Navigating a market flooded with skincare products promising miraculous transformations can be especially challenging for those with hypersensitive skin. Sensitivity is not just a temporary inconvenience; it is a potentially serious skin condition that demands attention, care, and understanding. In this comprehensive guide, we will cover scientific insights and practical tips to help you nurture your delicate shield.
UNDERSTANDING SENSITIVE AND HYPERSENSITIVE SKIN
A review of a number of international studies shows that on average 50-60% of the population report having sensitive skin. These results can vary between populations and perceptions of sensitivity in different parts of the body. Despite these variations, sensitive skin is overall the most commonly reported skin condition. The severity of how skin reacts to external or internal stressors defines whether a person has “just” sensitive, or hypersensitive skin:
- Sensitive Skin: Sensitive skin refers to a skin type that reacts to external factors –skincare products, weather conditions, environmental or even psychological triggers – more often, or more severely, than what is expected. This is why sensitive skin is also often referred to reactive skin. People with sensitive skin may experience occasional redness, irritation, warmth, or discomfort, but these reactions are typically temporary.
- HyperSensitive Skin: Hypersensitive skin takes sensitivity to a heightened level. Individuals with hypersensitive skin may experience more intense and immediate reactions to stimuli that wouldn't typically affect others. This heightened reactivity often indicates a compromised skin barrier, making the skin more susceptible to irritants and/or allergens. Symptoms can include persistent redness, itching, burning sensations, or even allergic reactions including atopic dermatitis (eczema), allergic contact dermatitis (rash where allergen touched skin) or urticaria (hives) or angioedema (swelling).
It's important to note that skin sensitivity is often defined in subjective manner, and what one person considers sensitive might be perceived differently by another. Dermatologists may use more specific terms to describe medical skin conditions (such as dermatitis or eczema named above) which are oftentimes linked to sensitive skin but require medical treatment. Therefore, it’s important to always consult with a dermatologist for a personalized skin assessment and recommendations based on your specific skin concerns and symptoms.
PROCEED WITH CAUTION: CLEANSING HYPERSENSITIVE SKIN
The foundation of any skincare routine is cleansing, and for hypersensitive skin, this step requires extra consideration. When dealing with hypersensitive skin, opt for a gentle cleanser without sulfates, fragrances and other harsh ingredients that can strip the skin of its natural oils and disrupt the protective barrier.
TIPS: Always use lukewarm (or even cool) water and avoid scrubbing your face. Pat your skin dry instead of rubbing to minimize irritation. If you skin is both hypersensitive and dry, consider washing the face only in the evenings and letting it rest in the morning.
PRODUCT RECOMMENDATION: NUORI's Protect+ Cleansing Milk is not just a gentle cleanser but also a nourishing formula that starts caring for sensitive skin already in the cleansing phase. Free from sulfates, harsh detergents and now also fragrance, it cleanses without stripping the skin of its natural oils. The formula contains aloe vera and chamomile flower that have soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as bioactivated lipids from sustainable shea butter that alleviate dryness and soothe skin.
A BARRIER-BALANCING ACT: MOISTURIZING HYPERSENSITIVE SKIN
Nourishing hypersensitive skin requires a delicate balance between hydration, skin barrier enforcement and avoiding potentially irritating ingredients. Look for fragrance-free creams that are lightweight enough to let the skin breathe (without mineral oils) yet intensely hydrating and nourishing. Steer clear of any creams that contain vitamin A derivatives (retinols or retinoids), as these are potentially very irritating, inflammatory triggers for hypersensitive skin.
TIP: Always apply the facial cream while your skin is still slightly damp to lock in moisture.
PRODUCT RECOMMENDATION: NUORI's Protect+ Facial Cream is an all-natural, and now also fragrance-free formula with a blend of soothing botanicals and hydrating compounds to provide lasting moisture, comfort & barrier protection.
Ingredients to look for in a moisturizer for sensitive or hypersensitive skin:
- Chamomilla Recutita (Chamomile) Flower Extract: the primary component in the chamomile extract, bisabolol, has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and skin soothing benefits, helping to improve the appearance of skin by combating irritation and restoring suppleness
- Bioactivated lipids from sustainable shea butter: With protecting, soothing and restoring properties, these lipids significantly decrease collagen breakdown and effectively reduce the effects of environmental stressors.
- Tocopherol (Vitamin E): a sublime moisturizer, and anti-inflammatory agent
INSTANT RELIEF: SERUMS AND HYPERSENSITIVE SKIN
Serums often contain high concentrations of active ingredients, which may irritate sensitive skin types and cause more problems than benefits. Luckily, there are serums out there that have been specifically formulated with sensitive and hypersensitive skin in mind. Look for serums whose main function is to offer instant relief and alleviate dryness, irritation and redness.
TIPS: Incorporate the serum into your evening routine for optimal repair and rejuvenation. For extra soothing effect, store serum in fridge prior to application.
PRODUCT RECOMMENDATION: NUORI's Vital Repair Serum offers a targeted approach to addressing hypersensitive skin concerns. It is a fragrance-free, lightweight, intensely hydrating serum that instantly calms and re-hydrates skin.
