Everything You Need to Save Your Sensitive Skin This Winter
With the ravages of winter, sensitive skin needs all the help it can get.
In a world where gluten avoidance is in fashion and everyone, it seems, has a food intolerance, it’s easy to dismiss the 70 per cent of Canadians who claim to have sensitive skin, according to a recent study.
But for women, during menopause, our skin can become increasingly more sensitive – turning an angry, inflamed red at the touch of scented cream or facial scrub. What is happening?
As we age, “oil glands produce less lipids, and our skin doesn’t retain natural moisture,” explains Vancouver-based dermatologist Dr. Jason Rivers. Our skin’s hydrolipid film (an oil and water mix) that protects against germs diminishes, “the skin dries out, becomes more sensitive, red and irritable and can be more easily damaged by external factors,” says Rivers.
While some sufferers think they have rosacea (which is characterized by extreme flushing and may progress to acne-like pustules and requires a clinical diagnosis), it may just be sensitive skin. So if the products that served you faithfully are suddenly too irritating, here are some soothing options just in time for winter.
Strengthen the Skin Barrier
Skin barrier function describes its ability to protect itself. Older, dryer skin is already vulnerable to winter’s loss of humidity. Factor in hot showers that “strip skin’s natural oils,” says Los Angeles-based dermatologist Dr. Christine Choi Kim, and you further compromise the skin’s barrier that keeps irritants out and moisture in.
“Fragrance is [also] associated with irritancy,” says Rivers, who developed Riversol, a sensitive skin-care line containing antioxidant, anti-inflammatory beta-thujaplicin derived from Pacific red cedar oil.
Strengthen the skin barrier by bolstering its lipid content (lipids are the “mortar” between the skin cell “bricks”) with fragrance-free moisturizers containing lipids like ceramides and cholesterol and soothing anti-inflammatories.
Try: Cliniderm RosaCalm Cream; Uriage Xémose Face Cream; Aveeno Absolutely Ageless Eye Cream.
That bar of soap by the sink is only for your hands. “Degreasing cleansers like soap have a negative effect on the barrier and increase sensitivity,” says Rivers. Look for cleansers that restore lipids and don’t strip the skin.
Try: Riversol Hydrating Cream Cleanser; Erno Laszlo Sensitive Cleansing Oil; Bioderma Sensibio Foaming Gel.
And while old-school exfoliants are a sensitive skin no-no (RIP rough apricot scrub of our youth), Dr. Choi Kim counterintuitively recommends gentle grainy scrubs to speed cellular turnover in mature skin. “You’re encouraging the dead cells to be lifted without using certain chemicals that are potentially irritating.”
Try: Body Shop Drops of Youth Liquid Peel.