Struggling with sensitive skin? Learn how to calm a stressed, uncomfortable complexion with barrier-building ingredients and a skincare routine for sensitive skin. 

What causes sensitive skin?

Skin sensitivity is caused when the skin barrier becomes compromised. Any number of reasons can cause barrier damage and we’ll explore these in more detail further along. 

A healthy skin barrier guards your skin against moisture loss and attacks from external irritants and pathogens. Its key functions are to A) keep the good stuff (moisture) in the skin and B) keep the bad stuff (irritants) out!

When the barrier becomes damaged, tiny cracks appear on the surface of the lipid layer. 

Excessive moisture escapes through these cracks - leading to dryness - and irritants gain access to the skin, resulting in inflammation and sensitivity. 

Signs of sensitive skin 

Common characteristics of sensitive skin are signs of an impaired barrier:

  • Thin skin texture
  • Redness and flushing; may signal rosacea and can be sparked by ingredients (fragrance being a major culprit) that cause the blood vessels to dilate. 
  • Skin feels tight and uncomfortable
  • A burning or stinging sensation particularly when applying products
  • Flaking and chalky-looking skin; can indicate dehydration which makes skin more reactive to irritants and skincare
  • Rashes or bumps 
  • Scaly patches and rough texture

Sensitive skin type vs sensitised skin 

While both present with the same symptoms and root cause (a weakened barrier) sensitive skin is genetically predisposed while sensitised skin is a temporary condition. 

Any skin type can become sensitised by environmental or cosmetic/personal care irritants, medication, dehydration, hormonal fluctuations and even stress levels.

One of the most common causes of healthy skin becoming sensitised and inflamed is the overuse of exfoliants and active ingredients in a crowded skincare routine. 

With the correct steps, a compromised barrier can be repaired and sensitivity resolved. If sensitive skin is ‘permanent’ it can still be healthy if managed with the right care and compatible products. 

Rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis are all inflammatory sensitive skin conditions which oscillate between periods of active flare-ups and calm states.  

Must-know sensitive skin tips 

How to treat sensitive skin? The short answer is: with extreme care. To help you in your journey to manage sensitive skin or bring sensitised skin back to a healthy state, follow these tips. 

Simplify your skincare routine

Sensitive skin is easily overwhelmed and inflamed by too many products and ingredients. Creating a minimal, nourishing routine should be the number one priority in caring for your sensitive skin. Back off on complex routines and keep products to a minimum.

If you’re aiming to heal a damaged barrier (temporary sensitised skin) strip your routine back to the basics until your skin has recovered. 

  • Cleanser
  • Moisturiser or face oil 
  • SPF

If your complexion is sensitive by nature, but healthy overall, your skin will likely respond well to additional products targeted at sensitive skin types. 

  • Cleanser
  • Antioxidant Serum 
  • Moisturiser
  • SPF
  • Gentle exfoliation (weekly)
  • Low concentration Vitamin A serum (sensitive skin friendly) 

sensitive skin

Avoid foaming cleansers

Cleansing with the wrong ingredients, or over-cleansing, strips away the skin’s natural lipids which leads to irritation, inflammation and dryness and exacerbates conditions like eczema and rosacea. 

Most cleansers that deliver a “foamy” finish are powered by Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) the chemical responsible for creating the foaming effect. SLS is highly irritating for sensitive skin. Instead, choose a gentle cleanser that nourishes the skin and promotes a healthy presence of oil and moisture. 

The bottom line? Protect your lipids; don’t strip them away. Healthy, calm skin relies on a strong lipid barrier. 

Steer clear of irritating ingredients 

Like SLS, some other ingredients don’t play nice with sensitive skin. Ban the following ingredients to avoid causing inflammation and damage.

  • Fragrance (artificial and essential oils). Fragrance can also be listed as parfum and other names. If you’re unsure what something is when reading the ingredients list, Google it 
  • Alcohols including Denatured Alcohol, SD Alcohol 40, Ethanol and Isopropyl Alcohol. An exception in the alcohol category is Lanolin alcohol - which replenishes the skin’s lipid levels.
  • Mineral oil 
  • Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate 
  • Citronella 

Barrier-boosting ingredients to embrace

Now you know what to avoid, let’s take a look at the types of ingredients that promote a strong, resilient complexion. You’ll notice all these types of ingredients focus on adding hydration, sealing in moisture, and calming the skin. They are ideal skincare for dry sensitive skin.

Humectant ingredients 

Humectants work to attract moisture to the top layer of skin helping rehydrate parched, reactive cells.

  • Glycerin 
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Urea 

Occlusive ingredients 

Occlusives are a must to protect the skin from excessive water loss by sealing moisture into the skin.

Emollient ingredients 

Brimming with lipids, emollients help with sensitive skin care as they create a barrier between the skin and the environment.

  • Squalane
  • Rosehip seed oil 
  • Jojoba oil
  • Calendula
  • Tocopherol (Vitamin E) 

Always patch test

Patch testing is something we all should do before using a new product but it’s especially crucial for a fragile complexion. New products and new ingredients can cause havoc, leading to inflammation, stinging and redness. 

Before applying a new product to your entire face, patch test a little of the product on a small area of the skin first. Allow 24 hours to see how your skin reacts.

If you’re dealing with temporarily sensitised skin, avoid introducing any new products until your barrier is fully recovered. 

Wear sunscreen 

Sunscreen for sensitive skin is a must! In general, mineral sunscreens without fragrance are best tolerated by fragile skin. 

Vela Days skincare routine for sensitive skin

The best skincare for sensitive skin is a simple yet effective routine to strengthen and encourage radiance.. 

Step 1: Oil-to-Milk Face Cleanser - 3 in 1 | Lipid Complex

The best cleanser for sensitive skin, this proprietary blend of omega-rich oils utilise new technology to create a genuinely unique Oil/Gel-to-Milk cleanser. Enriched with barrier-boosting ceramides, it melts away impurities, makeup and the day.

Step 2: Multi-Active Hydrating Face Serum | Active Compound

The Active Compound is a one-of-a-kind serum that gives your skin the optimum dose of each essential vitamin and nutrient for glowing skin. Innovative actives, minerals, adaptogens, and antioxidants naturally brighten, soothe, fortify, and support your most radiant complexion morning and night.

Step 3: Moisturising Active Oil Serum for the Face | Oil Infusion Serum 

An oil moisturiser for sensitive skin this fortifying serum will help repair compromised barrier functionality and provide a powerful, glowing boost for your skin and day.

We’re here to help with your skincare for sensitive skin! Reach out to the Vela Days team if you have any questions.