Sensitive skin is ubiquitous in these times. Increased sun exposure, stressful lifestyles, poor nutrition, lack of sleep and high powered skin care products have rendered virtually all complexions somewhat sensitive. Today’s complexions require a more astute skin care plan than in previous generations. Dry, normal and oily are generalizations that just don’t apply any more. Stopping and reversing the aging process requires a plan beginning from a different standpoint: All skins are sensitive.
Women’s complexions do have certain things in common. T-zones are oilier than other portions of the face. The tissue on the throat is thinner than that on the face but thicker than under the eyes. We will all experience pigment changes when our skin is exposed to the sun. And all skin experiences collagen and elastin decline as we age. There the similarity ends.
Today’s complexions require a more astute skin care plan than in previous generations.
My experience in Esthetics during the last thirty years has convinced me that skin today is twice as sensitive as skin nearly four decades ago. And that goes across the board, all ages, all “skin types.” As far as this esthetician is concerned, there is only one skin type and that is S-E-N-S-I-T-I-V-E.
More leisure time has led to more time outdoors. Increased sun exposure creates sensitive skin. How? Sun exposure does more than prematurely age the skin manifesting in dermal breakdown, fine lines and deep wrinkles, coarse texture and pigment disorders. Sensitivity comes from the proliferation of tiny capillaries close to the skin’s surface. These tiny blood vessels are permanently dilated and give the skin a flushed appearance most noticeably on the chin and around the nose and cheeks. As a result, products are absorbed more quickly, producing unpredictable reactions. Consequently, women who would most benefit from “anti-aging” products are oftentimes unable to tolerate them.
Dry, normal and oily are generalizations that just don’t apply any more.
Faster, busier lifestyles have led to quick and easy meals for the most part deprived of any nutritional value. And I lump fast foods in with “healthy” microwave dinners. Nutritional foods arm our bodies with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that slow free radical damage, arguably the primal cause of disease and premature death. When the skin lacks antioxidants from within, it cannot fight the cascade-like effect of free radical damage which causes DNA malfunction and early cellular death.
Consequently, women who would most benefit from “anti-aging” products are oftentimes unable to tolerate them.
The same lifestyle that limits our food choices also robs us of quality time spent together at the dinner and breakfast table where historically problems were shared and stress reduced through personal interaction. And if stress can kill it can certainly affect the skin. Of all the things that can adversely affect the skin: sun, stress, lack of sleep, change of seasons, hormonal fluxes, genetic propensity; stress outdoes them all. I have seen stress turn a genetically beautiful complexion into severe acne within a few months. I have witnessed stress prematurely age mature but otherwise youthful skin twenty years within a year.
Complexions already acclimated to alpha hydroxy acids, tretinoin (or one of the several second or third generation cousins), hydroquinone, and antioxidants can become suddenly sensitive, evidenced by dermatitis and requiring complete cessation of the guilty products and a prescription strength hydrocortisone.
What is the answer for these fragile complexions? How does one go about strengthening the skin’s resistance while continuing to address it’s individual problems?
The answers are obvious but bear repeating and memorizing if you would have beautiful skin well into your eighties.
• Avoid the sun during the hours of 10-4 if at all possible. If this is unavoidable, consistently apply a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Foundation is your best friend. Due to it’s coverage abilities in the zinc oxide, titanium oxide or iron oxides it contains, it provides a natural shield from the sun.
• Avoid stress. Do whatever this takes. Meditation, a yoga class, or even changing jobs is not asking too much in exchange for beautiful skin and health. Remember that life is short and stress kills!
• Make healthy food choices and eat mindfully. Fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains along with minimal animal protein and fats provides all the vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants needed to maintain a radiant complexion as well as vibrant health.
• Get enough sleep! Beauty sleep hours are those before midnight so prioritize! To tenderly guard your skin and hair, use a satin pillowcase.
• Find a professional esthetician who can guide you intelligently in choosing and using the right skin care products for your sensitive skin.
If you are in your twenties and thirties, think now about the future. Take care of your complexion and it will serve you well. If you are mature and regretting your previous lack of care, don’t despair. It is never too late to have a beautiful complexion and you are alive at the right time in history to grow old beautifully!
(First published 01/29/11)