When my patients ask me about their sensitive skin, the first thing I need to know is what products they are using. Most of the time they are using products with harsh alcohols or they are using harsh essential oils. However, I am NOT saying all essential oils are harsh, I am saying the ones they have been using tend to be harsh.
Here is where the conversation gets real. I break the news that they likely do not have sensitive skin. People are usually resistant to this suggestion because they have believed they have sensitive skin for years.
So, what’s the problem? A weakened skin barrier. Symptoms usually include itchy, dry, patchy skin and inflammation. I understand why people would call it sensitive skin.
What causes it? Usually our own obsession with squeaky clean skin and overuse of product after product trying to chase our ideal of perfect skin.
What is the acid mantle and why should you protect it? (warning this gets a little ” science-heavy”)
The acid mantle is the protective film of natural oils, amino acids, and sweat that covers your skin. Damage it with too much scrubbing or neutralize it with alkaline washes and you’re on your way to barrier problems: inflammation, allergies, breakouts.
Our skin is acidic, therefore using cleansers and other products which are alkaline, disrupts our natural barrier. Plus, as we age our skin becomes even more alkaline which chews away at our collagen.
What can you do to protect your acid mantle?
- Step away from the multiple-step routine. Chances are, it is not the products individually it is the combination and overuse of products causing the problem.
- Don’t over-exfoliate. I suggest using a chemical exfoliating product only once a week and avoiding physical exfoliators like those with crushed shells.
- Use moisturizing ingredients such as ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin.
- Don’t be fooled by products that say “pH balanced” Much like “clean” and “natural” these claims are not regulated and should not be blindly followed. Do your research
- See an esthetician who can evaluate the condition of your skin and suggest products to help you maintain a healthy acid mantel.
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Dermatology PA and creator of Perfect Skin Code.