Sensitive Skin: A Survival Guide (Part 1)

Posted on August 07, 2014 by Jess Baker | 0 Comments


Have you noticed how many face creams and serums refer to ‘barrier repair’?

Do you know what the 'barrier' is? Do you know if yours needs repairing? 
If you've got sensitive skin, dry skin or blemishes, your skin is in need of some TLC. 

In this post, you'll learn what makes skin sensitive.
In Part 2 you'll find lots of tips on how to protect and repair it.

Firm and Smooth
Your skin is your body’s only way to retain water and protect itself from toxic irritants. Each of the three layers of the skin plays an important role in this function, particularly the visible layer, the epidermis.

Skin cells travel up through each layer and go through a massive transformation as they do. Once skin cells arrive at the epidermis they are packed tightly and supported by lipids (imagine bricks in a new wall each carefully sealed with mortar).
The lipids supporting the cells are known as the skin’s ‘barrier’.

When the lipids hold the cells together tightly your skin’s barrier is strong. Your skin will look and feel firm and smooth (think peaches). It will be better at preventing water from getting out (causing dehydration) or irritants from getting in (causing inflammation etc). When the lipids are not supporting the cells effectively (think of a cracked, leaky brick wall) your barrier is weak. You’re more likely to experience sensitive, inflamed, dry or flaky skin.

Genetics, Hormones, Diet?
There are a huge number of factors that determine the strength of your barrier (age, genetics, hormones, diet, lifestyle, environment, harsh or drying skincare routine). The bad news is that once it starts to weaken, it’s likely to break down even further if left untreated. The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to repair your skin’s barrier function. 


Healthy skin renews itself, discarding millions of cells on a daily basis. But this process slows with age or if you have oily, dry or problem skin. The skin also has ways of protecting itself from harm. Take the amazing Langerhans cells for example. They’re like guards that patrol the epidermis, constantly assessing the micro-organisms they comes across. If they find something harmful (i.e. a pathogenic organism) they signal an alarm to the immune system through a complex communication system and request an antidote (i.e. white blood cells).

Our skin has to deal with so many invaders it’s no wonder our natural defences can’t keep up. Consider these few: the environment (pollutants, air-conditioning, harsh cold wind, sunshine), your diet (processed food, drink), lifestyle (smoking, alcohol consumption, lacking sleep), medication (antibiotics, contraceptive pill), natural chemical changes in the body (hormonal, stress), and your genetic disposition (fair skin is more sensitive than darker skin), synthetic chemicals in your cosmetics (drying alcohols, sodium lauryl sulfate etc).


Culture of Youth
We also have unrealistic expectations of how our skin should look and feel – like when we strive to get the youthful glow of the airbrushed teen in the face cream advert. And because of societal pressure to have perfect skin we feel pressured to buy the miracle cream (our brain registers a link between the image of the flawless beauty and the brand). So in addition to having overcome our skin's reaction to the polluted environment we also have to work on silencing the voice in our heads (and glossy mags) that condemns us for ageing. 

Embrace Change 
Ageing is natural and inevitable. Instead of trying to turn back time I want to live in a world where we learn to love our changing appearance. I know this isn't the aspirational message we love to hear (i.e. “you can have perfect skin in just 3 easy steps!”) but the sooner we accept that our skin is ageing (and embrace it for all the wisdom it brings) the sooner we can start focusing on things that are more important. Yes I want good skin, that's why I started my own skincare business, but I also want to balance that with improved self-confidence (read more about Love Your Look)

I’ve been thinking about my sensitive skin and about things that work well for me. I've put together a list of tips and guidelines. You'll find them in "Sensitive Skin: A Survival Guide (Part 2)" (come back Sunday!) which covers: 

Cleansing Skin
Protect & Repair Sensitive Skin
Goods Foods to Eat
Staying Hydrated

I'm really interested to hear about your skin, what you do to keep your skin barrier strong and advice you'd give others?


Let me know, write your tips and comments below.



Leave a Reply

Comments will be approved before showing up.