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How to Get Rid of Sensitive Skin

Updated on March 12, 2011

In Britain around 80 per cent of women say their skin is sensitive or easily provoked to redness and irritation. The usual advice is to opt for hypoallergenic preparations which contain fewer potential allergens.

Sensitivity, however, is not the same as a true allergy. An allergic response is provoked by a specific trigger such as pollen with hayfever. It can be any natural or synthetic substance includ­ing herbs and essential oils. When the allergen is inhaled or comes into contact with the skin, the cells pour forth the arch-irritant histamine. This gives rise to swelling, inflammation and itching which causes skin to erupt in weals characteristic of nettle rash or urticaria. Allergic reactions are intense but short-lived and symptoms usually subside in a few hours. Re-exposure to the allergen sets the whole process in motion again.

In contrast, sensitive skin reacts in a non­specific way to a variety of substances that are well tolerated by normal skins. Sensitive skins become vulnerable because their natural defences have been gradually eroded.

Close examination reveals that the stratum corneum is excessively porous. It allows water to pass out, making skin feel taut, and irritants to move in. Sensitivity also suggests the body is trying to cope with too many toxins. These may come from your diet, from medication and from environmental chemicals. From the skin's point of view over-treatment with a variety of different skincare preparations each containing 20 or more chemical ingredients may be too much for it to handle.

A holistic approach to treating sensitivity lies in streamlining your skincare regime, using pure and simple preparations, bolstering skin's natural defences and detoxing from within.

Soothing Skin Balm

  • 1 teaspoon white beeswax
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa butter
  • 1 teaspoon emulsifying wax
  • 1 teaspoon avocado oil
  • 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
  • 1 teaspoon calendula oil
  • 10 drops evening primrose oil
  • 2 tablespoons camomile or comfrey infusion
  • 1 tablespoon aloe vera gel
  • 6 drops camomile or sandalwood essential oil 

Melt the beeswax, cocoa butter and emulsifying wax in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly stir in the oils with a wooden spoon. When blended, stir in the herbal infusion. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. When the mixture is lukewarm, blend in the aloe vera gel and add the essential oil of your choice. Keeps fresh for up to 4 weeks when chilled.

Holistic Solutions

  • Use a gentle and simple cleanser such as Scented Milk made with rose or camomile, then spray with rose water or an infusion of camomile. Never use a toner containing alcohol on sensitive skin.
  • Moisturize with a cream that soothes and rebuilds the skin's natural defences. Try the Soothing Skin Balm, left. Dab a little of each ingredient on your skin first to check if it is an irritant.
  • Treat your skin from within by following a gentle detox programme. Stay away from coffee, alcohol and cigarette smoke.
  • Boost your intake of omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids to strengthen your skin's natural barrier from within.
  • Choose organically grown foods rich in antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E and zinc which help to boost your protection from within. Black grapes, blueberries and cherries are rich in flavonoids, phytonutrients with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

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