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Sensitive Skin 101

June 26th, 2013 | Posted by mrslaurarobinson in Products | Skin Care

Yesterday I attended another incredible Dermalogica class at the International Dermal Institute in Chicago called “UltraCalming: Serious Relief for Sensitive Skin.”

Does your skin ever feel tight after cleansing? Are you prone to blushing, stinging or itching? Does your skin ever get red and blotchy? Do you have severely dry skin? Broken capillaries around your nose and cheeks? These are just some of the characteristics of a sensitive or sensitized skin.Sensitiveskinwoman

Sensitive skin is a term used by people that consider themselves to be less tolerant of products and environmental conditions than the general population. In fact millions of people around the world claim they have “sensitive” skin, and this number is on the rise. Studies show that 50% of people describe themselves as “sensitive” these days. There has also been a huge influx of products out there marketed specifically to “sensitive skin”. Sadly most of these products are not helping the condition, and could actually be contributing to the problem.

The term has become so widely used, but the truth is very few people are actually born with sensitive skin. Those people with a true “sensitive” skin are genetically predisposed and tend to have lighter hair, and eyes, allergy prone, and burn very easily in the sun. “Sensitized” skin is a different story, this is very common and I see it regularly in the treatment room. A sensitized skin is a hyper-reactive skin which is caused by external factors such as lifestyle, climate, pollution, chemicals, medications, dehydration, over processed skin (medical treatments, or too much exfoliation), poor ingredients, inflammatory diseases, and stress. The most common triggers are severe weather (sun, dry heat, severe cold) and reactions to products (experiencing burning and stinging). In fact 36% of people living in China have sensitized skin due to the high levels of pollution. Stress is also very high up on the list, and can be a vicious cycle. The more stress the more reactive the skin becomes which in turn creates more stress.

Inflammation is present in a sensitive and sensitized skin. Inflammation is a response of body tissues to injury or irritation which is characterized by pain, swelling, heat and redness. There are 2 types if inflammation and either one or both could be happening to a person with sensitive or sensitized skin. First, there is Immunogenic Inflammation where the cells are activated to destroy allergens and bacteria and have been triggered by an artificial fragrance or foreign substance such as pollen. It results in pain, swelling, redness and heat; this immune response happens to rescue the skin. Secondly, there is  Neurogenic Inflammation which is triggered by the nervous system. When a chemical activates nerve sensors in the skin there is a release of substances that trigger an inflammatory response. Stress can signal the body to release certain agents that induce inflammation. Painful conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, hypersensitivity, rosacea and wound healing are associated with Neurogenic Inflammation.

If you’ve been to Sparkle for a treatment you may have heard me explain the importance of a healthy lipid barrier which is our skin’s natural protective outer layer . A healthy barrier is naturally acidic and contains the right ratio of essential fatty acids, ceramides and cholesterol. Very often sensitive skin is caused by a crack in this lipid barrier. Some common barrier disruptors are strong acids (alpha hydroxy acids), strong alkali (use of soap or cleanser that is not pH balanced to the skin), aniotic surfactants such as sodium lauryl sulfate (which Dermalogica would never use in their products), chemical sunscreens, and emulsifiers in products. Once the barrier has become compromised bacteria, irritants, and allergens have a way in, and hydration has a way out, also known as Trans-Epidermal Water Loss or TEWL. The main objective is to restore the lipid barrier, which requires soothing, healing and restorative ingredient formulations, and taking a break from exfoliation. UC_Group6754_p1190d_s

Dermalogica has created a soothing blend of ingredients called the UltraCalming Complex which is used in it’s most potent form in the treatment room, but it’s also found throughout the UltraCalming line of products. The 4 key ingredients in the Complex are: Red Hogweed Root Extract which is unique to Dermalogica, it helps control neurogenic inflammation-induced redness and sensitivity. Oat Kernal (Avena Sativa) Extracts which is a topical anti-histamine, helps to reduce itching, redness and irritation. Also Ginger extract and Bisabolol which work together to reduce redness and irritation. Bisabolol is derived from Camomile which is very calming and soothing.

They have also created a blend of concentrated oils called the UltraCalming Blend which reinforces and heals the lipid barrier. The blend contains Sunflower Seed Extract which are ceramides and also helps to diminish dehydration. Avocado Sterols which are plant derived forms of cholesterol and maintain the lipid barrier. Also Evening Primrose, an essential fatty acid, which helps keep the lipids intact, promotes healing and prevents future reactions. This soothing blend helps bring that barrier back to it’s healthy acidic state.


So, where do we go from here? The treatment will be the same for both a sensitive and a sensitized skin because they share the same symptoms. For some clients they may only be sensitized for a period of time, and for the rare truly sensitive clients they will need to be on a very specific regimen. That’s the wonderful thing about Dermalogica, we have our UltraCalming segmented line dedicated to address sensitivity.  Some individuals will require the entire line up of products to get the results they desire, while others may just need a few key products to get their skin back on track. It’s going to be different for each person. That’s where my role as your skin therapist comes into play. I will help you select the products that are best suited for your skin.

The treatment for sensitive skin applies the “Less Rule” which means: less heat (towels, steam, water), less friction (rubbing, stimulation, massage, exfoliation, extractions), less product, and a focus on de-stressing the client. I just experienced this amazing treatment yesterday while at the International Dermal Institute in Chicago and fell asleep during the pressure point massage. I have never fallen asleep during a treatment before, so that should say a lot about how deeply relaxing and therapeutic it was. Every facial is customized to your individual needs at Sparkle, so if you’re experiencing sensitivity of any kind book a facial today and see what a difference it can make. Your skin will thank you!

XO Sparkle

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