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Itchy, Stingy, Dry, Sensitive Skin

Learn how to treat your sensitive skin

Sensitive skin is skin that is genetically predisposed to be more susceptible to irritation. No matter what you do to care for your sensitive skin, nothing is going to change it's DNA. Sensitized Skin, is skin that has temporarily become more sensitive due to a variety of external factors. Sensitized skin refers to skin whose lipid barrier has been compromised. This is often due to stress, environmental factors, or overdoing it on the active ingredients in your skincare routine. Any of these factors can break down your skin's barrier and compromise its ability to keep hydration in and external aggressors out.

Right now I have sensitized skin. It's not sensitive all the time, but every once in a while my skin gets a little crazy. This is usually a self induced problem. While I take meticulous care of my skin, it's part of my job to test out new formulas for an up close and personal assessment of whether or not this might be a good addition to our extensive collection of skincare products and treatments.

This time the culprit was a new lactic acid peel. If I liked it, I might have considered adding it to some skincare therapy treatments in my studio. Lactic acid is a great exfoliating treatment. It originally was obtained from sour milk (think Cleopatra's milk baths) but it's now created in a lab for a reliable consistency and stability. I have a lactic peel right now that I like but was considering other options for different skin types. Lactic Acid, which you'll also find in Getting Even and Boost, is hydrating, exfoliating ingredient that is also known for its skin brightening properties. This new formula that was sent to me from one of the labs I work with was supposed to be a gentler option. It contained 10% lactic as opposed to the 30% lactic I currently use as a peel. The pH however must have been way lower than my current formula. (It's important to note that the strength of an alpha hydroxy acid is determined as much from, or maybe even more so by it's acid pH over its percentage). The lower the pH the stronger the peel. Well... I didn't burn or visibly flake but for over a week my skin has been itchy, stingy, dry and sensitive. The texture of my skin was super smooth, kind of slick, almost wet and spongy feeling. This is the sign of a really damaged skin barrier!

When your skin barrier is broken, it puts you in a sensitized state, which means that your skin is unable to defend itself against many other surrounding influences that it would typically be able to withstand. First thing to do when your skin is feeling sensitized is discontinue using all acid exfoliants. That means no Getting Even (an effective cocktail of alpha hydroxy acids), no Glycolic Serum (a pore clearing AHA), no Boost (with good old lactic acid) and no Clarity (an acne clearing BHA serum). Even First Light Therapy (which is a very mild azelaic acid exfoliating serum that works well for rosacea prone skin) should also be discontinued for the time being. Add to the list of not now are all retinoids (such as Retinol Resurfacing and Level Up) and please discontinue using your scrub. Don't worry, this isn't forever. It's just until your skin has recovered.

In extreme cases you need to get down to the bare bones of your skincare routine. Minimize everything, even your serums in the beginning. I had to forgo all serums including C & E and Revitalize Cell Therapy for about a week. Sometimes even the gentlest toners can be a problem for very compromised skin. Any product that is water soluble will penetrate your skin quicker than oils and creams and react with those exposed nerve endings. In my case, the nerve endings that register pain, touch and itchiness were now closer to my skin's surface because this strong peel dissolved too many of the protective cell layers that make up the stratum corneum (part of the protective barrier layer). So every sensory input was amplified.

Here's something you may not know... all skins can feel sensitized at times. External factors in our environment, like pollutants, the weather, our diet and irritants found in some products, can all play a part in causing sensitivity, making skin feel tight, itchy or inflamed. Here are some simple changes you can make to your skincare routine to help soothe and protect your skin when you're experiencing those pesky skin reactions.

Get back to basics

Remember, the simpler the better when it comes to sensitized skin.

  1. Starting with your cleanser - forget anything that foams. Cleansers with harsh detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate strip your skin of ceramides, cholesterol, and fats that make up the stratum corneum's barrier layer. You'll also end up dehydrated which makes skin more sensitive. Squeaky-clean is not how you want your skin to feel. You should be looking for a light gentle milky cleanser and if your skin feels particularly dry you may want to try a creamy cleansing souffle.

