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89. Conversations with a Skin Therapist - Skin Sensitivity & Inflammation

Updated: Mar 21

The autumn and winter months tend to increase the skins sensitivity with the more extremes in temperature, central heating, and harsh winds.


How many of you are suffering with redness, itchy or stinging skin when applying products? These are all signs that your skin is sensitised and this condition can happen to any skin type. With the increase in stress and anxiety within our daily lives this can impact the way our skin behaves.

The definition of skin sensitivity is that it becomes more intollorent to environment factors and more prone to inflammation and adverse reactions.

What's the difference between sensitive skin and skin sensitivity?


Sensitive skin type - is a genetic, predisposed, and often were born with it & it's usually all over body and often affects fair skin and those with northern european ancestry.


The atopic triad - asthma, eczema and hay fever are conditions that often also have sensitive skin types. We can help manage sensitive skin by always following a skincare regime. This routine should consist of twice daily gentle cleansing, extra hydrating ingredients and products that support barrier funticon


Sensitised skin condition - the skin's condition reflects the current health of our skin. Any skin can become sensitised regardless of genetic back ground or skin type. Short term sensitivity can be triggered by lifestyle and can be treated quickly by addressing the symptoms and triggers.


The physical characteristics of sensitive skin or sensitised skins are the same - redness, heat, blotchiness (over reactive capillaries make skin more reactive), inflammation, hot spots, cracked skin, tightness (dehydration)


There are several conditions such as eczema and rosacea that occur in skins resulting in inflammation. This immunogenic and neurogenic skin redness is caused by skin being on hyper alert.


Think of how our eyes react during hayfever season, our eyes become more irritated - itchy, red and sometimes swollen. The skin becomes sore and often cracked. That can occur anywhere on the body when nerve endings closely connected to immune system are on hyper alert resulting in becoming sensitised.



What can trigger sensitivity?


Skin is a reflection of lifestyle and environment

  • Pollution - excessive exposure to an environment high in free radicals (think of the London underground, coal mines, busy cities with lots of cars)

  • Diet - spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol are all known to add heat and sensitivity to our skin (think of the hot flush)

  • Time - long periods outdoors (sailing, horse riding, cycling, working outdoors, camping, skiing, running and other exercise)

  • Extreme climate change (winter weather often causes skin sensitivity with cold weather outside and then warm fires or central heating inside - this causes varying levels of sensitivity as capillaries try to adapt - think of a skiing environment)

  • Stress - prolonged periods of high stress cause over active adrenals as our body is coping with stress


Each skin's tolerance threshold is different and can support triggers with invisible reactions and then once the tolerance has been reached that's when the visible signs of redness are noticeable on the skin. Subtle tightness and slight tingling are often ignored. This can be caused by products, pollution, bacteria, or ingredients.



Have you heard of a sensitisation response?


Sensitisation Response - sometimes we can use a product everyday for years and then once a stress factor is added into our lifestyle or something changes in our personal life, our skin reaches its coping threshold and then produces a reaction.


I hear clients say, 'I've always used this' or 'my skin was fine, and then...'

If that same product that's always been used causes a response - its not an allergy, it can be a sensitisation response. ~ Diana Richardson

Yes allergies can be developed, but with stressors a sensitisation response means that the skin isn't coping because the barrier is impaired.


How can we prevent this from happening?


Listen to our skin and when it becomes red and tingles... that's our skin saying 'hello I need calming today'. Any time you experience redness or tingling, aim for hydration and calming ingredients.


A sensitisation response can happen when we have the cold/flu or when we take antibiotics - our immune system has taken a hit and then it can't cope with anything else, so flare ups can arise. Inflammation in our skin and bodies works alongside our immune system.


Our immune system is there to protect us and inflammation starts the healing process. We need to keep inflammation under control to help protect our skins barrier function.


What are irritants?


Irritants are little intruder microbes that enter our body and affect our skin. They come in common forms such as:


  • toxins

  • dust

  • foods (think IBS, lactose intolerant etc)

  • viruses

  • chemicals

  • bacteria


Once the immune cells are activated they fight off the intruders. Antibody produces proteins call antibodies that warrior and fight off the microbes and protect the body and skin.


For example - over time we can develop hay fever because it's an adaptive response to pollen. Like the FBI, pollen is on the irritants 'most wanted list'.


Recognises it, treat it and help prevent it.

"over 50% of global population are suffering with sensitivity" - International Dermal Institute

Ingredients and Products that can help our skin:


Ingredients that help to soothe and calm:


  • oats - applied on the skin and in our diet to help have a anti-inflammatory affect on our bodies.

  • chamomile - soothing to the skin & can drink tea to soothe our system

  • ginger - a great anti inflammatory ingredient to incorporate into our lifestyle in many ways (with sushi - yum!, ginger tea, added to our cooking...)

  • arnica - used to heal, reduce swelling and inflammation

  • licorice root - promoted as a dietary supplement for conditions such as digestive problems, menopausal symptoms, cough, and bacterial and viral infections.

  • purple coneflower - components are known to treat acne, soothe inflammation and diminish wrinkles.

  • lavender - soothe and antiseptic

  • camellia sinuses - a natural antioxidant, polyphenols can safeguard your skin from the damaging effects of free radicals and UV light. It's also anti-inflammatory that helps soothe inflamed, acne-prone skin

  • aloe leaf juice - a natural humectant that soothes and calms the skin


Ingredients that boost our skin's barrier repair function:


  • evening primrose oil

  • borage seed oil

  • jojoba seed oil

  • avocado

  • vitamin E

  • sunflower

  • tamarau oil


When our skin is sensitised it's best to utilise the less rule:


  • less friction

  • less heat

  • less time

  • less product


A few other things to avoid:


  • Avoid scrubs

  • Avoid foaming cleansers

  • Avoid european massage - use pressure point massage to help calm inflammation,

  • Use less steam and heat in water - focus on calming.

  • Don't use too many varieties, keep it to the basics to help the skin to rebuild its barrier function

  • Avoid triggers and tripwires - dairy, alcohol and caffeine

  • Avoid extreme temperatures - if you love the outdoors remember to protect your skin with a balm, spf and soft scarf

  • Use soft cloth - no buffing, rubbing, or harsh towels

  • Spritz a toner, like Ultra Calming Mist so that it's not applied its cotton wool


How can we treat skin sensitivity?


Rebalance the skin to help the skin's barrier function to repair itself and maintain a healthy barrier to protect the body against future stressors.


  • Remove irritant - wether is an extrinsic or intrinsic aggressor on the skin... perhaps working on stress relief, stop using the products or protect the skin when exposed to the elements.

  • Repair - reduce and calm inflammation

  • Improve skin barrier - when the skin's lipid barrier has gaps in it, products penetrate more quickly causing stinging on the skin. 💦 Hydration 💦 helps to maintain skins hydration levels with hyaluronic acid

  • Maintainence - Continuing to support the skin's barrier function. Daily skincare regime and regular professional treatments rebuild the skin's barrier threshold.


Please remember it is so important to look after our skin at home! Cleansing twice daily, moisturising and hydrating to replenish lost lipids. All year round it's important to protect our skin from the outside world with UV spf - a barrier sunscreen or block, wear a hat and in winter remember a scarf. If you'd like a season skincare checkup, book today www.orchidsretreat.co.uk


Thank you for reading, if this was useful please 🩵and if it could help someone in your network, please share.


Thank you ~ Diana x

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