A sensitive issue
Sensitivity is the number-one skin problem for women over 30. Try these simple strategies to soothe your complexion.
More than half of all Australian women struggle with varying degrees of skin sensitivity, from mild irritation and dryness to extreme reactivity, redness, flaking, allergic reactions, itching, and stinging. There are several reasons for this problem. One is genetics: a fair, fine-textured skin, with visible veins, that flushes easily, is going to be more susceptible to sunburn, windburn, humidity, and other environmental factors. An inherited tendency to conditions like eczema, dermatitis and rosacea also ups the odds of developing sensitive skin.
However, the more common culprits are the use of inappropriate skincare and cosmetics – ingredients like parabens, synthetic fragrances and harsh foaming agents can easily cause sensitivity - and dryness, which goes hand-in-hand with the ageing process. Dermatologist Doris Day says that dryness and sensitivity are closely linked. “The less moisture your skin retains, the weaker the cellular barrier keeping moisture in and the outside world out,” she says. Day adds that using correct skincare products and cosmetics is critical to eliminating, or at least reducing skin sensitivity. “The wrong product just makes the problem worse,” she emphasises.
1. Keep it simple
It’s a common misconception that the more you ‘do’ for your skin, the better. Dermatologist Dennis Green estimates that he is seeing 50 per cent more cases of sensitive skin today than three years ago, thanks to the burgeoning number of at-home spa-style treatments, like exfoliants, peels and masks. “If you constantly strip away your skin’s natural protective barrier, you allow toxins, pollutants, sensitisers, allergens and irritants to get in and cause problems,” he explains.
2. Clean up
Give your bathroom cabinet and make-up bag a good clean-out. Toss products that you don’t use, and check the remainder for use-by dates. Dermatologist Zoe Draelos cautions, “Women rarely take note of cosmetic expiration dates, yet old make-up us a breeding ground for bacteria, fungi and viruses, and is a prime cause of irritation. Mascara is one of the worst offenders: each time you move the wand in and out of the tube, you introduce contaminants.” Not sure of a product’s life span? As a general rule, powders last up to two years, liquids up to one. Wash sponges and brushes regularly in warm, soapy water.
3. Check labels
“Avoid known allergens, such as paraben preservatives and artificial fragrances,” says John Kerr, managing director of Springfields. Parabens (noted on labels as methyl-, butyl- and ethyl-) are one of the most irritating ingredients known. Avoid chemical-based sunscreens with parsol and benezophenones, and choose physical block-style formulas with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide instead. Look for products that are hypoallergenic and colour- and fragrance-free, and which contain ingredients to nourish and support skin health, such as aloe vera, jojoba, and pure essential oils. “Rose and lavender oils work wonders in calming inflammation,” says Michele van Landingham of Dr Hauschka Skin Care. Mineral make-up is excellent for sensitive skin as it is extremely non-reactive.
4. Go raw
Raw beauty products are helpful for sensitive skin, as they are so pure. Raw skincare is based on the same idea as a raw food diet – that is, ingredients which are not processed or cooked retain more nutrients, and so are better for you. According to Vicky Ewbank of raw skin food company Live Native, the temperatures used during processing are critical to the product’s efficacy. “Raw beauty products are not heated above 47ºC, because that is the point at which the molecular structure of an ingredient is altered and damaged.” She sees raw beauty products as a lifestyle choice, adding “By excluding all refined, toxic and cooked ingredients, raw beauty is a return to the elegant, traditional and fundamental.”
Sublime skin soothers we love
Olive by Langlois Eye Cream (http://www.olivebylanglois.com/) Rehydrate and nourish irritated eyes with the calming benefits of green tea, shea nut butter, and extra-virgin olive oil.
MooGoo Udder Cream Skin Milk (http://www.moogoo.com.au/) This light, easily absorbed lotion contains healing sweet almond and olive oils, milk protein, aloe vera, and vitamin E.
raw gaia Green Clay Face Pack (http://www.rawgaia.com/) This detoxifying mask is made from 100 per cent sun-dried green clay. Unheated, vegan and chemical free. Worldwide shipping.
Springfields Aloe Vera Cream Cleanser (http://www.healthyskin.com.au/) This non-drying, hypoallergenic cleanser contains aloe vera, pomegranate, and lavender, orange and ylang ylang essential oils.
Joey New York Extra Gentle Eye Make-up Remover (www.strawberrynet.com) An oil-free eye make-up remover that contains an isotonic base similar to natural tears. Guaranteed not to sting; safe for contact lens wearers.
La Mav OFC Certified Organic Lip Balm (http://www.lamav.com/) Pucker up with this natural, hydrating blend of vitamins A, B5 and E. Your lips will be left kissably soft with a sweet orange essential oil flavour to boot!
Livinia Crème Foundation (http://www.naturalmineralmakeup.com.au/) A beautifully lightweight foundation enriched with jojoba oil, shea butter and vitamin E. Provides long-lasting coverage with the benefit of pure minerals.