TOUCH ME NOT
AS POLLUTION BECOMES A GROWING BEAUTY CONCERN, SO DOES SENSITISED COMPLEXIONS, BUT HOW IS THE LATTER DIFFERENT FROM SENSITIVE SKIN? SOFIA KIM SHEDS SOME LIGHT.
The difference between sensitised and sensitive skin – and why it’s important to know it.
You’ve tried a new serum and your skin turns red and patchy (not glowy and glasslike as promised). Or maybe you’ve been slammed with work, and none of your usual favourite skincare products seem to calm your irritated complexion. If you relate to either of the two scenarios and hold the perception that your skin is sensitive, here’s a PSA: It might not be. Instead, it could be sensitised.
Before you think that we’re being some grammar nazi here, it’s key to note that they’re two different conditions – a largely overlooked fact. According to the International Dermal Institute, the R&D arm of American beauty brand Dermalogica, about 62 per cent of people globally consider their skin to be sensitive, but rarely sensitised
As Dermalogica corporate trainer Jodi Ayre points out: the effects of both (the uncomfortable sensations, the flare ups) are similar, explaining the misconception. She adds that many tend to self-diagnose their skin concerns due to a lack of knowledge, which may lead to impulse buys that can further damage skin.
Sensitised vs sensitive skin Sensitive skin is often “determined by your genetics”, according to Dr Christine Choi Kim of The Body Shop. In short, you’re born with it. Some of the more common examples include eczema and rosacea, where skin is constantly red, itchy and dehydrated.
A sensitised complexion, on the other hand, “is acquired and caused by external and internal factors, and can happen to anyone”, says Choi. It can be the result of hormonal changes, the use of products that are not ideal for your skin type, or other external sources of irritation like pollution, stress and an unhealthy lifestyle – common denominators of fast-paced living.
Surveys by the International Dermal Institute further show that eight in 10 people have seen their skin become sensitised in the past year. Here, Dr Ian Tan of IDS Clinic, shares that one in five patients visits for issues related to sensitised skin, reinforcing this growing phenomenon.
Battling the big smoke
The world’s mounting pollution issue might be part of the cause. Such external factors cause skin’s barrier function to weaken, in turn compromising its protective layer, making it less effective at defending and blocking out harmful aggressors. The result: unwanted breakouts, irritation and redness – sound familiar?
The good news: Sensitised complexions can be treated – and even cured – by using the right products. Sensitive skin, though, stays with one for life and can only be managed, not fixed. In addition, there’s an increasing number of products that help target the issue (though it’s important to first visit the derm for a professional diagnosis on the state of your skin).
Off-the-shelf help Dermalogica recently released a new duo, the Calm Water Gel ($109) and Barrier Defense Booster ($142). Used together or separately, these products soothe sensitised skin and are said to protect it from future flare-ups.
The former is an uber lightweight geltype moisturiser that creates a weightless barrier against environmental threats. It also has the brand’s Dual Hyaluronic Acid Technology to lock in moisture, while cactus pear, apple fruit and glycerine reportedly calm and improve skin’s stability to manage inflammation and breakouts.
For particularly sensitised skin, the Barrier Defense Booster can be used on its own, or mixed with a moisturiser. Made with the brand’s Triple Defense Complex, it calms irritation and reinforces skin’s protective barrier. Also in its formulation: tetrahydrocucurminoids – an active derivative of turmeric root – with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
While applying an exfoliating mask sounds counter-intuitive for irritated skin, The Body Shop’s Almond Milk with Oats Instant Soothing Mask ($32.90) is on the recommended list. The creamy wash-off mask, made with actual bits of oatmeal, manually and gently sloughs away dead skin cells. The addition of organic almond milk helps nourish and hydrate dry, irritated skin, while restoring its optimal pH level.
Besides these new launches, Dr Tan suggests looking for products with antiinflammatory active ingredients like aloe vera, colloidal oats, niacinamide, panthenol and antioxidants. In addition, applying a physical sunblock to protect against UV damage is a good preventive – and corrective – measure. Constant moisture is also critical in managing sensitised skin, so look out for moisturisers aimed at barrier repair.
From left: Dermalogica Calm Water Gel, $109, and Barrier Defense Booster, $142.The Body Shop Almond Milk with Oats Instant Soothing Mask, $32.90