Is your skin sensitive, or just sensitised? Here’s how to tell
Plus, how to care for both.
Nearly everyone experiences some sort of skin irritation in their lives. Whether it’s slight redness and itching or reoccurring flushing and burning, it makes shopping for products a difficult task – not to mention it can be painful and for many affects our confidence.
But before you consider treatments and an at-home routine, it’s important to establish whether your skin is truly sensitive or just sensitised, because despite common symptoms there is actually a significant difference between the two.
endota skin expert and education coordinator Kimberley Conboy explains the key differentiating factor is that one is a skin type, whereas the other is a condition: “Truly sensitive skin is a skin type we are born with and it cannot really be cured, only managed,” she says. “Redness is a common symptom, usually triggered by things like over stimulation or spicy foods. Often there is no heat or pain associated with the redness, but those suffering might find their skin to be quite dry in patches."
“Sensitised skin, however, is a condition which will change depending on triggers and the environment,” adds Kimberley. “Sensitised skin is often flushed from touch, topical ingredients, or the weather, and symptoms can come on very quickly. The skin will usually feel hot and it can be quite painful at times.”
It’s useful to think of sensitive skin as a chronic condition, and sensitivity as a reaction – perhaps to seasonal or environmental changes, an allergy or using too many active products that have, in turn, compromised your skin’s barrier. Our skin barrier is what protects us from the environment (and keeps moisture within the skin), but it’s easily damaged or weakened. This in turn can trigger skin sensitivity.
But the good news is there's several things you can do to manage both.
Calming, soothing ingredients to consider:
Kimberley tells us one of the most important things to look for, whether you’re sensitive or just experiencing sensitivity, is the presence of calming ingredients that will soothe and support the skin. Here are some of her favourites:
Colloidal oatmeal: Soothes with a complex fraction containing proteins, lipids, carbohydrates and beta-glucan.
Calendula extract: Derived from the marigold flower, calendula can be used to reduce inflammation.
Argan oil: An emollient (or moisturising ingredient) that fills gaps between skin cells to smooth and soften, it helps protect, moisturise and nourish skin.
Panthenol: Also known as pro-vitamin B5, it is a complex present in all living cells that promotes tissue healing.
Sodium hyaluronate: This molecule locks in moisture, supports skin elasticity and diminishes the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
And those to steer clear of:
Similarly, Kimberley suggests the overuse of potential irritants, including strong exfoliating ingredients, artificial fragrances and alcohols, is to be avoided.
Sensitive and sensitised skins also need to be careful when it comes to exfoliation, because too much will exacerbate symptoms. If you’re experiencing temporary sensitisation, avoid acids and scrubs entirely. Otherwise, Kimberley states that once a week is plenty. “Remember skin sheds itself naturally too.”
And if you ever experience burning, flushing or itching directly after using a skincare product, it’s probably best to stop using it.
Skin-soothing endota favourites
When it comes to your at-home routine, several of our gentle (but results-driven) products are designed to care for skin without triggering flare-ups.
A non-stripping cleanser:
Cleansing sensitive or sensitised skin is a slippery slope. “You should look for a daily cleanser that thoroughly cleans and removes impurities without stripping the skin of its protective moisture barrier,” explains Kimberley.
The endota Sensitive Cleansing Milk is rich in colloidal oatmeal, cucumber and calendula extracts to soften and nourish, while reducing redness and calming the skin. There's also argan oil and panthenol, so the face is left comfortable and clean – not tight or dry.
Massage a small amount into damp skin for at least half a minute and rinse with warm water. You’ll be left hydrated, glowing and perfectly prepped for the remainder of your routine.
A daily nourishment boost:
Kimberley loves argan oil for irritated skin as it “helps with barrier repair and when the skin is lacking the right balance in oils”. The endota Vitamin Treatment Oil is rich in argan, rosehip and avocado oils to restore glow and soothe itchy, unbalanced skin. Try massaging it in at night before moisturiser.
A weekly skin soother:
Finally, a once-weekly calming mask can be an excellent way to nourish and reduce redness. The endota Sensitive Oatmeal Relief Mask is packed with colloidal oatmeal, shea butter, grapeseed and sweet almond oil to care for stressed, dry skin without further irritation. It has a beautiful cooling effect, and you’ll notice relief almost instantly.