What causes sensitive skin?
While it’s a bit of a mystery what causes sensitive skin genetically, science has some pretty good ideas as to what’s going on – and what doesn’t help.
Our skin has a naturally protective fatty outer layer, the lipid barrier. It’s this defence mechanism that allows us to retain water, while fending off anything that could do us damage – think chemicals or the elements. When this shield is weaker or thinner than usual, it means the nerve endings in the top layer of the epidermis (the outermost part of our skin’s structure) can be vulnerable to foreign matter, which irritate them – ta-da, a skin flare-up occurs.
If your lipid barrier is thinner it’s said you also absorb skincare products more deeply, making your skin more susceptible to outbreaks caused by topical products like overly harsh skincare. Conversely, this also means that moisture can be more readily lost, which is why sensitive skin is often dry too. In a cyclical turn of events, sensitivity can also be caused by dry skin or dehydration, AKA, when it’s too low on oil and/or water. Similarly, it’s no coincidence that if you are already experiencing sensitivity, you might find that a change-up in elements or internal shifts like illness, hormones, stress can heighten what your skin is already going through.
With our faces and bodies being exposed to all sorts on a daily basis, there’s a lot to side-step when your skin’s barrier is weaker by nature. And since everyone experiences sensitive skin slightly differently, there’s a spectrum of severity, not to mention different types of sensitivity to be aware of. Often skincare for sensitive skin is a bit of an afterthought, but this time no one’s putting you in the corner. Spotlighting each type of sensitive skin, we’ve also rounded up the best of our sensitive skin products.