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Sensitive skin

Common Signs of Sensitive Skin

Nearly all skin has a degree of sensitivity. This is because skin is a reactive mechanism that responds to various elements and disturbances inside and out. But it is the level of reaction that will help you pinpoint whether skin is truly sensitive or not.

To start, sensitive skin tends to be thinner, and more prone to fragile capillaries. It also is generally more susceptible to reddening and can develop rashes in response to an outside influence. Keep in mind, however, all skin reacts to external factors such as pollution, sun, wind and smoking. Sensitive skin will overreact to these elements. When it comes to skin topicals, most sensitive skins are typically reacting to inferior ingredients or formulations, such as those containing dyes, preservatives or perfumes.

Reactions in sensitive skin will often show up as a flushing of the skin, redness or rash. It is not a chronic or progressive issue like rosacea, rather a reaction that typically subsides once the offending element has been eliminated and inflammation is calmed.

The skin and body work together, so, many people may have sensitive skin because of immune or other internal issues. This is important to identify and different than a reaction. You may have a long term sensitive skin plan that can still strengthen the skin and slow down the aging process, but you have to have the right ingredients and understanding. An in-depth skin evaluation will provide a better understanding of what’s truly happening and help reveal the potential root cause.

During the evaluation, ask about lifestyle (sleep, diet, stress level, etc.), use of any medications or supplements, the skin care products they’re currently using, and when they noticed the reaction. In examining the skin, look for some of the above-mentioned characteristics. If you detect frequent blushing, expanded surface capillaries, papules, or dilated veins, it may be a case of rosacea. If you determine it is sensitive skin; however, how do you help restore it to optimum health?

Ingredients For Sensitive Skin

When working with sensitive skin, keep in mind that the barrier has been compromised in some way. The goal is strengthen and rebuild dermis and epidermis layers. There are a few best practices that work well for restoring the health and vitality to reactive and compromised skin.

Beta acids. Sensitive skin typically responds best to beta acid and retinol versus alpha hydroxy acids. Beta acids have a larger molecule size that allows the acid to stay on the surface longer for a more effective exfoliation, and don’t produce the irritation that some AHAs do.

Flower acids. Flower acids, which are classified as second-generation AHAs, do not cause skin irritation, in fact, have many cellular benefits to help strengthen skin.

Retinaldehyde. Encapsulated retinaldehyde is a vitamin A derivative that feeds the dermal layer of skin, strengthening and rebuilding collagen and elastin. This vitamin A derivative also encourages regeneration and cellular cohesion and fights bacteria.

Mandelic acid. Derived from almonds, this powerhouse ingredient helps desensitize the skin, enhances healing, encourages cell turnover, increases cell oxygenation and provides antibacterial and antiseptic support.

Stem cells. Organic stem cells increase antioxidant resistance, inhibit the production of collagenases, and provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial support.

Epidermal growth factors (EGF). Composed of 53 amino acids, EGF is a protein that supports cell renewal, and have key ingredients for strengthening new skin cells and offering vital cell repair.

Flower extracts. There are a variety of flower extracts such as chamomile, edelweiss, purple coneflower and cornflower that provide a potent dose of vitamin C and flavonoids. These infuse the skin with necessary antioxidants and provide calming, anti-inflammatory benefits.

Treatments to Rebuild and Strengthen

One common misconception is that chemical peels are too harsh for sensitive skin. This is primarily due to the exfoliation piece versus the actual peel solution. "Peels" can definitely be a part of the success to this skin as well as corrective facials. Let’s dive deeper into this.

In the treatment room, the goal is to not over-exfoliate but instead strengthen and restore the skin. Corrective facials infused with vitamins, minerals and other nourishing ingredients and progressive peels that strengthen from the inside out are key to results. Using the right acids and enzymes is vital as many rejuvenating and exfoliating ingredients can create more sensitivities to this skin if not careful. There are several treatments, techniques and modalities that will help strengthen and restore the skin.

