1. What is sensitive skin?
Sensitive skin is defined as the subjective presence of various sensations including stinging, tight itchy dryness of the skin. It can occur without any signs of dryness or redness and can involve both facial and body areas.
2. What causes skin sensitivity?
Although there is no known single cause of sensitive skin, it is thought to involve a combination of impaired skin barrier function, hypersensitive nerve endings in the skin and intolerance to external triggers such as cosmetic ingredients or environmental conditions.
3. What is the most common internal aggressor of sensitive skin?
It is not known what causes sensitive skin, but certain internal conditions such as illness, stress and hormonal shifts may exacerbate sensitivity.
4. Can you develop sensitive skin over time?
Yes. Some people have sensitive skin from a very young age, but it can occur at any time of life. Skin sensitivity can worsen due to environmental factors such as extremes in temperature, humidity, sunlight; or internal factors such as illness, stress, or hormonal shifts.
5. How common is sensitive skin?
Sensitive skin is one of the most common complaints I hear from patients in my dermatology practice. Large studies report that the prevalence of self- reported sensitive skin is as high as 50-61% in women and 30-44% in men.1
6. How do you know if you’ve got sensitive skin?
Sensitive skin is a subjective sense of stinging or tight itchy dryness of the skin. There is no consensus criteria or universally accepted definition of or for sensitive skin. Therefore, if you think you have sensitive skin, then by definition you do!
7. What’s the difference between an allergic reaction and sensitive skin?
A true allergic reaction is a hypersensitivity reaction involving the immune system of the body reacting to an allergen. Sensitive skin may exist on its own without exposure to any allergen.
8. How many people believe they have sensitive skin?
The worldwide prevalence of sensitive skin is reported to be 40%2.
9. How many people actually have medically sensitive skin?
This is a question that is difficult to answer, as “sensitive skin” is not a medical diagnosis that has an objective definition or agreed upon diagnostic criteria in the medical field. Skin sensitivity is a subjective perception that people self-report. It may be mild, or severe enough to warrant a visit to the dermatologist for treatment advice.
10. What are the top 5 things you SHOULD AND SHOULDN’T do if you have sensitive skin?
Keep skin well- hydrated. Sensitive skin has an impaired ability to maintain normal moisture levels. Environmental triggers like low humidity can contribute to a flare of sensitive skin symptoms. Apply a moisturiser specially formulated for sensitive skin several times a day and use a humidifier to keep your skin as comfortable as possible.
Frequent washing can lead to an exacerbation of sensitive skin symptoms because it can strip away the skin's natural oils. Limit showers/ baths to once daily if possible, using warm but not excessively hot water. Use a cleanser that is formulated specifically for sensitive skin and follow through with your favourite moisturiser.
Sensitive skin can be reactive and easily irritated by products applied to the skin. Introduce new skin care products one at a time, about three days apart, so if you do develop a reaction it will be easier to pinpoint the culprit.
Sensitive skin may react to household products that contain fragrances and dyes. Use fragrance- free, hypoallergenic laundry detergents and skip any fabric softeners or dryer sheets that leave potentially irritating residues on your clothing.
Sensitive skin can have an impaired barrier function that may be more prone to entry points for bacteria to be introduced into the skin. Wash hands before applying makeup and skin products, and keep track of the shelf- life of your products. Discard old/ expired makeup and skin products on a regular basis.
Sensitive skin may react to ingredients that are commonly used in skincare and cosmetics. Seek out product ranges that are specially designed for sensitive skin and are hypoallergenic.
Do not use harsh antibacterial soaps or abrasive exfoliants which can exacerbate sensitive skin and lead to dryness and rashes. Look for soaps that respect the natural pH of the skin and exfoliants in a gentle creamy base that are designed for sensitive skin.
Avoid taking showers or baths with very hot/ hard water. This can strip away the skin's natural oils and trigger a flare up of sensitive skin symptoms. Water that is comfortably warm is more suitable for bathing sensitive skin.
