Everything you need to know about sensitive skin

MiNDFOOD’s Style and Beauty Editor, Nicole Saunders, chats to Tracy May-Harriott, global director of education for Elizabeth Arden Pro, about what sensitive skin is, what to do if you suffer from it and how to adjust your beauty routine accordingly. 

We’re seeing a lot of new launches or reformulated ranges that have been created for sensitive skin. Why is that? Is sensitive skin on the rise?

Sensitive skin claims from clients have risen to 25% from just 15% in 2009, showing there is a bigger ‘desire’ from customers for products suitable for sensitivity issues. This could be due to perception or many other environmental, over-use, more awareness issues, but even so – the demand has increased significantly in recent years.

If you think you have sensitive skin, what’s the first thing you should do where your skincare regimen is concerned?

See a professional skin specialist. Always! They will be able to walk you through some elimination steps, analyse products used, frequency etc. Treatments experienced and help you adapt your regular routine in ways you may not have considered. They will also factor in lifestyle issues, environment and maybe foods, medication etc that might all be leading to the skin condition.

What causes sensitive skin?

So many things can trigger it. The most common causes include: over-use of products or treatments, harsh products, environment, sun damage, medication, hormones, foods and also stress and the never-ending “work/life balancing act” we all have these days!

Is sensitive skin something you’re born with or something you can develop later in life?

No, we are generally not born with it. In fact sensitivity is a ‘condition’ of your skin, not a skin type. So we can all go through periods of sensitivity at any time, depending on many factors like we just listed. It can come and go. You need to always treat it correctly and seriously though. Listen to your skin – it tells you!

If you have sensitivity you should always deal with that first – drop other aspects of your routine and strengthen your skin of its sensitivity. Your skin condition is simply a mirror image of whats going on inside or around you, so you should treat it with respect and act upon any areas of sensitivity. The great thing is though as it is a skin ‘condition’, you can get reduce the sensitivity and watch out for those triggers to maintain this condition in the future.

Are there commonly used irritants in our beauty routines that we should be avoiding?

Generally speaking many professional skincare brands are very sophisticated these days. It is not always as simple as ‘avoiding’ irritants. Sometimes people get obsessed with a certain ingredient and it is sometimes how an ingredient is used, the pH of the product and the ‘recipe’ of a product that can be a problem. But as a rule I would avoid harsh perfume products, over-use of alcohol and soap-based ingredients in cleansers.

Why does sensitive skin need a different approach?

Sensitive skin has tendency to flare up, feel hot and if not treated correctly will only always get worse. So it makes sense to use products specifically designed for sensitive skin. At the same time, you do need to help strengthen a sensitive skin, in order to reduce the condition. We use an approach that is based around strength and protection for the skin, not just ‘calming’. So you still need well-made, comprehensive products in order to make a difference in the strength of the skin. Don’t just treat it delicately as sometimes you will wait a long time to get it under control.

Can you talk about the key ingredients in the Elizabeth Arden Pro Sensitive Skin range? Do you have a favourite product?

I love the Sensitive Skin Basic Cleanser. I use it in the evening as my 1st cleanse to remove my ‘day’ and make up from my skin. It’s a wonderful, rich yet calming cleanser, non-soap base, and gentle. I will then follow with one of our other cleansers as my 2nd cleanse. I then love all the range, I like to make use of the Sensitive Skin Peel Pads between my salon treatments and I think the Sensitive Skin SOS Complex is a dream. If I have had a stressful day, if I have been at the computer all day, or outside – anything that makes my celtic skin feel ‘angry’ then the Sensitive Skin SOS Complex is perfect – instantly calms and soothes and can also be layered as an evening masque.
In the brand we make use of a beautiful ‘skin soothing complex’ made up of allantoin, chamomile and ginger-root to work on inflammation. We also have many antioxidants, a real skin strengthening system using the unique Botanical Complex™ and Arazine™ and mimicking antioxidants of Co Q10 and Superoxide Dismutase.


How to prep your beauty routine for the season ahead

1. Out with the old

There’s no time like spring to say goodbye to skincare and make-up that have been busy gathering dust in the back of your beauty cabinet. “We’ve all at some point forgotten about certain products and let them slip to the back of the cabinet,” admits Tracey Beeby, global skin educator for Ultraceuticals. But reaching for cleansers, moisturisers and serums that have been lurking around for too long comes with dangers such as undesirable skin responses says Beeby. “Sunscreens are often a danger as these may lose efficacy and results in skin burning.” An active treatment on the other hand, might become totally inactive. “No result will be visible or alternatively an allergy-like skin response may be the outcome.”

Bobbi Brown New Zealand training manager Olivia Wild says parting with impulsive make-up buys that have only been used a handful of times are often the hardest to part with. “Be okay about gifting to a friend who would really love it and do not feeling guilty about throwing it out,” she says. As for the item we need to update every three months, Wild your lashes will thank you for investing in a new mascara more frequently. Bin anything that’s lurking in your beauty cabinet or make-up bag that smells off, or has changed colour or texture. “Trust me, you will feel so much better about your beauty routine when everything is organised and up to date,” says Wild.

2. Ask an expert

If in doubt when it comes to changing your skincare for the season ahead, Beeby suggests turning to your skincare professional for advice. She goes onto explain that it’s important to be aware of other seasonal changes that might impact on your skin. “Be mindful that it’s best to ensure your skin barrier is healthy during this time as some of us can experience heightened allergy symptoms due to the different pollens in the air,” she says. But your routine doesn’t need to be overly complicated to be effective: “Ensure you have the basics right: cleansers, moisturisers, sunscreens as well as antioxidant protection are the staple necessities during changes of seasons,” Beeby says.

3. Lighten up

Chilly winter weather and low humidity over the cooler months can leave skin parched and in need of richer moisturisers. But as the weather warms up and moisture returns to the air, it’s a good time to rethink your day-to-day routine and switch it to suit for the season. Wild suggests adjusting skincare to incorporate lightweight textures and formulas, and says investing in a good SPF for sun protection is essential. Don’t forget about your foundation either: “It is a great time to slightly adjust your foundation colour to a warmers shade and incorporate a bronzer to help through the seasonal transition,” says Wild.

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