Sensitive skin is typically characterized by dryness, flaking, sensations of stinging and itching associated with skin redness. It is actually a form of dermatitis otherwise known as eczema. I see a large number of patients who come in with complaints of persistent sensitive skin. What they often do not realise is that it is a form of eczema. Eczema can be caused by genetic factors and also external factors such as a change in environment and climate, presence of pollen, animal fur and dust. In this article, I shall share a few tips that I usually expound on with my patients and hopefully shed some light on this condition.
Dr. Teo Wan Lin is an accredited dermatologist and an expert on cosmeceutical skincare research and development. She is the author of “Skincare Bible – Dermatologist’s Tips for Cosmeceutical Skincare” which was published July 2019 by leading bookstores Barnes & Noble, Baker & Taylor and Apple Books and available in bookstores islandwide from January 2020. She heads up Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals, a specialist cosmeceutical skincare line with evidence-based active ingredients for anti-ageing and skin health. Its subsidiaries, the Pi- Cosmeceutical Custom Makeup Lab and the Conscious Mask Bar are part of the Conscious Concept Pharmacy launched in December featuring environmentally sustainable makeup and skincare materials. In this series “Dermatologist Talks” she shares her top tips on common skincare topics. In this article, she tells us the science behind sensitive skin – a form of eczema.
What causes eczema?
Eczema is due to a defect in the skin barrier. The skin is best characterized by a brick and mortar model whereby the bricks of the skin cells are joined together by this cement which holds the skin cells together. People who have sensitive skin or eczema actually have defective ceramide which is the cement of the brick wall which is the skin. This is genetically determined and people who develop eczema in the later part of their lives can also have their condition triggered off by environmental factors such as differences in humidity from dry to humid weather and vice versa. The use of harsh cleansers can also cause eczema to develop over one’s lifetime.
Does ageing cause eczema?
With regards to the development of sensitive skin with age, the same concept of our body’s organ degenerating with age, our skin also degenerates. The main thing is the quality and quantity of ceramide which is produced throughout one’s lifetime decreases with age. On that note, skin can become more sensitive with age.
What should I look out for in sensitive skin products?
The ingredients that are essential for sensitive skin would be a moisturizer and a gentle cleanser. A gentle cleanser such as one that is formulated with minimal laureate sulfate content, which is the foaming component of a cleanser, would be beneficial for a patient who suffers from skin sensitivity. In addition, the use of a ceramide-containing moisturizer is essential. Traditional moisturizers contain humectants such as glycerine which trap water under the skin. Increasing research in dermatology shows that one should be replacing the defective and deficient ceramide content in the skin barrier by applying ceramide rich moisturizers. More information on using Dr.TWL’s Multi-CERAM Moisturizer for eczema treatment can be found here.
Dr.TWL Multi-CERAM Moisturizer is an ultra intensive skin moisturiser for total skin barrier repair with pharmaceutical grade ingredients. It contains phytoceramides which aids in skin barrier repair and multi-ceramide which aids in skin lipid restoration.
Dr.TWL Honey Cleanser is a blend of nature-derived emulsifiers. It is anti-flaking and supples skin. It is also recommended for all skin types as it is a gentle cleanser.
Where is ceramide from?
Sources of ceramide can be plant-derived, synthetic or from animals. Bovine ceramide is the typical source of ceramide used in moisturizers. Plant-derived ceramides which are phytoceramides is what I use in my practice. It contains these lipids which are extracted from plant seed oils.
Dr.TWL Radiance Fluide Hydrating Emulsion contains LARECEA™ Extract for regeneration and skin brightening ingredients for a dewy glow. It is specially formulated for a light-weight feel to impart a radiant glow without make-up. It also contains ceramide and grape seed oil, perfect for individuals with eczema and sensitive skin.
What ingredients should I avoid if I have sensitive skin?
The ingredients that one should avoid when you have sensitive skin will be things like astringents, so any alcohol-based gel, toners or lotions should be avoided because these tend to dry up the skin further. In addition, irritating ingredients such as alpha hydroxy acids and salicylic acids are commonly used for the treatment of acne as well as for skin exfoliation, these will definitely trigger off skin sensitivity.
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