5 Essential Skincare Tips For Sensitive Skin

Having sensitive skin means that your skin will let you know immediately if there is something in your diet, lifestyle, or skin care regimen that is not right for you. Although we often think of sensitive skin as problematic, we should stop and realize that “sensitive” skin is working exactly as it should by letting us know that something is wrong. It is not a sign that something is wrong with you, it is, instead, a sign that something is wrong with the choices you are making.  

Characteristics of Sensitive Skin:

  • Develops rashes
  • Blushes easily
  • Overacts to extreme temperatures
  • Sunburns quickly
  • Rosacea
  • Thread veins (couperose skin)
  • Tends to be normal-to-dry or very dry

Tip #1:

What To Avoid Using:

  • Alcohol-based toners
  • Gritty facial scrubs
  • Herbal Steams
  • Drying clay masks
  • Stimulating herbs
  • Alpha hydroxy and glycolic acids
  • Synthetic fragrance
  • Artificial preservatives
  • Extremes of heat or cold
  • Terry washcloths and coarse sponges
  • Tanning

Tip #2:

Because sensitive skin often tends to be dry, it is important to use a gentle cleanser, free of harsh surfactants, which are often found in commercial cleansers.

1) An excellent choice for sensitive skin is an oil-based cleanser, which will gently loosen debris on the skin’s surface. Here are 3 DIY options for making your own cleanser:

Oil Based Cleanser:

A few drops of lavender, chamomile, or rose geranium essential oil, added to a carrier oil, such as coconut, apricot kernel, sunflower, sweet almond, or extra virgin olive oil, makes a gentle and efficient cleansing or pre-cleansing oil.
  • Lavender essential oil is antibacterial and soothing.
  • Chamomile essential oil is calming and anti-inflammatory.
  • Rose geranium essential oil is balancing
2) If a soap-based cleanser is preferred, a Castile-based cleanser can be used.  A Castile-based cleanser is a safe alternative to a soap based cleanser as it does not contain harsh surfactants that strip the skin of its natural oils. It is best for normal, normal-oily, and oily skin with sensitivities to surfactants and other chemicals, including synthetic preservatives that can be found in many commercial washes or cleansers. Although it can be used for dry skin if aloe and/or vegetable glycerin are added.

Castile Cleanser:

  • ½ cup of pure liquid Castile soap
  • ½ cup distilled water, flower water, or hydrosol.
  • For extra moisturizing properties add 1-2 tablespoons vegetable glycerin.
  • For moisturizing and pH-balancing properties add 1-2 tablespoons aloe vera gel or juice.
  • A few drops of chamomile, lavender, or rose geranium essential oil can also be added depending on your skin's specific needs.
3) Many people prefer a cream cleanser, which is also referred to as a cold cream. This is good for dry and dry to normal skin, although, some people may be sensitive to the sodium borate, which is a naturally occurring chemical compound. This gives the cream its cleansing properties. (In the below recipe it is used in minimal amounts)

Simple Cleansing Cream:

  • ½ cup sweet almond oil
  • 5 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons beeswax
  • ¼ teaspoon borax
Directions:
  1. Place wax and oil in the top of a double boiler.
  2. Set on low heat and often stir until the wax is melted and blended with the oil.
  3. Remove from heat.
  4. Pour water into a small pot and warm over low heat.
  5. Add borax.
  6. Stir to blend.
  7. Once the borax is dissolved in the water, add it slowly to the oil and wax mixture, constantly stirring until thickened.
  8. Place in a dark glass jar.
  9. Do not cap until the cream is completely cooled.

Tip #3:

Often people think that they have dry skin, when what they are actually feeling is a buildup of dead skin cells on the skin's surface. If there is a buildup of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, the moisturizer will not be able to penetrate the pores properly. Moisturizing dead skin cells will do no good whatsoever. They must be removed. This can be remedied by using a gentle scrub once a week. It is to be used after cleansing, and before toning, to remove any build-up of dead skin cells that may cling to the surface of the skin.

