Oxide – rarely cause allergies. The new sun filters Tinosorb or Mexoryl are also a suitable choice.
• People with sensitive skin often go for baby products. Unfortunately these aren’t actually free from irritating substances such as colourings, perfume, mint, eucalyptus and lavender. These substances are definitely not recommended for babies skin and people with sensitive skin are better off not using them. In fact: everyone should avoid these products.

If you have sensitive skin, it may be that you are allergic to certain cosmetic ingredients. It is therefore important that you find out what you are allergic too. A Dermatologist can test you to find this out. But you can also do a lot yourself, or better still: not do. To start with: don’t use products which are not necessary, and use products with as few ingredients as possible.

And last but not least: the shelf life!
Always check, and definitely with sensitive skin, the best before date of a product.
• Products in jars or pots have the shortest shelf life; you are better off choosing a product which comes in a dispenser.
• Water based products (so where water is listed as the first ingredient) perish more quickly than oil based products.
• Products containing mineral oils generally last longer than products with plant based oils. “Green” products generally have a shorter shelf life. Plant based ingredients perish more quickly and also there are mostly milder and less preservatives used.
• In general, you can say that Moisturizers, foundation and Toners have a maximum life of 12 months after opening. If the product is in a pot or is plant based, for security you should keep for 6 months.

Regards Jetske
(Dr. Jetske Ultee-Research Physician Cosmetic Dermatology)

p.s. For everyone who has posted a message or a sent an e-mail; I will reply soon! Unfortunately with 30,000 visitors per month and all the nice things I’m busy with, it’s not always easy to reply quickly… So please be patient!

For more about  this subject, please also read:
‘Burning Skin Sensation’,
‘Hypo-Allergenic, ~Dermatologically Tested or PH Neutral?’,
‘Skincare Can Also Go Off’,
‘Paraben Free Cosmetics?’ and
‘Rubbish on the Cosmetics Market’.