How to Treat Red, Sensitive Skin

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Redness and sensitivities can occur for a number of different reasons. From sun exposure to rosacea to dermatitis, nobody wants to have to deal with a red and sensitive face.

So, what can you do about it?

Here are a few skin-soothing treatment options that you can try:

Make Use of Anti-Inflammatory Ingredients

Redness is usually down to inflammation, meaning that the very first thing that you should do to treat this is to nourish your skin with some anti-inflammatory ingredients.

Which ingredients should you try using?

Here are some of the most powerful anti-inflammatory ingredients out there:

  • Chamomile – gentle enough to be used on sensitivities, chamomile contains a compound called bisabolol, which is an anti-irritant
  • Aloe Verathe go-to ingredient for sunburns, aloe vera promotes the skin’s healing process, while reducing redness and sensitivities. It is also packed with moisture, making it incredibly hydrating 
  • Calendula – this medicinal flower extract calms and soothes the skin, while providing it with protective antioxidants
  • Honey – hydrating and soothing, honey has long since been used to treat everything from eczema to acne
  • Hemp Seed Oil – has powerful anti-inflammatory properties thanks to its gamma linoleic acid content
  • Azelaic Acid – reduces redness and helps to treat rosacea, while also being a powerful antioxidant

Of course, you don’t want to end up applying any irritants to your skin, making it even more sensitive…

Before applying any of the above to your skin, read the next section to ensure that you aren’t about to use a product that actually caused your sensitivities in the first place.

Stay Away from Any Irritants

One of the most common causes of redness and sensitivities is contact dermatitis.

What is contact dermatitis?

It’s basically inflammation in the skin, caused by your skin coming into contact with an irritant.

Infographic on dermatitis and inflamed skin

Common irritants include:

  • Soaps
  • Detergents
  • Perfumes and cosmetic products containing a fragrance 
  • The preservatives used in cosmetics
  • Dust and soil
  • Certain types of water, such as chlorinated or chalky
  • Certain plants, such as mustards, sunflowers and tulips
  • Certain fabrics, although this is mostly down to the resins and dyes within them 

No, you don’t have to stay away from all of the things on that list – that would be near-impossible!

Instead, try to work out exactly what it was that irritated your skin. Identify when the redness started, and then have a think about what you were doing before that happened.

You may find that simply cutting those irritants out of your life will be enough to completely eliminate your redness and sensitivities.

Replenish Your Skin’s Natural Barrier

Remember how it was mentioned above that redness can sometimes be caused by your skin coming into contact with certain irritants?

Well, one of the reasons why those irritants affected you in the way that they did is likely because your skin’s natural barrier isn’t quite as strong as it should be.

Wondering what the skin’s natural barrier actually is?

It sits on the outermost layer of your skin, and consists of a mixture of lipids and dead skin cells. It provides the skin with a waterproof shield, preventing its moisture from evaporating while also protecting the skin from environmental damage.

Unfortunately, there is so much out there, from certain cosmetic ingredients to some lifestyle habits, that can cause this barrier to weaken. This then leaves your skin susceptible to sensitivities.

How can you strengthen and replenish your skin’s natural barrier?

Here are some tips:

  • Cut back on exfoliation, as this clears away the dead skin cells that make up your skin’s natural barrier
  • Stay away from any harsh ingredients, as these will strip your skin’s barrier of its lipids
  • Use barrier-enhancing ingredients on your skin, such as niacinimide, hyaluronic acid and ceramides. For example, the 24K Collagen Renewal Serum and Cream both contain hyaluronic acid and ceramides to really lock in the skin’s moisture and prevent any further moisture loss
  • Avoid hot showers, as the hot water strips the lipids away from the skin’s barrier
  • Eat a healthy diet that contains plenty of omega fatty acid sources
  • Make sure that you are wearing sunscreen each and every day

Pratice An Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Inflammation of some sort is usually always the cause of redness, meaning that keeping any inflammation in your body to a minimum could really help with your skin.

The best way to do this is by eating an anti-inflammatory diet.

Unknown woman eating a salad at a restaurant

Wondering what an anti-inflammatory diet consists of?

It basically means that you avoid any foods that trigger inflammation, while consuming foods that contain anti-inflammatory properties.

Let’s begin by taking a look at the foods you should be avoiding:

  • Meats, dairy products and vegetable oils – these contain a high amount of omega-6 fatty acids, and not enough omega-3 fatty acids. This unbalanced ratio quickly stimulates the inflammatory process within the body
  • High glycemic index foods – any foods that contain sugar or refined grains, such as sugar-filled drinks, processed foods, and white bread, have been shown to lead to an increase in inflammation 

Now onto the foods that you should be eating more of:

  • Fatty fish – fish such as herring, mackerel, salmon and sardines contain an ideal ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, along with compounds that have anti-inflammatory effects in the body
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors – these contain so many antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory effects
  • Green tea – green tea contains a compound called EGCG, which has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
  • Turmeric – this spice contains a powerful anti-inflammatory compound known as curcumin
  • Cocoa and dark chocolate – the flavanols within cocoa and dark chocolate are what provide these foods with their anti-inflammatory properties 

Cool Off

Sometimes, the skin can turn red and sensitive when it has become too hot, which is also known as heat stress.