The best ingredients to use for a gentle exfoliating scrub include:

  • Finely ground oatmeal
  • Almond meal
  • Cornmeal
  • White clay
  • Ground lavender buds, chamomile flowers, or rose petals
  • Milk powder
Directions:
  1. Mix any one, or a combination of the dry ingredients together.
  2. Place mixture in an airtight container.
  3. Use 1 Tablespoon of mixture per application.
  4. Add enough water to make a paste.
  5. Allow setting for one minute.
  6. Apply to skin.
  7. Massage into skin in a circular motion.
  8. Do not apply pressure.
  9. Rinse well with tepid water.
When adding milk powder, use only 1 Tablespoon to every 8 Tablespoons of the base mixture. For example:
  • 4 Tablespoons ground oatmeal
  • 3 Tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1 Tablespoon ground lavender buds
  • 1 Tablespoon powdered milk
Milk contains lactic acid, which helps to dissolve dead skin cells and soften the skin.

Never over-exfoliate sensitive skin as it can cause damage to the skin’s surface.

Exfoliating one time per week should be sufficient for those with dry or sensitive skin.

Tip #4:

Although many, if not most, people skip this step, toning is a very important part of your skin care regimen. A good, non-drying toner will balance the skin’s pH, lessen the appearance of pores, counteract inflammation, and help to retain a healthy moisture barrier. Do not use toners that contain alcohol.

The best toners for sensitive skin are:
  • pure witch hazel extract
  • flower water
  • hydrosol
  • brewed and cooled green tea
  • Infusion of Calendula (marigold) flowers
  • a combination of any of the above
All of these ingredients can be cut by adding equal parts distilled water. Place the mixture in a glass bottle with a spray top and spritz onto skin after cleansing. While the skin is still slightly damp, apply a moisturizer. The toner will act as a vehicle to pull the moisturizer into your skin without leaving an oily residue.
There are two types of dehydration of the skin, lack of moisture from not enough water intake, and lack of moisture from insufficient oil (sebum) production. Toning is just as important to building the skin's moisture barrier as moisturizing is because the skin needs both. Toning builds the skin's moisture barrier and pulls the moisturizer deep into the skin so that it does not just lay on the surface of the skin. Many people worry about using oil on their skin because they are afraid that it will make their skin appear and feel greasy and possibly cause blocked pores. This is why people like to use moisturizing creams. The truth is, a cream moisturizer is simply an emulsified oil and water blend. An emulsifier combines the oil and water mixture in order to create a cream, much like using flour to blend pan drippings, broth, and water to make a gravy. I find that it is always much more simple to use ingredients that are close to the source. Once water is introduced, the product becomes less stable. It limits the shelf life of the product. This is why synthetic preservatives are used in commercial products. The closer your skin care products are to their original source, the better they are for you.

Tip #5:

Moisturizing sensitive skin is quite easy. People with sensitive skin can get away with just the basics. The more ingredients in sensitive skin care products, the more likely there will be adverse reactions. Where sensitive skin is concerned, it is best to keep it simple.

4 Good moisturizers include:
  • Coconut oil – antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral; helps to repair broken capillaries.
  • Apricot kernel oil – antioxidant; inhibits cell damage by free radicals in the body caused by UV rays, smoke, chemicals, and the environment.
  • Sunflower oil – contains beta-carotene (avoid beta-carotene if allergic to beta-carotene, on cholesterol lowering meds, or if you smoke chemically treated tobacco) an antioxidant; helps to neutralize free radicals that can penetrate and lead to sunburn, sun damage, and cancer; prevents premature signs of aging.
  • Shea butter – Restores skin’s elasticity; has antioxidant properties.
Only small amounts are needed. These oils can be further customized by using in combination or by adding essential oils specific to your skin’s needs.

When should you cleanse, tone & moisturize?

Sensitive skin often becomes reddened just from cleansing. If this is the case, cleanse, tone, and moisturize at night, before bed. In the morning, splash your face with tepid water, pat dry, and apply toner and a light moisturizer. Wait 3-5 minutes after moisturizing before applying makeup in order to give the moisturizer time to penetrate the skin. If not, it is fine to cleanse, tone and moisturize every morning and evening, and to use a gentle facial scrub once a week.

Note: It is important to avoid overexposure to the sun and extremes in temperature. Always use tepid water to wash, bathe or shower. (Tepid water is a mixture of two parts cold water to one part boiling water- i.e., Luke Warm) Please also try to avoid processed foods, any consumables that have been chemically treated, and personal care products and cosmetics that contain known toxins. And make it your mission to learn more about what is in your products, and how to make better choices.  

Article Graciously Contributed By:
Lissa Bell
Independent Licensed Managing Esthetician Holistic Skin Care Practitioner