Anecdotal recommendations are all well and good, but what do the experts advise for dealing with sensitive skin? We asked some leading dermatologists and skin specialists to reveal their number one top tip
There is only one thing that those of us with sensitive skin want. Answers. It's why I became a writer in the first place, having devoured the beauty pages of every magazine to no avail as to how to keep my skin on an even keel (well, that and an insatiable passion for makeup). If they haven't figured it out yet, I thought, maybe I will. And while I am, topic by topic, product by product, solving the various dilemmas that sensitive skin produces, wouldn't it be great to hear simply from the best in the business, the skin experts who know our biggest organ inside and out, exactly what it is we sensitive folk need to know?
I thought so too, which is why I've stalked exactly those people - leading dermatologists, facialists, holistic therapists and skincare geniuses to find out their number one top tip for those with sensitive skin. If you read nothing else to put your questions to bed, read this...
Dr Sam Bunting
"It would have to be to simplify their skincare - most particularly when it comes to cleansing. The first thing I do with someone who is 'reactive' is to recommend a gentle, barrier-supporting cleanser and banish anything fragranced, foaming or with accessories (brushes, cloths etc). My favourites are Avene Tolerance Extreme , £14.50 and La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermo-Cleanser , £12.50."
"If your skin is angry, do a digestion check. Many health professionals consider the gut as the root of all health, affecting everything from immunity through to skin. Try keeping a food diary for two weeks and adding a column for skin health to see if you can identify any triggers. It may well be that you are sensitive topically only, but you may notice irritations coincide with a food or drink you are consuming. A happy digestive system has many benefits for overall health, making your friends green with envy over your clear, calm skin!"
"I'm a huge believer in the power of proper cleansing; so many skin problems stem from using the wrong cleansing product. Sensitive skin needs soothing and protecting at every stage of your regime - so read your ingredients lists and avoid anything with detergents, alcohol or other skin-stripping irritants."
Dr Stefanie Williams
Dermatologist and Medical Director of European Dermatology London
"My number one tip is to see a dermatologist to get your “sensitive” skin properly diagnosed first. There are actually different types of ‘sensitive’ skin (most people don’t know this and skincare sales assistants almost always get it wrong!), and treatment for each is very different indeed. For example, if you suffer with sensitive skin because you have a tendency for eczema, then you should use lipid-rich emollients. However, if you have sensitive skin because of a tendency for rosacea, then it’s the opposite (avoid lipid-rich emollients!). So it’s absolutely crucial to find out more about your skin first."
Dr Anita Sturnham
"I always say to my patients with sensitive and dry skin to go back to basics, and make sure that their daily skin care regimen is gentle and caring for their skin. Use non foaming cleansers as these can strip the skin of its important oils and leave it feeling dry and compromised; also, choose fragrance free products. Fragrances are used to make beauty care products more appealing for the consumer, however they can often accentuate allergic reactions for people who have sensitive or acne prone skin. This fact is relatively well known and not surprising considering the fact that over two hundred substances can be added in order to create a synthetic fragrance.
"I also recommend using paraben free products and ones labelled non comedogenic, as these won't clog your pores."
"I use Barefaced Beauty Natural Serum , £19, to keep my facial eczema at bay, because it contains nourishing kiwi seed, rose hip and vitamin A extracts which work well together to calm reactions by naturally softening, balancing, rejuvenating and counteracting any inflammation. It’s also 100% natural, reducing risk of flare ups, and calms me down with its woody, rosy scent."
Founder of Murad skincare
“Skincare is systemic, not local; thus, it cannot only be managed topically, but must be cared for internally also. Firstly, those with sensitive skin typically have thin skin which allows it to be more susceptible to inflammatory processes, so it’s important to minimise the damage to the barrier function of the skin. To do this, I recommend loading up on antioxidants and eating your water to ensure proper hydration. Yes, that’s right – eat your water! It’s important to keep skin hydrated from the inside out; load up on lots of anti-oxidant-rich raw fruits and veggies like cucumbers and pomegranates, which will release this hydration slowly throughout the course of the day. Foods containing amino acids like pumpkin seeds help promote healthy collagen production, good fats like walnuts and olive oil to help rebuild cell membranes and reduce dry, flaky skin, as well as anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories; are all great for minimising the effects of redness and sensitive skin. Carrots, sweet potatoes and broccoli are packed with anti-oxidants that help protect against free radical damage and will also help to hydrate the skin internally and protect cells from environmental damage which can further irritate sensitive skin.”
Dr Terry Loong
"My number one advice for those with sensitive skin is to find out why your skin is sensitive in the first place.
Could it be:-
1. Food intolerance?
2. Product intolerance?
3. Poor immune system either due to gut problems, environmental toxicity or excessive stress?
The most effective way to test what your sensitive skin could be due to is doing a functional test. Functional tests look into how your body and different systems function. You can do:-
1. Food Allergy test from Invivo Clinical (if you're allergic/intolerant to a specific food and this food substance is in your skin products, your skin will react).
2. Adrenal Stress Profile test from Genova Diagnostics to look at your body's stress response. High cortisol (stress hormone) is linked with eczema, psoriasis and reactive skin.
3. Skin sensitivity test which you can do with your GP.
4. Organic Acid Test from Invivo Clinical to see what vitamins and minerals you are lacking, if you have leaky gut syndrome or if you have candida, parasites in your gut. You need sufficient vitamins and minerals to repair your skin so if you are lacking, your skin will be sensitive and fragile."
Struggling with your sensitive skin? Download my Beginner's Guide to Sensitive Skin now for 25 pages of expert advice, skin care routines, product recommendations and more
What's your tried and tested top tip for sensitive skin ? Let me know in the comments!