I regularly work with many different clients and the one thing I hear most often is "I have sensitive skin". No matter the skin color, ethnicity, sex, or age, skin sensitivity is something that continues come up in conversation in my consultations. Throughout my time as a makeup artist & also from my time working at all-natural day spa, I learned that most people simply do not have sensitive skin, they actually have sensitized skin. For more information on what it means to have sensitized skin, pick up The Complete Beauty Bible by Paula Begoun & check out the science behind the term.
From my studies & experience I have found that many external factors have a huge impact on the sensitivity of our skin. Just take a couple minutes to look around your bathroom or vanity & consider how many products come into contact with your skin on a daily basis. Then consider how many of those products contain chemicals; many of which you may have no idea what they do. A majority of the chemicals in makeup & skin care products have absolutely no benefit to the skin, but are added only to enhance the color, smell, thin the product & make it cheaper, or work as a preservative. Now think about the other external factors your skin might be battling regularly from UVB rays, air pollution, dry or cold climates, wind, or typical day-to-day dirt & grime. Washing at the end of the night isn't necessarily sufficient to combat all of these skin stressors, especially when we're adding to them by using products containing harsh chemicals as well.
My mother used to say to me "If you can't put it in your mouth, you shouldn't put it on your skin" & my advice is still basically the same. Our skin acts like a sponge, soaking up the substances we put it in contact with. Here are a couple scary statistics: According to dailymail.co.uk, women absorb up to FIVE POUNDS of chemicals per year from our lotions, makeup, hair care, & other beauty products. Yikes! That isn't including the 1,500 grams of lipstick, lip balm, or lip gloss that we typically ingest per year. It might be frightening to think of all the chemicals we are ingesting without even thinking about how they're affecting not only our skin, but our overall health.
Personally, I feel that removing all makeup, skincare, lotions and so on from our daily routines is not plausible or realistic. However, I do know that there are some really wonderful & effective alternatives to using so many chemicals. I try to remove any unnecessary chemicals from my beauty routine by looking for natural alternatives. For example, I wrote a blog recently about many homemade beauty remedies using coconut oil (find it here).
Removing even only a few chemical laden items from your daily routine can have a positive effect on the condition of your skin. I know that when I began my apprenticeship as a makeup artist I had painfully dry skin that would overcompensate terribly for the lack of moisture by producing so much oil that by mid-day I'd have an oil slick throughout my T-Zone. To help combat the oil, I'd apply oil-controlling powders, makeup, astringent & while attempting to resolve one issue, I'd be creating many others. I'd get home at night & feel terrible about how my makeup had smeared or started to break down from the oil. I'd wash my face & then feel tight, dry, & sometimes even a burning feeling; then I'd go to bed & start the cycle again the following morning. I was desperate, frustrated, & nearly hopeless after trying nearly every product I could find (& wasting soo so much money). Little did I know that all the products were doing more damage than good.
It wasn't until I started eliminating skin care products from my routine & replacing them with simpler & more natural alternatives that I started to see a huge improvement in the condition & feel of my skin. I began using one cleanser made from the ash of plantain peels (African Black Soap. Available online or at Sprout's Farmers Markets) & Jojoba Oil. The oil cleansing method described in my blog on coconut oil is also miraculous for sensitized skin because it reduces skins contact with hard water. I also stopped using foundations filled with chemicals. Now, I use a custom blend mineral makeup & the only additives found in it are green tea leaf powder, licorice root powder, zinc, or grapeseed powder depending on the individual skin care needs. I personally use green tea leaf powder for it's antioxidant & anti-inflammatory properties.
Now, I never suffer from burning dryness, inflammation, itching, or 'general sensitivity'. I will occasionally test out products that previously would have sent my skin into a tail spin, without any trouble. Please leave me a comment with your thoughts; I'd love to hear what you think.