Caring for the largest organ of the body is no simple task, and when you’re bombarded with ads for various skincare products and techniques, it can be difficult to know where to start, especially when you suffer from sensitive skin. As with many industries, skincare is often best understood from the inside out, so we decided to speak with an expert in the field: a beauty industry veteran who’s recently established her own skincare brand, one that’s safe and effective for everyone, regardless of what stage you’re at in your skincare journey.
When we asked for her advice on failsafe skincare for sensitive skin, Reem Ghanem, founder of Melbourne born skincare brand Nomad Skin, explained that there are four key pillars to follow when you’re caring for sensitive skin.
Be kind to your body
The first key point is something that can be applied to any kind of “care”, it’s about respect. Skin is a living thing: you have to work with it, treat it with kindness, feed it enough fats, proteins, amino acids, vitamins, minerals. At the core, if you want glowing skin you need to eat well and sleep well and drink enough water, that’s more important than any topical skin care intervention.
A lot of diets tend to cause premature aging because people strip out fats which are really important for skin. Similarly, if you’re chronically dehydrated, that will be reflected in your skin.
If you eat well and exercise regularly, your skin will look better, and if you party really hard for two weeks straight you’ll wake up in the morning and notice that your skin isn’t looking so great. Healthy skin comes from being a healthy person in a healthy body, and skincare can help, but it isn’t a solve-all.
Balance the pH
While pH balance is important for everyone, it’s even more essential that people with sensitive skin get the pH balance of their skin right. Sensitive skin is more prone to damage and infection, so needs to be treated with extreme care. pH balance is essentially the acidity of your skin, which usually sits at around 5 or 6 pH (which is slightly acidic). Excessively alkaline or acidic products will disrupt the skin’s pH balance, and like anything in your body, if you’re disrupting the homeostasis, the result won’t be good. If you have sensitive skin, pH imbalance can be particularly irritating, and lots of things can mess with your pH: humidity (because water in the air is more alkaline than skin, which disrupts the homeostasis), sun exposure, and crucially, pH disrupting products.
If you have dry, sensitive skin, your skin is likely too alkaline. Usually that occurs when you use foamy cleaners: harsh, chemical-based products that strip the skin of its nutrients. They use the same mechanism to clean your face that detergents use to clean a surface, they strip oils and grime from your skin but they also strip away your skin’s natural oils, because they can’t differentiate between the two.
If you have oily sensitive skin, your skin is likely too acidic. What usually causes skin to become too acidic is the presence of too much acid in products. Acid based products are often sold as healthy for your skin, but really need to be used with caution. It’s fine to use the acid, but if you’ve got sensitive skin, you don’t want to leave this product on your skin for a long time at all. It’s important too to know that a lot of face wipes contain these acids, so using face wipes to clean your skin without washing your face afterwards is going to wreak havoc with your pH balance.
Over exfoliation is another culprit for damaging the pH levels of skin. Exfoliation is not something that should be done every day, it removes layers of skin and can leave skin far too acidic. For people with sensitive skin, if you’re using an exfoliator you should be using one with fine particles, because it’s easier to be careful and gentle on the skin when the particles are small.
In all of these pH balance issues, using pH balancing products will solve the problem. Using a pH balanced cleanser (like Nomad’s Seaweed + Cucumber Cleanser) is a great first step to correcting skin pH. . There are toners you can use that are specifically designed to correct the pH balance of skin, but the best option is to keep the pH balance of your skin happy to begin with. Ultimately, if you can avoid using products that mess with your skin’s pH in the first place, it will be happier and healthier as a result.
Avoiding harmful, irritating chemicals is an obvious one, which is why the clean beauty movement has seen such a boom in recent years. In terms of sensitising and inflammation causing ingredients, the key ones to avoid are sulphates, fragrances, benzoyl peroxide, alcohols, preservatives and parabens. Nomad products work so well for people with sensitive skin because we research every ingredient extensively to ensure it is,safe as well as effective. We also test our products on Nomads with eczema and rosacea to ensure it’s safe for sensitive skins.
An information deficit exists surrounding the ingredients which are potentially irritating.
It’s always good to check the ingredient list, and the best place to look is at the last half of the list. Legally, manufacturers have to list ingredients in order of concentration, which is why the ingredient at the top is most often water. Usually the irritants tend to sit at the bottom, because they’re only included in small amounts, but if you have sensitive skin, that small amount is enough to cause a problem.
The most commonly found irritant in products marketed for sensitive skin is fragrance. Whether it’s synthetic fragrance, phthalate free fragrance or essential oil based, it’s still likely to cause irritation to sensitive skin. A lot of people with sensitive skin don’t respond well to a lot of natural and organic products because they always contain essential oils.
Although essential oils are natural, they can still cause irritation. Watch out for essential oil derivatives (like geraniol, linalool) that are often used instead of essential oils but are still quite irritating to sensitive skins.
Avoid chemical sunscreen
If you’ve got sensitive skin, you should be incredibly careful about which sunscreens you’re using. Zinc based sunscreens are the best options for sensitive skin (you can read our round-up of Oxybenzone-free sunscreens here).
If this article has inspired you to stock up on (or tell your sensitive skinned friends about) skin-friendly products from Nomad Skin, visit nomadskin.com.au, and you can follow Nomad on Instagram @nomadskin_
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