Basic care for sensitive skin

Sensitive skin is characterized by constant redness and irritation, as it overreacts to external agents . To learn how to prevent and manage it, you can implement some basic care in your daily routine, which will help you have better skin health.

What is the skin for?

The skin is a fascinating organ as it is the largest in the human body and performs multiple functions. In addition to the most obvious, which is to act as a protective barrier against external agents, the skin also serves to:

  • prevent water  loss
  • Maintain body temperature , something that it achieves thanks to the dilation and constriction of blood vessels and sweat.
  • Perceive pain or pressure, thanks to the sense of touch.
  • Synthesize vitamin D through cells when they receive sunlight.

As you can see, the skin has a fundamental role in our body. Therefore, in order for it to carry out its functions correctly, we must pay special attention to its care, avoiding the development of sensitivity or other ailments.

The three layers of the skin

Although we can only see one of them, the outermost, the skin has three layers :

Epidermis : This is the outer layer of the skin and therefore the one that we can see. The most abundant cells in this layer, which make up 80% of it, are called keratinocytes. The epidermis presents a constant regeneration, so the superficial layers are flaking. In the outermost part of the epidermis is the hydrolipidic layer, formed by the secretions of the sweat and sebaceous glands. Due to this composition, the epidermis can fulfill the following functions: 

  • Act as a protective barrier against external elements such as bacteria, toxic agents or UV rays.
  • Avoid fluid loss, and keep the skin elastic and hydrated. 

Dermis : This is the middle layer of the skin, and it is mainly composed of elastin and collagen, fundamental for the flexibility, elasticity and regeneration of the skin. In addition, in the dermis are:

  • Receptors for the sense of touch (nerve endings).
  • Sweat and sebaceous glands , which contribute with their secretions to maintaining the skin’s temperature, lubricating it, and protecting it.
  • Hair follicles , in which body hair develops. 

Hypodermis: This layer, located below the dermis, is the deepest layer of the skin. It is made up, among others, of adipose cells whose main function is to produce and store fats that help maintain body temperature and absorb shock from the outside. 

What is sensible skin?

A skin is sensitive when its ability to act as a barrier against external aggressions deteriorates , reacting to them with inflammation or redness. One of the causes is the loss of water and lipids, so the skin cannot regulate humidity and protect us from the elements outside. Although sensitive skin can be located throughout the body or in a specific area, facial skin is the most vulnerable, since it is the one that is most exposed to external agents such as UV rays, chemical elements, and pollutants. 

Sensitive skin symptoms

The main symptoms that can alert us that we have sensitive skin are: 

  • Fine furrows caused by dryness.
  • matt appearance
  • Peeling.
  • redness.
  • eruptions.
  • Swelling.
  • Roughness.

All these symptoms can also be accompanied by sensations such as itching, burning, tightness and pricking .

Sensitive skin is highly reactive to weather, temperature, and chemicals in personal care products. For this reason, it requires special treatments that do not contain aggressive ingredients for it.

It is very important that we know how to prevent sensitive skin and, if we suffer from it, how to reduce its symptoms and avoid actions that could make them worse.

Why do I have sensitive skin?

The skin has a complex and balanced system that allows it to stay healthy. If this balance is disturbed, sensitive skin appears . Let’s see how these alterations can give rise to this condition. 

As we have seen, the epidermis is home to the hydrolipidic layer, which acts as a protective layer for the entire skin surface against all external agents. It has a slightly acidic pH, approximately 5, which allows it to be effective against bacteria or highly alkaline external elements such as soap for cosmetic use. In addition, due to the characteristic permeability of this layer and its natural desquamation, it is possible to maintain optimal levels of hydration. 

When the correct functioning of the hydrolipidic layer is altered, the characteristic symptoms of sensitive skin can appear at any age. However, there are two moments in life when there are more chances of developing sensitive skin: lactation and old age

In both cases, the skin becomes more vulnerable to external agents. Babies, is because when they are born, they have much thinner skin than adults, even being a fifth thinner. Being less thick, its function as a protective barrier is weakened , and it cannot react correctly against all external agents. 

In the aging process, what happens is that metabolic processes decrease in a general way and, therefore, lipid synthesis. This lack of lipids produces a greater dehydration of the skin, giving rise to sensitive skin.

Most common causes of sensitive skin

Among the causes that cause sensitive skin, the most common are:

  • UV rays and environmental pollutants.
  • Hormonal imbalances, such as those associated with adolescence, the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or menopause.
  • Risk factors , such as suffering from atopic dermatitis, acne or hypersensitivity.
  • Intolerances and some allergies .
  • Dehydration due to lack of water or excessive sweating.
  • Climatic changes that affect temperature and humidity.
  • Excess soaps and detergents that alter the pH .
  • Stress , lack of rest and a bad diet
  • Some medical treatments such as radiation therapy and certain drugs.
  • Cosmetic products that contain moisturizers or alcohol, among other substances that can be harmful

Harmful habits for sensitive skin

There are certain habits with which we believe we are taking care of our skin, and that may actually be harming it. That is why it is important that you know that some everyday gestures such as those listed below can cause sensitive skin or worsen this condition:

  • Washing your skin too frequently or doing it inappropriately, such as using too hot water or products with aggressive ingredients.
  • Mechanical or physiological exfoliations . These can be beneficial since they act on the hydrolipidic layer, eliminating dead skin cells and reducing wrinkles. However, on sensitive skin they can cause irritation.
  • Shaving could be defined as an exfoliating action, so it presents the same risks as those we have explained above. In addition, when shaving we use cosmetic products such as foams or creams that, having left the skin more exposed, may be more affected by the chemical products they contain.
  • Smoking , which in itself is very harmful to health, is associated with numerous skin problems such as acne or delayed wound healing.

Tips for caring for sensitive skin

If we have sensitive skin, it is essential that we visit a professional who can prescribe the most appropriate treatment and monitor its effectiveness. In addition, we can also take certain measures aimed at mitigating the state of sensitivity of our skin: 

  • Use sun protection creams even in winter, since, as we have seen, UV rays have very harmful effects on sensitive skin.
  • Implement in regular hygiene the use of products with active components capable of minimizing skin sensitivity, such as glycerin. Soaps made with glycerin respect the skin’s pH and remove its impurities without being aggressive. In addition, glycerin locks in moisture, thus keeping skin naturally hydrated, a characteristic that makes soaps made with this ingredient especially suitable for dry skin.
  • Properly moisturizing the skin , especially that of the face, is important to improve its appearance and to protect it from external aggressions.
  • Avoid showering with water that is too hot , as it contributes to dehydrating the skin. In addition, when washing our faces it will also be better to use cold or lukewarm water, trying to avoid hot water. 
  • Protect yourself from climatic attacks, especially very cold temperatures, with appropriate creams and drinking plenty of water to ensure hydration. 
  • Rest well and avoid stress, as these are two factors that can cause sensitive skin to react.
  • Eating a diet rich in antioxidants and natural oils, which help restore balance to our skin.

Is atopic skin the same as sensitive?

Atopic skin is a multifactorial disease involving genetic, environmental and immune factors, among others. Therefore, they are two skin disorders that should not be confused. As you have seen, the skin has a very important role in our body, so we should not neglect it. It is essential that we worry every day about not exposing it to situations that can damage it and generate sensitive skin.  

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