Think that this could be the cause of your redness?

If so, the best way to treat this would be to cool your skin down.

How?

One of the best ways would be to splash it with some cool water, and then immediately follow this up with a cooling and soothing moisturizer.

For even more instant relief, try storing your moisturizer, as well as other skin care products, in the fridge. This will keep them at a much lower temperature, which will then constrict blood vessels when they are applied to the skin, minimizing the appearance of redness.

If you aren’t able to cool off with water and a moisturizer, try simply heading into the shade and standing in front of a fan instead.

Don’t forget to keep drinking plenty of water too, as this helps your body to regulate its temperature.

Calm Down

Does your skin tend to turn red and sensitive whenever you are feeling stressed?

This isn’t a coincidence, stress really can have this effect on your skin…

How?

Well, whenever you are feeling stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol, which is often referred to as the stress hormone.

Cortisol helps the body to deal with that stressful situation, essentially placing it into fight or flight mode. This was crucial back in the day of the earliest humans, when a stressful situation usually meant that their life was in jeopardy.

However, in today’s modern world, stress is such a common thing. People experience stress over just about everything, from work deadlines to an untidy house, meaning that cortisol is constantly running rampant in the body.

While a small amount of cortisol in seriously stressful situations is a good thing, too much cortisol can have such a detrimental effect on the body.

What does this have to do with red and sensitive skin?

Well, one of the effects that cortisol has is speeding up the heartbeat, while causing the blood to be pumped away from external organs and towards the skin. This increase in blood flow, coupled with the fact that there is more blood nearer to the surface of the skin, means that the skin ends up looking red and flushed

Excess cortisol also makes your skin more susceptible to various skin problems, from sensitivities to breakouts.

Of course, keeping stress levels down is usually much easier said than done…

The key is making an effort to try a variety of stress reduction techniques whenever you are feeling stressed. Everybody is different, meaning that some techniques will not work for you, whereas others will.

Here are a few to try:

  • Deep breathing exercises – this may sound simple, but deep breathing exercises can have an immediate effect on your stress and cortisol levels, while helping you to feel more balanced and secure
  • Exercise – lowers cortisol levels while helping you to work through any intense emotions you may be dealing with, essentially enabling you to clear your mind and better process your thoughts
  • Turn to your support system – whether this may be friends or family, connecting with other people can help you to feel more grounded and less stressed. You may also find that you come up with a solution to your stressor much faster when you can talk it out with people who know you well
  • “Me time” – if your schedule is usually quite busy, try setting aside some time each week to do something you love. This could be anything from reading a book to a long, leisurely bath to a hobby that makes you happy
  • Write it down – journalling is a fantastic way to clear the mind and reduce stress. Try writing down exactly what you are stressing about, as this will help you to identify any patterns in the long run and avoid those stressors in the future 

Keep Your Skin Protected from the Sun

Do you wear a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 every single day?

If your answer is no, then this is something that you need to start doing immediately, especially while your skin is red and sensitive.

Why?

Because sun exposure triggers inflammation in the skin. Not only does it cause redness and sensitivities, but it also exacerbates these if you are already dealing with this problem.

Make sure that you are also re-applying your sunscreen every few hours, although you will need to do this more frequently if you are sweating or swimming.

infographic - UV damage

Can’t decide whether to go for a physical or chemical sunscreen?

Since your skin is already sensitive, a physical one would be best. The chemicals within a chemical sunscreen can often exacerbate sensitivities, and the heat that they create when they chemically react with the sun’s UV rays can make existing inflammation so much worse. 

For extra benefits, look for a sunscreen that also contains some of the skin-soothing ingredients mentioned earlier, such as green tea, aloe vera and chamomile.

Don’t forget, there are other ways in which you can protect your skin from the sun too…

A wide-brimmed hat, along with some sunglasses, will help to give your face some extra protection. Many sunglasses now feature UV filters, which is definitely useful.

What about your body?

Keep the skin on your body covered up with clothing, preferably fabrics that are dark and tight-knit, so as to prevent UV rays from seeping through.

Finally, try to simply stay out of direct sunlight as much as possible, especially during the hottest hours of the day. This is usually between 11am and 3pm, although it does depend on your exact location. Generally, when the sun is directly above you in the sky, that is when its UV rays will be at their strongest.

Red and sensitive skin can be difficult to live with, but there are quite a few ways in which you can treat this. From making a few changes to your lifestyle, whether this may be your diet or your stress levels, to ensuring that you are using skin care ingredients that provide anti-inflammatory and barrier-strengthening effects, these tips will have your skin looking and feeling clear and healthy in no time at all.