Do not rub or scratch itchy skin. This could lead to small openings in the skin's surface, compromising its barrier function and making it more susceptible to infection. Use a soothing moisturizer for sensitive skin to calm the symptoms of itch.
Do not use fabric softeners or dryer sheets that tend to coat your clothing, towels, and bedding with a residue. These are often fragranced and irritating to sensitive skin. Try adding dryer balls that soften clothes without the use of chemicals.
Do not ignore a worsening rash that is not responding to moisturisers alone. This may be a sign that you should seek the attention of your dermatologist for a course of prescription topicals. Be sure to mention your history of sensitive skin, and bring your skin products to your appointment for them to evaluate.h to warrant a visit to the dermatologist for treatment advice.
Do not store razors/ loofahs/ washcloths in the shower as they can be breeding grounds for bacteria/ mold. Keep these items outside the shower to dry completely between uses, and replace disposable parts often at the earliest signs of wear and tear. Washable items should be machine washed in hot water with detergent after each use to keep them clean and safe for sensitive skin.
11. Is this different on the face and on the body?
Although you may use different products tailored for the face and the body, the basics of a skin care regimen for sensitive skin remain the same: use a gentle cleanser followed by an effective moisturiser and other products that are specific for sensitive skin types. Be careful not to use scrubs on delicate areas such as around the eyes.
12. What are some of the triggers for sensitive skin?
Triggers can be internal or external. Internal triggers include illness, stress, and hormonal shifts. External triggers include changes in humidity/ temperature, exposure to pollutants, sunlight, and wind.
13. How do our products help to prevent or soothe this sensitivity? How do I reduce it?
Gentle cleansers and effective moisturisers are the cornerstone of a successful regimen for sensitive skin. The Almond Milk & Honey range includes products that gently cleanse and deliver moisture to the skin while being hypoallergenic and formulated without colourants.
14. How does a hypoallergenic fragrance help to combat sensitivity?
A hypoallergenic fragrance does not reduce the risk of allergic reactions or sensitivities, however the chances are much lower than with traditional non- hypoallergenic fragrances.
15. Are there any special features of these formulations/textures that make them particularly good for dry sensitive skin?
They contain humectants to attract water for hydration, hypoallergenic fragrances, and no colourants.
16. Won’t the scrub irritate sensitive skin?
The Almond Milk and Honey scrub delicately buffs away dead skin cells to leave skin feeling soft and smooth. Its creamy base is formulated to respect the skins natural moisture barrier and pH. Initially, try using the scrub on a weekly basis and only to thicker- skinned areas such as the heels, elbows, and knees---using gentle circular motions.
17. What other skin concerns are common with sensitivity?
Sensitive skin can be dry, red, and flaky-- although these signs may be completely absent. In fact, one can have oily, blemish- prone skin that is also sensitive. Sensitivity can be a component of many different skin types and affect people from all backgrounds and ages.
18. Can eating habits have an effect on sensitive skin? Are there any foods you should avoid?
Some people with sensitive skin notice that their diets affect their skin. Dairy, gluten, and refined sugars are often eliminated in hope of alleviating sensitive skin. Alcohol and caffeine are also possible triggers. One should absolutely avoid foods if you have a true allergy to them.
19. What particular ingredients in skincare and make up should you avoid if you have sensitive skin?
Sensitive skin types usually have a difficult time tolerating certain anti- aging ingredients (such as retinol, glycolic acid) and anti- acne ingredients (such as benzoyl peroxide). Choose a pH- balanced toner that is gentle enough for sensitive skin.
20. If you have sensitive skin, is it important to wear sunscreen?
Absolutely! Don’t forget that sunscreen is just one component of sun protection. Staying in the shade during peak hours of sunlight (10 am- 3 pm) and wearing sun protective clothing are effective ways to protect sensitive skin from ultraviolet radiation.
21. What should you avoid if you have sensitive skin?
Be mindful of everything that comes into contact with your skin throughout the day, from your morning shower routine to when you crawl into bed at night. Avoid spraying perfume directly onto your skin, and use laundry detergents that are free of dyes and fragrances. Choose breathable natural fabrics like cotton, linen, or bamboo for your sheets and pillowcases. Wash your hands regularly, especially if you have pets.
