Sensitive skin comes with its own set of rules. Follow them to keep it happy! Photo credit: Juta/Shutterstock
If your skin reacts to just about everything (technically speaking, that means environmental, topical and internal factors) while your best friend’s skin stays sane, then you probably have sensitive skin.
How can you be sure? Well, if your skin breaks out into a rash, stings, burns, itches or feels just plain weird when there’s a bit of wind, sun, cold weather, or any change in temperature, or when you try any new cosmetics or creams, then you have sensitive skin. You could also be one of those unlucky people whose skin shows its irritation whenever they are under stress or have eaten spicy food.
If you think you have sensitive skin, then we’re very sorry for you, and to make your life easier, here are 10 precautions you need to take.
1. Check What’s In It
Choose skincare products that are fragrance-free and contain low sensitivity or no preservatives. Read the labels carefully to check that none of the products have alcohol, harsh exfoliants or irritating surface active agents in them.
2. Try It First
Perform a patch test before using a new skincare product. The test should be done 24 to 48 hours before usage. If you feel redness, burning or itchiness it means your skin is sensitive to that particular product and it shouldn’t be used.
3. Keep It Clean
Follow a proper skincare regimen every day to keep skin woes at bay. Sensitive skin is vulnerable to environmental factors so cleansing it becomes even more necessary. Keep the pores and skin free from dirt and sweat by cleansing it with a gentle cleanser twice a day.
4. Hydrate, Darling
Keep your skin hydrated from inside out. Drink 8-10 glasses of water daily irrespective of the season. And for outside hydration, use a moisturiser twice a day to protect your skin from environmental stressors.
5. Scrub, But Softly
Exfoliating the skin once a week is essential for removing dead skin cells. Use peel-off masks instead of harsh scrubs as peels exfoliate the skin without causing irritation.
6. Sun Isn’t Fun
Sun protection is not an option for you, it’s IMPERATIVE. Use an umbrella, scarf and sunscreens like zinc oxide if planning to stay in the sun for hours. A sunscreen with SPF 15 to 20 is fine for everyday use but if you are going to a beach, opt for one with SPF 50. Change your sunscreen texture as per the weather; in summer, use spray-on sunscreen while in winter, use a cream-based one. Avoid sunscreens containing cinnamates.
7. Choose Cosmetics With Care
Cosmetics should be picked up wisely – they can give you allergies and breakouts, after all. Avoid waterproof mascaras or liquid liners as they require harsh cleansers for removal. Opt for hypoallergenic, fragrance-free makeup. Change your makeup products every season: use water-based products in summer and oil-based products in winter.
Eat a balanced diet and avoid spicy food. Spicy food is rich in capsaicin, which increases problems for sensitive skin. Vasodilators like caffeine and tannins also contribute to sensitivity. Either avoid them or add milk to neutralize their effect.
9. Hot Isn’t Cool
Avoid factors like hot baths, saunas, hammams, alcohol and sudden changes in temperature – these will aggravate itchiness or allergic reactions.
10. Room Temperature is Best
Avoid sitting for long in air-conditioned or heated atmosphere. Sensitive skin is the worst sufferer in such conditions; it turns tight and can also become itchy. In air controlled atmosphere like long-haul flights, keep moisturising your skin and use thermal water sprays to soothe the skin.
Dr Shehla Agarwal is the director and consultant dermatologist of Mehak - The Derma and Surgery Clinic, New Delhi. She has over 15 years of experience in dealing with unruly skin and hair.