Sensitive Skin: Types, Causes and What You Can Do


Sensitive skin is one of the skin complaints commonly reported by women. Hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle and menopause are among the reasons for triggering sensitive skin. Some causes are self-inflicted, caused by years of bad skincare choices. What skincare ingredients should someone with sensitive skin stay away from?


How Can You Tell If You Have Sensitive Skin?

According to skin professionals, sensitive skin is more reactive than usual and can be easily irritated by application of skincare products, fabrics, and even the weather.


Types of Sensitive Skin

There are generally four types of sensitive skin


Naturally Sensitive Skin
This type of sensitive skin is genetic. True sensitive skin often displays other skin conditions like psoriasis, rosacea, eczema, and is more prone to contact dermatitis.


Sensitized Skin
This kind of skin reacts easily to topical products, your skin can turn red and inflamed when it comes into contact with topical products. While papules may not necessarily form, your skin can be warm to the touch. Sensitized skin is often due to many years of poor skincare and skin treatment choices, causing the skin barrier to be compromised and thinned. Nerve endings in the top layer of the skin become easily irritated as part of a natural defence reaction.


Thin, Ageing Skin
As you age, your skin naturally becomes thinner and becomes more reactive.

Avoid the Common Causes of Sensitive Skin

You cannot choose your genetics, neither can you prevent ageing. However, you can take steps to avoid having sensitized skin.


Limit the Use of Chemical Peels
Chemical peels such as alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxyl acids (BHAs) are good exfoliants, however, they should not be used every day. Neither should you be using products containing such ingredients daily for an extended period. When you choose to include chemical exfoliants, we recommend it to be used once a week if you have normal, healthy skin. If your serums contain AHAs or BHAs such as bSoul Renew Serum, we recommend you to use them localised on the pigmentation spots or photo-aged skin, for two months and take a break from these serums for a month.


Avoid Harsh Cleansers
Choosing the inappropriate cleanser and body wash for your skin is often the culprit for sensitized skin. Long term use of harsh cleansing products will lead to a compromised skin barrier, thinner skin, and more reactive skin. Stay away from sodium laureth sulfate (SLEs), soap bars and choose milder surfactants instead. We recommend you to use non-foaming cleansers such as bSoul Milk Cleanser, IOMA Moisturising Cleansing Milk, and IOMA Gentle Cleansing Cream. If you must use a foaming cleanser, we suggest you alternate it with a gentler, non-foaming one, so as to avoid causing too much damage to the skin barrier in the long term. IOMA Mild Toner Foam is one of the more gentle cleansing foams, containing coconut extract to protect the hydrolipid film.


Do Not Overuse Exfoliating Tools
Exfoliating tools such as exfoliating brushes, ultrasonic scrappers and masks that promise to peel blackheads off can cause more damage than good. Your skin is more than capable to remove impurities on its own, if you use the right products in the right way. These exfoliating tools tend to remove the healthy layer of dead skin cells necessary to keep our skin barrier functions in order along with some skin impurities. When used often and over a period of time, your skin barrier weakens and you will end up having sensitized skin.


Beware of Poorly Advised Facials
In their pursuit of fairer, brighter complexions, Asians tend to overlook the ingredients used in their facial treatments. Facial spas are pressured to deliver a ‘whiter’ look for their clients and tend to rely on harsh ingredients such as strong chemical peels to create the ‘immediate’ results. Some choose procedures that use equipment to deliver the results, without properly advising their clients on the long term consequences and short term benefits.


What to Do If You Have Sensitized or Sensitive Skin?

The above-mentioned practices to prevent sensitized skin apply to sensitive skin as well.


While there is a lot of talk about not using products with fragrance, there are many products that are formulated with approved fragrances that do not irritate. You do not have to limit yourself to fragrant-less choices. However, we recommend you to do a patch test to determine if your skin can use the products or not.


Don’t Mix and Match Skincare Brands
Not mixing will limit the occurrences of products not being compatible with each other. Furthermore, should you suffer a poor response to the skincare products, your skincare professional and yourself can identify the triggers more easily if you stick to a single brand.


Include Oral Skincare to Your Routine
By including oral skincare supplements that target your skin concerns from the inside out, you reduce the number of products and ingredients that can potentially irritate your skin. BioCode Brightening Beverages contain a wide variety of antioxidants to target pigmentation and sensitive skin. IOMA Miracle Capsules are great for firming the skin and reducing fine lines.


Good Practices to Prevent Sensitized Skin

All types of skin, including sensitive skin and sensitized skin, should always look for products that maintain and nourish your skin barrier. Gentle cleansers to maintain the integrity of the skin barrier day in day out. Moisturisers that seal in moisture. Essential fatty acids to replenish the lipids lost during the day, this is especially important for those with ageing or menopausal skin. bSoul Hydra Essential FA is one of the best facial oils in its category.