Your skin is the ultimate multitasker: a suit of armour against the elements, the chief regulator of your body temperature, and your primary means of understanding your environment through touch. It is also the largest organ of the human bodyi – and prone to a variety of conditions and illnesses, ranging from minor and temporary to serious and life-altering.
It is also essential to good health. While we tend to worry a lot about our skin, from how tan it is to the how many hairs grow out of it, we rarely get a chance to look at it more closely. Your skin is constructed of three layersii: the outermost epidermis, the dermis – home to hair follicles and sweat glands – and the hypodermis, which consists largely of fat and connective tissue. All three combine to provide your insides with a flexible, protective wall against the world.
What types of skin diseases are classified under sensitive skin?
Your skin is also incredibly complex. That connective tissue mentioned earlier is a delicate territory where hormones and proteins combine to keep your outer casing as rosy and robust as possible – and even tiny personal or environmental changes can interfere with the formula.
The result: sensitive skin. If you are prone to itching or irritation for what seems like no good reason, you may well be experiencing a skin condition or disease. Let’s take a look at skin disorders that are commonly categorised under sensitive skin:
- Contact Dermatitis – an umbrella term for general inflammation of the skin caused by an external stimulus, such as certain soaps or metals. You may notice an itchy rash, red or swollen skin, or blistersiii.
- Eczema – the common name for atopic dermatitis, which often manifests as red and rash-prone skin at childhood and continues to present for many years. Although the exact cause is often not known, and certain allergens are known to exacerbate the extent and intensity of the conditioniv.
- Psoriasis – this chronic autoimmune conditionv results in the overly rapid buildup of skin cells, and can lead to the appearance of scaly and inflamed skin.
- Dandruff – usually a symptom of eczema, psoriasis, or some form of dermatitis, dandruff affects the scalp and causes white, dead skin cells to flake off into the hairvi.
- Rosacea – too often disregarded as the effects of sunburn, rosaceavii is a widespread condition that causes skin to become red and inflamed in patches, predominantly on the cheeks, nose, forehead and chin.
What can be the cause of sensitive skin?
Skin diseases like these are often the result of a genetic quirk or hereditary abnormality and cannot be completely cured – instead, sufferers focus on managing and treating the symptoms. But many people develop sensitive skin reactions that have nothing to do internal bodily vagaries – and everything to do with harsh environmental conditions.
Sun, wind or cold weatherviii can all cause the skin to become dry and damaged. In an injured state, the skin is in no shape to protect the nerve endings just beneath it, and this exposure can lead to painful skin reactions.
What are the symptoms of sensitive skin?
Everyone’s skin is unique, and it stands to reason that skin sensitivity would present differently in different people. While some may suffer from stinging, itching or burning sensations ix, others can experience dryness, scaling or peeling – and although in many cases this sensitivity presents on areas of the face, in others, it can affect the thinner skin in and around the armpits, groin and genitals, too.
What are the best dietary or lifestyle changes to make for less sensitive skin?
The skin is the largest organ, remember? What this means, is that many people who suffer from the sensitive skin are tempted to spot treat affected areas in the belief that it may be an isolated incident. But the key to all-over inflammation relief? Hydration.
While a good-quality moisturiser with a high SPF will protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays, usually, the best treatments for dry or inflamed skin is not what you put on it, but what you put inside yourself. And that doesn’t simply mean drinking more water – the vitamins in avocados, fatty acids in salmon and the good fats in olive oil all play a role in locking moisture into the skin.
What are the best supplements for sensitive skin?
To meet your recommended daily allowances of these nutrients and minerals, you may have to supplement your meals with concentrated doses. Omega-3 fatty acidsx, for example, are healthy fats that help to reduce inflammation – and while you could get more than enough by eating fatty fish, such as wild salmon or herring, you might find it easier to find a fish oil supplement.
Another known skin booster: Vitamin B6, which may prevent the development of skin conditionsxi by promoting proper enzyme production, a healthy metabolism and the smooth transport of oxygen through the body. Other supplements that can help prevent sensitive skin include selenium, Vitamins A, B3, B6, C and E.
Your skin is both essential and everywhere: covering your entire body, it presents who you are to the world. Sensitivity can be impossible to ignore, presenting itself in serious pain and inconvenient areas – but with a few healthy lifestyle changes, the solutions are within reach.