How to solve dry, sensitive skin issues at any age

May 20, 2015

If your skin has always behaved itself no matter what you subjected it to – harsh climates, ingredients in skin products, smoking, tanning, etc – then suddenly now your skin isn’t quite as it was. Chances are, at some point you may have suffered from redness, itching, flaking and stinging. It can be uncomfortable and unsightly. Sensitive skin can affect 56% of us and increases with age. It has been found that skin becomes, on average, 10% drier each decade after the age of 20. And dryness and sensitivity are often intimately linked. The cells that form your skin’s outermost layer work as a two-way barrier, keeping moisture in and the outside world out. The less moisture your skin retains, the weaker the cellular barrier and the more irritants can be absorbed into the skin. It doesn’t help that, as we get older, we tend to add more – and more powerful – ingredients into our skin care routine. Any one of these products and it’s ingredients may cause irritation – but when used in conjunction they are more likely to cause a skin reaction. However simple and effective changes can be made to your skin care routine to overcome many dry skin problems by introducing little tips and losing old habits can greatly help improve the skin.


  • Look for the word “hypoallergenic” or “Free From” when you are shopping for new cosmetics – it means that the product has been shown to cause fewer allergic reactions. Slightly heavier than moisturisers, Primers fill in the skin’s grooves and creates an even surface on which to apply makeup. And though less is usually more with sensitive skin, primers are an exception – they create an additional protective barrier.
  • Skin-irritating preservatives. Some preservatives that are formaldehyde-based (such as imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea and quaternium-15) can cause skin sensitivity. Another type of preservative called parabens (methylparaben, ethylparaben and propylparaben) are among the most irritating cosmetic preservatives. Look instead for formulations with gentle yet effective preservatives, such as the antioxidants vitamins C and E and citrus seed extract.

Washing & Moisturising

  • A second moisturiser after you shower. The first layer should be applied to damp skin, the next to dry skin a few minutes later for an extra boost. You can use the same product both times, but it should contain humectants (agents that bind water to skin), such as glycerine and hyaluronic acid.
  • Special Treatment at night: studies have shown that women lose more water from their skin at night, so use this time to bolster your skins barrier. A night cream will not only prevent water loss (by trapping moisture) but also add moisture. Look for fragrance-and-colour/dye-free formulation’s.
  • That long, hot shower: a hot shower is a huge source of moisture depletion, a 3-to-10 minute, tepid to warm shower is key to avoiding sensitivity.
  • Soaps with strong cleansing agents: face and body washes that alkalinise skin (i.e. raise pH to 6 or higher) can deplete the skins barrier. Look for a non-irritating cleansers and washes.

The Right UV Protection

  • Zinc and titanium based physical sunblocks that sit on the skin’s surface are best. Chemical sunscreens – such as those containing parsol and benezophenones – can irritate sensitive skin.
Had a reaction?
  • Let your skin calm down for a week after you spot any skin irritation. Then, reintroduce products one at a time by patch testing each on your inner forearm. If or when your skin becomes red, then you’ve found your answer to which one is the trigger – you can either eliminate the product or try a less irritating version.
  • Hand-to-face contact: We all touch our faces more than we realise. Bacteria, fungus, and viruses on fingers can slip through the microscopic cracks in a compromised barrier and irritate your skin. Start paying attention to where your hands are in relation to your face, and you’ll gradually reduce contact.
  • A vigorous rubdown: with a soft towel, gently pat dry your face and body. This approach is less irritating and leaves more water molecules on your skin to help seal in moisture.

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