Sensitive Skin

Soothing Sensitive Skin
by Dr. Claudia Aguirre
Burning, stinging, prickling, itching. Sound like a bad gardening experience? Actually, various
reports state that 50% of the world’s population suffers from these symptoms in a condition
broadly termed ‘sensitive’ skin. The term sensitive skin generally refers to a skin condition defined
by sensory symptoms rather than a disease entity. However, due to a lack of a clear definition, it
does not account for the differentiation between a truly sensitive skin and a sensitized skin.
Sensitivity comes in many forms
A true sensitive skin condition is the result of your genes. This genetic predisposition is found in
those who have fair skin and present other allergic diseases. They may also be susceptible to
inflammatory skin diseases like Eczema, Psoriasis and Rosacea. Unlike sensitive skin, sensitized
skin is not a result of genetics. It is a reflection of your environment, lifestyle and physiology- and
can affect any person regardless of skin color or gender. Pollution, cosmetic and skin care
ingredients, over-exfoliation, diet, alcohol and climate changes can all trigger sensitization in the
skin. Luckily, this condition can be improved with proper skin care and lifestyle choices. There are
sophisticated formulations out there that can deliver effective results for the most sensitized skin
condition to reduce redness and soothe irritation for long lasting skin relief. However, there are
also a number of products claiming they are made for ‘sensitive skin.’ How can you navigate
between all the marketing hype?
New Ingredient Technology
Whereas immunogenic inflammation is triggered by your body’s immune system, neurogenic
inflammation is triggered by the nervous system. Both can yield the same redness, itching and
irritation, resulting in sensitized skin. Fortunately, there is newer ingredient technology that targets
the nerve response associated with inflammation and sensitization.
Red Hogweed (Boerhavia diffusa) root extract is a remarkable plant extract that helps to restore
tissue integrity by favoring anti-inflammatory substances via different arms of the inflammatory
pathway. One of these arms, neurogenic inflammation, is a nerve response that results in
inflammation and its hallmark symptoms of redness and irritation. In reducing the nerve response,
we can help reduce the sensitivity associated with neurogenic inflammation, bringing the skin to a
normal level of sensitivity. Certain peptides, like acetyl tetrapeptide-15, have also been shown to
curb neurogenic inflammation. Some botanicals have been used as anti-inflammatory agents for
generations. The calming and soothing effects of Oat are widely known to reduce itch, redness
and irritation, which is why it’s still a popular ingredient for soothing sensitive skin. Ginger and
bisabolol, a chamomile derivative, reduce redness by working better as a team, rather than
separately, and should also be considered as anti-inflammatory ingredients. Together, these and
other ingredients can provide serious relief from the inflammatory and neurogenic pathways that
lead to skin sensitivity.
A restorative blend of lipids
When inflammation is paired with the loss of skin’s protective barrier, the skin becomes highly
reactive. To counter this, additional ingredients that mimic the skin’s natural composition of
ceramides, cholesterol and essential fatty acids are a must for sensitive skin. Borage seed and
Evening Primrose Oil are high in gamma linoleic acid, a fatty acid required for intact epidermal
layers. Avocado is a great source of natural phytosterols, while sunflower seed contains
ceramides. So don’t forget the barrier lipid layer when choosing a product for sensitive and
sensitized skin. These lipids fortify the skin’s barrier while the anti-inflammatory ingredients
soothe irritated, sensitized skin. Approach sensitivity from all angles with tried and true antiinflammatory
botanicals paired with sophisticated ingredients that address the nerve response.
And remember to de-stress! No topical ingredient can truly calm the skin without a little help from
the mind.

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