Are We In The Midst Of A Sensitive Skin Pandemic?

Expert advice from skincare scientist Dr Shiva Farabi on how to deal when complexions get cranky.

Ask anyone their skin type and chances are, you’ll have very few people answer with ‘normal.’ Sensitive skin – which is characterised by irritation, redness, stinging, burning, itchiness and general discomfort – is on the rise.

“We are definitely seeing an increase in the number of people affected by sensitive skin or who consider their skin to be sensitive. We’re seeing about 50 to 60 per cent of people reporting having some degree of sensitive skin,” says skincare scientist and Head of Ultraceuticals’s R&D, Dr Shiva Farabi. Dr Farabi will be presenting a talk on the needs of sensitive skin at the ASCC (Australian Society of Cosmetic Chemists) conference this year, so we caught up with her to get her take on what practitioners should focus on when treating patients with sensitivity issues.

Dr Shiva Farabi

So, what’s causing this increase in skin sensitivity?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t clear cut. But, if you want to treat sensitivity, you must get to the root cause.

“There are many possibilities for the growing numbers of skin sensitivity, such as increasing pollution and exposure to environmental aggressors. Other factors could be due to the unhealthy diets and an increase in the sugar intake in the new diet [of this current age]. Exposure to harsh cleansing and skincare products could be another reason to cause skin sensitivity,” explains Dr Farabi.

How can you best care for sensitive skin?

Identify and avoid sensitivity triggers
Perhaps the most obvious but easily the most important factor is identifying what sets off sensitivity issues. These factors can differ from person to person so it’s key to tackle this issue on an individual basis.

Choose skincare designed for sensitive complexions
“We need to keep an eye on finished products that may not suit sensitive skin. If the formula has not been designed for sensitive skin, there is a good chance that it might not be suitable, even if it doesn’t seem to have any harsh ingredients. Many ingredients such as AHAs, retinol and fragrances could irritate sensitive skin if the formula has not been designed having sensitive skin in mind,” says Dr Farabi.

Restore and reinforce the skin’s protective barrier
Skin experiencing sensitivity likely has a compromised barrier and is usually more dehydrated than normal skin. To bring the skin’s barrier function back into balance and restore the impaired lipid layer, Dr Farabi advises taking steps to “intensely hydrate the skin and calm the skin’s sensitivity.” She explains that this will help “relieve unpleasant sensations, increase skin tolerance, and give long-lasting skin comfort.”

Choosing skincare formulated with the right ingredients for sensitive skin plays a big role here, which brings us to the next point…

Seek out soothing ingredients
To replenish and maintain a healthy natural lipid barrier in the skin, Dr Farabi suggests opting for “soothing ingredients such as acetyl dipeptide-1 cetyl ester that function as a calming messenger, and combination of ceramides, essential fatty acids, and phytosterols.”

Other essential ingredients for sensitive skin “are prebiotics to help balance the skin’s microbiome and hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and niacinamide,” concludes Dr Farabi.

Ultraceuticals’ new Ultra Calming Cleanser and Ultra Calming Moisturiser Cream have been developed for sensitive skin.

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