Even when you’re doing everything ‘right’ for sensitive skin – calming creams, no perfume – it can still act touchy. As many as 40% of women who apply to become testers for our Beauty Bible Awards self-identify as having sensitive skin. But the truth is, it may not be your beauty regime that’s triggering flare-ups – other factors can come into play. Over the years, we’ve identified many lifestyle shifts that may help skin to ‘chill’ out, whether you have occasional flare-ups or even more entrenched skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and acne.
Remember: soap is too harsh for the face. End of. We recommend a specific facial cleanser (balms can be particularly gentle). But if the skin on your body is also sensitive, try using an emollient wash, instead, such as Ameliorate Nourishing Body Wash, which gently cleanses while protecting against moisture loss with skin-friendly Essential Fatty Acids. If you prefer to stick with soap, seek out a natural version, which retains the glycerine – the natural, moisturising element which is removed from most commercially-produced soap bars. An oat-based product can often help calm touchy skin. For an instant bath time skin-calmer, simply put a handful of oats in a cotton cloth, tie up and hang under a running tap.
Never use very hot water on sensitive skin.Use cool or tepid for washing face and hands and warm for showering/bathing.
Use the minimum amount of washing powder. Better still, try Soapods, which are natural cleansing ‘nuts’ that you throw in the wash in a special bag, and which do get washing white, honest! NB We have experimented and found that most clothes get perfectly clean at a temperature of 30°C – far lower than is often recommended. Try for yourself. (Not if you have eczema, however, and need to exterminate house mites via washing in high temperatures.)
Use cider vinegar instead of fabric conditioner.You don’t get that spring-like smell (which of course is entirely synthetic), but believe it or not cider vinegar does leave clothes just as snugglesomely soft. (And no whiff of vinegar, amazingly.) In warm weather, we dry clothes outside – also the greenest option. You can always throw them in the drier for five minutes at the end, to soften them up.
Switch to household products that don’t use harsh chemicals. This may help alleviate allergies, too. Sarah’s decades-long eczema disappeared when she started using Ecover and Bio-D. Avoid clothes washing powder with biological actions, which often end up irritating skin.
Avoid bubble baths and use bath oils, instead.The aforementioned Ameliorate – who built their skincare empire by offering TLC to touchy skins –also offer a great bath oil in the range.
Keep the air around you humid. Dry air can dry the skin – although air that is too damp can cause mould and dust mite growth, both of which irritate eczema. The key is to keep humidity at around 50%. Can’t figure out what that’s like? We have a little Dial Hygrometer (um, that’s the technical term) that we bought online for under a fiver, which sits on a shelf and measures the humidity level in home and/or office. If the humidity’s in the ‘green zone’, you’re fine and dandy – but if not, improve humidity levels by placing bowls of water around the house, near heat sources – or dry your washing over the radiator, which humidifies brilliantly! If you’re not on a budget, you could consider investing in an electric humidifier – the Dyson is the top-of-the-range (and obviously the sexiest-looking), but others are more accessibly-priced.
Keep the temperature down in your house.Easier at this time of year, of course, when the central heating’s on lower (or even off, we hope). Central heating dramatically dries out air – and you’ll also save on fuel bills if you keep it on lower. If you feel cold, that’s what cardigans and vests are for, we always think! Or go for a walk, which will boost your circulation and make you feel warmer.
Avoid exposure to passive smoke. It will inflame skin, just as it irritates the rest of your body.
Keep a symptom/lifestyle diary. It can be hard to figure out what works. So take brief notes of what you do, in lifestyle terms, to deal with your sensitive skin each day – and see if you can spot patterns. Having both suffered from itchy skin at various times, we know how fiendish it is – but honestly, the above have worked for us. Good luck.