  2. If your skin can tolerate an alcohol free, hydrating toner it best to choose one that contains soothing botanicals. But, if your very sensitized that may even be a no go.

  3. Instead of your regular night cream Quell barrier repair serum is a phenomenal choice. This is the number one product to soothe sensitized skin by providing all of the healthy components that make up your barrier. Quell may feel a little dry on your skin but that's because of the powerful protective film it creates. To give it more slip, Quell should be applied while your skin is still damp, either from water (preferably distilled) or a toner. Later (when your skin has recovered enough to use serums) apply Quell over C & E or Sunrise Solution in the morning to protect sensitive areas. Don't wait for these type of serums to dry so you can get better slip. At night, to add even more protection I used a generous layer of Good Nite sleeping masque (over Quell) which employs an ample dose of shea butter that creates even more of a protective barrier.

  4. I also switch my daily sunscreen to Gentle Screen during this period, which leaves another protective layer on your skin. I do this over a layer of QUELL and Phyto Lipid Recovery Cream.

Down the road

When you get to the point that your skin isn't feeling as itchy, stingy, dry or sensitive any more you can slowly return to your regular routine. Try adding the following products, one product at a time:

  1. Toner - It's great for removing the remnants of dirt and makeup and balancing your pH. It is also helpful for removing chlorine and other sensitizing and dehydrating chemicals in tap water. My favorite toner when my skin is sensitized is Stress Recovery Toning Mist. But, if your toner is still stinging you that's a problem. Nix the toner for now.

  2. Calming Serums - Zen Zone is a great choice for calming sensitive skin. It works well under Quell. It also mixes well with a hyaluronic acid serum like Hydraessence (surface dehydration), Drench (deeper dehydration) or Stem Stim (which also contains healing growth factors).

  3. Repair Serums - Our two best repair serums are AGELESS and Revitalize Cell Therapy. They both focus on skin longevity via cellular repair. The difference is that AGELESS focuses on supplying architectural peptides for collagen building. Revitalize Cell Therapy provides ingredients that are designed for energy boosting when mature skin lacks the energy to properly repair cells and lacks vitality. Both are generally well tolerated by most skin types.

  4. Anti-inflammatory Antioxidants - These include C & E Antioxidant Serum and Sunrise Solution. Antioxidants can affect gene expression involved in calming the immune response. They help induce the suppression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, inhibiting key signaling pathways and enzymes involved in immune processes.

  5. Masques - While Azulene Soothing Mask is perfectly calming and hydrating I'd opt for Good Nite in the peak of a sensitized moment, especially if you have dry skin. If you're skin is oily, dehydrated or sensitive or gets red easily (from general sensitivity or too much sun exposure) our Azulene masque works wonders at calming your sensitive or sensitized skin.

  6. Retinoids and Acids - Finally, when your skin feels comfortable again you can slowly add retinol and exfoliating acids. They have great, time tested longevity benefits for your skin. It's important to wait until your skin feels normal and add these products very slowly. Once a week... than twice a week... then three times a week... and so on. And please, don't use retinoids and acids on the same night.

  7. In Spa - A hydrating skin therapy treatment is perfect at this time. It helps bring back the moisture your skin needs to feel comfortable and stay youthful.

My skin is feeling so much better now. But, it's still a work in progress. Hope your skin doesn't experience a sensitized event. But if it does, keep this post handy to refer to when you need it.

Elizabeth of Longevity Skincare

Elizabeth believes in "Longevity Skincare", the idea that beautiful skin can endure throughout one's lifetime when utilizing the best that science and nature has to offer. LONGEVITY is a science - based skincare line that appreciates skin of all ages. LONGEVITY by Elizabeth Renee provides hydration, nutrition and protection from environmental aging. Your skin will receive high performance ingredients to help energize and repair its cells, resulting in a healthy skin with an enduring, vital glow.


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