A critical step in reducing skin sensitivity is understanding the importance of the stratum corneum. The stratum corneum is the outermost layer of the skin and is composed of dead, flat skin cells held together by the protein keratin. This skin barrier prevents molecules from passing into and out of the skin and thereby protects the lower layers of skin while reducing skin sensitivity.
Healthy, uninjured skin is more effective at preventing skin irritations that may result from using cosmetics and skin care products. Individuals with altered nerve endings or more neurotransmitters under their skin are more susceptible to minor skin irritants in cosmetics and skin care products. When the skin is excessively dry or damaged, it cannot adequately protect these nerve endings. Sound moisturizing and a strong immune system help minimize possible skin irritants.
Some of Dr. Berson's recommendations for caring for sensitive skin include:
Selecting Mild Cleansers
Use mild cleansing agents that have natural detergents or lipid-free cleansers. Resist using abrasive cleansers since they can cause microscopic tears in the skin and damage the protective layers of the skin.
Rosacea patients should not use alcohol-based products such as toners or astringents.
Acne patients will benefit from toners that contain salicylic acid or alpha hydroxy acid. However, when starting a retinoid treatment, temporarily discontinue using a toner or astringent since the combination may make the retinoid more irritating. Acne patients must also limit or abstain from excessively rough cleansing and washing. Julie Harper, M.D., who directs a clinic to treat acne at the University of Alabama at Birmingham laments, "Teenagers think they have acne because they do not wash enough, but usually they are washing too often with harsh scrubs that make their symptoms worse."
Tracy L. Grosick, a key skin care product researcher with Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati says that when the skin's moisture barrier is intact, it helps the skin to combat environmental attacks that are encountered on a daily basis. When acne and rosacea patients use reatments that dry the skin, moisturizers may improve the skin's barrier function. Dr. Benson recommends using moisturizers with the least amount of ingredients.
Rosacea patients should choose a moisturizer with only glycerin, petrolatum, or aloe vera, which might be anti-inflammatory.
Acne patients should also stick with products containing the least amount of ingredients.
Using Non-Comedogenic Sunscreens
Rosacea patients need to use a physical-blocking products containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide because these ingredients will not irritate red, inflamed skin and will provide optimal protection.
Acne patients with oily skin should use non-comedogenic, non-pore clogging products. Select an alcohol-based or gel-based sunscreen.