Your Sensitive Skin Guide

By Brendan Vartan, esthetician & mua / @brendanvartan


Sensitive skin - Do you have it? What causes it? How do you care for it?

About 80 percent of people say or think they have sensitive skin but the actual number is around 10 -20%. 

Sensitive skin is not a single health condition and is not the same for everyone. People also confuse sensitive skin with sensitized or allergic skin. So what are some of the symptoms of truly sensitive skin?

  • Your skin flushes and gets red easily...even from a simple touch
  • Your skin is red and splotchy after a warm bath, shower or cleansing
  • Your skin is fair with visible blood vessels
  • Your skin is very reactive to environmental changes
  • It reacts to specific ingredients and will show where they come in contact with skin. This may be an outline around where the spot was applied.

When your skin is allergic, however, it reacts to certain ingredients in general and the reaction may even show in places where products are not applied. Allergic skin can happen to anyone, not just someone with sensitive skin. While some conditions related to sensitive skin such as eczema or psoriasis can be inherited, skin irritation and reactions from exposure to ingredients in skincare and cosmetics are not. 

In some cases, you can develop sensitive skin temporarily. When sensitive skin is caused by specific factors it's considered sensitized skin. Some common causes include:

  • Frequent exfoliation or using exfoliants that are too harsh
  • Dry air and climates (airplanes, offices, desert) so avoid over-heating your home and office
  • Sunburns and blisters (it's important to use sun protection daily)
  • Allergies that are systemic from things such as pollen, dust or food. When your body releases histamines, it can get irritated more easily.
  • Poor diet
  • Hormonal changes
  • Physical or emotional stress

So if you do have sensitive or sensitized skin, how do you care for it?

First and foremost, simplify your routine. Stay clear from those 10 step skin care routines influencers are pushing because this is the case where less is definitely more.

  • Cleanse no more than twice a day with sulfate-free products and avoid hot water.
  • Exfoliate only when needed (no more than once a week). Avoid cleansing brushes and avoid those nightly glycolic or lactic acid serums. 
  • Avoid products with fragrant natural extracts and artificial fragrances
  • Use silicone-based foundations to minimize irritation
  • Since sensitive skin may be more permeable than normal skin, the barrier that holds moisture in and helps to keep irritants out do not work well. Look for products that help strengthen the skin barrier and decrease transepidermal water loss like Optimal Repair™.

Ingredients are important and "Hypoallergenic" is mainly marketing

I'm sure you've seen some popular clinical-looking lines marketed for sensitive skin with the term "hypoallergenic" placed front and center. At the same time, they put denatured alcohol, dyes, masking fragrances (that allow them to claim "unscented"), and many other common irritants in their products. 

The next time you see the term "hypoallergenic", know that it basically means whatever the particular company wants that label to mean for them as there are no FDA standards or regulatory bodies that require them to test and substantiate the "hypoallergenic" claim.

What's more important is to look at the ingredient lists and make sure they don't contain the common irritants listed here

 A Personal Mission

Featured in the header photo of this article is Michaela, a long-time skincare client who had reactive skin when I first met her. Coming up on my brand's (Lex and Jong™) first year anniversary, I wanted to discuss the topic of skin sensitivity since many of my clients do come in to see me with sensitive skin or skin that has been sensitized by long-term use of irritants in products. Whether it's for cost or marketing reasons, many products on the market that seem safe (and some today equate this with "natural") actually contain many potentially irritating ingredients that can cause people to develop skin problems even when they don't have them now. Developed with an interdisciplinary team of dermatologists and skin experts who continue to work with clients daily, it was important to me that Lex and Jong Skin Science ™  offer truly science-based solutions that are free of proven, common allergens so my clients can have the ease of mind knowing these products are not only safe for their skin but also offer advanced, targeted treatments for specific needs. As someone who suffers from acne breakouts and psoriasis, it's the only skin care line I use everyday that has not made me break out in bumps or inflamed rashes and have kept my skin issues at bay. I feel 100% confident recommending these products to my clients who place their trust me. If you have questions about your skin, please feel free to contact me. 

1 comment

Thank you for writing about this! Sometimes it’s difficult to diagnose the problem, especially when there are multiple types of irritants.
Love the Lex & Jong Skin Science products – I’ve never had issues with them like I do with other creams, and have actually stripped down my routine because I didn’t feel they were lacking in any area. :)

Rachel July 19, 2019

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