22. What skincare routine would you suggest for sensitive skin?
Start with the basics: shower with a gentle cleanser that respects the skin’s pH, then follow it with an effective moisturiser. Limit showers to once a day if possible and use warm, not hot, water to prevent stripping natural oils and moisture from the skin. Once you find products that suit your sensitive skin, stick to what works. Switching your skin care regimen too often can lead to irritation and frustration.
23. Are there particular products you should avoid such as scrubs, toners etc?
Choose gentle scrubs and pH- balanced toners that are specially formulated for sensitive skin. Keep in mind that retinols and alpha- and beta- hydroxy acids may not be tolerated well if you have sensitive skin.
24. Give us a few tips for soothing sensitive skin on your face and body?
1. Hydrate your skin from the inside and outside: drink plenty of water daily and use a humidifier if the air is dry.
2. Apply cool almond milk compresses to your face for 5 minutes, several times a day, to soothe very uncomfortable skin.
3. Take a warm shower or bath, pat skin gently with a towel, and immediately apply your favourite Almond Milk & Honey product to damp skin to seal in moisture.
4. Wear sun protective hats and clothing to minimize ultraviolet exposure that can exacerbate sensitive skin.
5. Get a massage with a soothing oil that will hydrate your skin as you simultaneously increase your blood circulation.
25. How do you advise removing make up when you have sensitive skin?
Be careful not to overly strip your skins moisture away when removing makeup. Use a gentle product that easily dissolves oils and makeup, so you do not need to rub skin vigorously. Gentle muslin cloths can also help you remove makeup without irritating your skin. Remember to wash your muslin cloths regularly in fragrance- and dye- free detergents.
26. Is there a cure for sensitive skin?
No, unfortunately there is not.
27. What do you love about the Almond Milk and Honey range?
I love that it is a comprehensive body care range. Whether you are partial to taking showers or baths, using bar soaps or liquid cleansers, applying lighter lotions or heavier body butters…there is something for everyone. And you don’t even have to have sensitive skin to enjoy the Almond Milk & Honey range. I can see people with normal skin types falling in love with the hypoallergenic fragrance and formulations.
28. What is your favourite product within the Almond Milk & Honey Range?
I really enjoy using the Body Butter and the hand cream (because I wash my hands about 50 times a day in between patients!). I also love the cleansing bar soap as it can be used on face and body – the perfect product to go travelling with.
29. Why would you recommend The Body Shop to someone who has sensitive skin?
As someone who suffers from itchy, dry, sensitive skin especially during the winter months, I know from personal experience how important it is to maintain the skins barrier function by keeping it well- hydrated. It is rewarding for me to be recommending a product range that may improve the quality of life for people who have this very common skin complaint.
30. What is your background? And area of expertise?
I am a certified medical and cosmetic dermatologist with over a decade of experience treating a wide array of common and complex skin conditions. I particularly enjoy the challenges and rewards of treating patients with acne and rosacea, as well as offering advice and recommendations on optimising skin health for people of all ages and types of skin.
31. Why do you think that sensitive skin issues are on the rise?
There is certainly more awareness surrounding sensitive skin issues, but it is also possible that sensitive skin truly is increasing in prevalence. Factors such as the depletion of the ozone layer, the rise of pollution, and the increasing incidence of food and environmental allergies may be connected to the growing numbers of people with sensitive skin.
32. What do you think about the Almond Milk and Honey product textures?
I think they are elegant and enjoyable to use, which is a step above many products that are specially formulated for sensitive skin types. The moisturisers absorb well into the skin, without feeling greasy or tacky. People with dry sensitive skin will feel pampered by the luxurious textures.
1. Richters R, et al. What is sensitive skin? A systematic literature review of objective measurements. Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2015; 28:75-83.
2. Misery L, et al. Sensitive skin. JEADV 2016, 30 (1), 2-8.