• Moh Shuying

What To Do If You Have Sensitive Skin

Is your complexion prone to itching, burning or stinging? Help from the experts is here.

Sensitive skin seems to be a condition that many women feel that they have. But were you born with it or was it triggered? And if you are experiencing sensitivity, what should you do and how do your care for your complexion?

To kick things off, we wanted to find out what exactly sensitive skin is. According to Dr Gladys Teo, Head of R&D at est.lab, sensitive skin is “one that exhibits a reduced tolerance to frequent or prolonged use of cosmetic products."

"It manifests itself primarily as subjective sensorial discomforts such as burning, stinging, itching and tightness," she says. "Environmental factors such as cold, sun, wind, heat, pollution may also play a role in inducing light skin irritation.”

So how can you tell you have it?

“Your skin will be on the drier side, and there may be mild generalised redness, flushing and broken capillaries,” Dr Melvin Tan, Founder and Medical Director of Epion Clinic, tells us. “You might also notice that certain skincare products, fragrances, soaps, household products and detergents will cause your skin to react with a dry, red itch and/or a flaky rash.”

So what’s a girl (or guy) got to do?

Something you should always do is to consult a doctor. After all, a professional would be able to properly diagnose your underlying issues and help treat your sensitivity.

“For mildly irritated skin, sometimes just moisturising alone is able to get it to calm down,” says Dr Tan. “In most cases, however, I would prescribe an anti-inflammatory lotion or cream to break the cycle quicker. Antihistamines will also help with symptoms of itching.”

However, if you’re not that keen on making a trip to the doctor, there are things you can do at home. The first is to identify and avoid potential triggers. For example, if you find your skin reacting whenever you spend too much time in the sun or use a particular product, then try to avoid these triggering elements.

If you can’t find any obvious factors, Dr Tan recommends keeping your skincare regime simple – both in terms of ingredients and number of products – and avoiding acids, scrubs and harsher ingredients such as vitamin C or retinoids.

Dr Teo also suggests performing a self-patch test when trying a new product. You can apply the product on your wrist, neck or elbow, and leave it on for 24 hours. She recommends repeating the test for a week as your skin might only show a reaction after several applications.

Is there anything you can do to prevent sensitivity?

“Sensitive skin is analogous to a compromised skin barrier,” says Dr Teo.

The best way to maintain a strong protective barrier is to keep it sufficiently hydrated. Using products with moisture-binding hyaluronic acids can help to draw water to the deeper layers of your skin. It is also important to stay hydrated by drinking at least the recommended eight glasses of water a day.

And while it might be impossible to escape pollution when living in an urban environment, you can help to protect your complexion by using the appropriate skincare.

“There is mounting evidence that environmental pollution accelerates damaging effects to the skin," she says. "Skin irritation, inflammation and allergies can be due to small contaminants that penetrate skin’s pores, follicles and trans-epidermally, driving the production of free radicals in the skin."

"Topical application of anti-pollution skincare to the skin is able to shield your complexion from the damaging effects of pollution.”