Corrective facials. Look to corrective facials that are infused with vitamins, minerals, and other nourishing ingredients like vitamin E and C, repairing stem cells, soothing milk, mandelic acid and L-arginine and other botanicals. You might start with a green tea-based cleanser to minimize surface bacteria and reduce redness, followed by a papaya enzyme and soothing milk protein mask to gently boost exfoliation and provide healing. Soothe skin with a milk protein mask.

Next, an active cocktail of mandelic arginine serum, a sea buckthorn oil-based serum and pure aloe vera, hyaluronic acid and flower essences, such as chamomile and edelweiss, will nourish and strengthen the skin. Omega 6 EFAs will inhibit bacteria, reduce inflammation, increase hydration and provide the building blocks for healthy skin.

To calm and hydrate the skin, a milk protein mask blended with mandelic arginine serum will deliver important amino acids and antioxidants. While the mask is on, chilled ice globes can be rolled over the skin to further reduce inflammation. A sea buckthorn oil serum can then be applied to inhibit facial redness while an exotica rhodiola-based moisturizer provides hydration and strengthens the skin’s protective barrier. Finish with a mineral-based sunscreen to protect skin from UV rays.

Peels. You can peel sensitive skin, but the key is to focus on rebuilding the skin from the inside out. Vitamin A and peptide peel formulas work well for this skin, but look for an encapsulated retinol-based formula. A series of three vitamin A peels, two to three weeks apart, will deliver the same rejuvenating and strengthening benefits as a year’s worth of Retin A—and without any downtime.

When peeling, it’s important to prep the skin properly. Following a good cleanse, apply a cell conditioner to inhibit inflammation. Follow with a melanin suppressant solution to inhibit melanocyte activity and reduce the risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). At this point, it’s a good time to bring in flower acids, such as hibiscus, to begin the exfoliation process while providing good nutrients to the skin.

After the vitamin A and peptide peel solution is applied, and allowed to remain on the skin, finish with a mineral-based sunscreen and omega 6 EFAs to protect and nourish the skin.

Oxygen therapy can help rebuild and strengthen sensitive skin.

LED and Oxygen Therapy

When working with sensitive skin, LED and oxygen therapy will further help in the rebuilding and strengthening, as they increase overall circulation while reducing redness. These two modalities work with both corrective facials and peels.

LED. LED helps strengthen and hydrate the dermal layer—the collagen and elastin fibers—and when paired with a corrective treatment, it can boost certain properties of other nourishing ingredients. A mandelic acid and arginine peel paired with LED can be a great option for a compromised barrier.

Oxygen therapy. These treatments will also further support the infusion of nutrients into the skin. Oxygenating the skin will also prompt circulation, which is an essential part of the rejuvenation process.

Home Care

In treating a compromised barrier, post home care is a must. The goal is to load the skin with antioxidants, nourishing vitamins and anti-inflammatories (see Sensitive Skin Home Care Ingredients).

For compromised or sensitive skin, sun protection is absolutely essential. Overexposure to UV rays will only stimulate additional damage and weaken healthy cells. To create an environment for healing, all possible irritating and damaging elements must be eliminated. Zinc oxide will not only protect the skin from free-radical and UV-damage, it will also provide additional antioxidant and antimicrobial support.

Dig Deeper

Keep in mind, what clients may self diagnose as sensitive skin, may just be a reaction to something specific. Be sure to dig into the issue deeper to rule out possibilities of rosacea and get to the root of what may be causing the reaction. Additionally, the skin must go through several cycles to shed the compromised cells, and clients will play a big role in supporting this process by eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, and working to reduce other environmental aggressors and stresses. Though they won’t see a change overnight, with their commitment and the right mix of ingredients, it is possible to restore sensitive skin.

Sensitive Skin Home Care Ingredients

Mandelic acid + arginine

Organic stem cells


Omega 6 essential fatty acids

Epidermal growth factors

Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP)


writer Shannon Esau

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