Ingredients to look for in a serum for sensitive or hypersensitive skin:
- Licorice root (dipotassium glycyrrhizate) extract: with soothing anti-inflammatory properties, the roots of the licorice plant combat irritation and combats oxidative stress.
- Aloe vera leaf juice: an excellent skin soothing and moisturizing agent that contains a high concentration of naturally occurring vitamins A, B, C, and E, aloe vera supplies skin with potent does of antioxidants, protecting the skin from damaging free radicals.
- Natural Hyaluronic Acid (Sodium Hyaluronate): despite its name, Hyaluronic Acid is not a harsh “acid”, but a natural compound found in skin that serves as an inner moisturizing agent. The form of hyaluronic acid used in NUORI products is able to penetrate deeper into the skin, thus positively influencing cell turnover and strengthening. the skin’s barrier function.
- Plant-based, bio-fermented sorbitol (Biosaccharide Gum-1): has calming and anti-irritant properties, and the soothing action is enhanced by the ingredient’s ability to stimulate epidermal molecules involved in reducing inflammatory responses.
EXFOLIATING HYPERSENSITIVE SKIN: A BAD IDEA?
Exfoliation is considered a beneficial step in skincare routines, but for those with hypersensitive skin, it should be approached with caution. Physical exfoliating products like scrubs and polishers contain granules that are generally too irritating for those with hypersensitive skin. The granules can remove too much of the top layer of skin and even cause micro-tears in skin that has a compromised barrier function.
Exfoliating toners, which chemically slough off dead skin cells, can also be very irritating for all degrees of sensitive skin. Traditionally these toners contain exfoliating acids like glycolic acid (GA) and lactic acid (LA), which require either high concentrations, or very low pH value to be active. The immediate results can be exciting, but prolonged use of strong acid toners with very low pH values disrupt the skin’s own pH level and can result in a weakened barrier, and a thinner and dehydrated skin that is prone to inflammation.
The solution is to look for an exfoliating toner that contains a combination of only well-tolerated, gentler acids such a lactobionic acid as well as hydrating ingredients.
TIPS: Patch test an exfoliating toner by applying a little on a small area of skin (for example behind the ear) and wait for 24 hours to see if any irritation occurs. Limit exfoliation to 1-2 times per week to avoid over-stripping skin.
PRODUCT RECOMMENDATION: NUORI's Gentle Glow Tonic is a mild exfoliant that uses well-tolerated natural acids to promote cell turnover without causing irritation. In the formula glycolic and lactic acids have been replaced with glow-boosting lactobionic acid and an innovative complex of highly tolerated fruit extracts with naturally occurring alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) content.
Ingredients to look for in an exfoliating toner for sensitive or hypersensitive skin:
- Lactobionic acid: This polyhydroxy acid (PHA) acts the same way as the better-known alpha and beta hydroxy acids (AHAs & BHAs) as it helps remove dead skin cells as well as improve overall skin texture and tone. Lactobionic acid is however less irritating and acts also as a moisturizer, making it suitable for all skin types, even sensitive skin.
- Apple (pyrus malus) fruit extract: apple fruit water has pH that is closer to skin’s own pH balance than regular water, thereby enhancing the moisturizing and soothing properties.It also stimulates the growth of keratin in the outer layers of the skin, thereby strengthening the skin’s ability to retain moisture and protect it from outside damage.
- Fermented (lactobacillus ferment) filtrates of plant extracts derived from for example pumpkin, radish root or pomegranate. These are gently exfoliating ingredients that are generally much better tolerated than stronger AHAs and BHAs.
INGREDIENTS TO AVOID WITH HYPERSENSITIVE SKIN
We cannot stress enough how crucial it is to be mindful of the ingredients in your skincare products when dealing with hypersensitive skin.
- Alcohol: evaporative solvent alcohols like denatured alcohol, ethanol, and isopropyl alcohol (also known as simple alcohols) all have a dehydrating effect to the skin and can fragilize sensitive skin. These should not be confused with natural fatty alcohols, like cetyl, stearyl, and cetearyl alcohol, which are thickeners, emulsifiers and humectants and can be very beneficial in skincare formulations.
- Fragrances: Synthetic fragrances can be a major irritant for sensitive skin, but also natural fragrances can cause issues for those with hypersensitive skin. So opting for fragrance-free formulas is your safest bet.
- Synthetic additives and preservatives: synthetic additives like colorants, or preservatives like parabens, formaldehyde-releasers, and isothiazolinones, including methylisothiazolinone may all may cause skin irritations and contact dermatitis in persons with sensitive skin.
- Sulfates: synthetic sulfate-based compounds such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium lauryl ethyl sulfate (SLES) are often added to foaming personal care products such as soap, face wash, and shampoo. These ingredients not only risk stripping skin and scalp of its natural protective oils but can also cause skin irritation and allergic reactions.
- Strong acids: Limit the amount and frequency of suing of strong acids like glycolic and salicylic acid, as they may be too harsh for hypersensitive skin types.
Caring for hypersensitive skin is a meticulous yet rewarding process. By understanding the science behind sensitivity and adopting a tailored skincare routine, you can empower your skin to thrive. Remember, the key lies in choosing high quality, clean products, consistent use, and a gentle touch.