It’s a feeling that is often very difficult to describe, even to your friends, much less to your practitioner. You know that your skin is just not feeling … right. It’s red, itchy, scaly, dry, and bumpy, often all at the same time! The symptoms often overlap, and you often spend hours finding the trigger that caused the change. It could be exposure to new soaps, detergents, perfumes, skin care products, clothes, makeup, or household products that set off a reaction. Sometimes it could be different foods that cause an allergic reaction. If this sounds familiar, then your skin could be reactive.
Studies from various countries have shown that an average of 46% of people, both male and female, have sensitive skin. Even though our skin does get thinner, drier, more fragile, and therefore more sensitive as we age, research shows that people from all age groups report having reactive skin.
What steps can you take to speed up your recovery when dealing with reactive skin?
Get a Professional Opinion
A visit to a skincare professional is a great idea to get a definitive diagnosis. First, they look at skin reactions like pustules, skin bumps, rashes, inflammation, and skin oxidisation. Next, they look for patches of dry skin that can no longer protect the nerve endings in the skin, which cause the uncomfortable stretching, pulling sensation, and itching. They can also test the skin for its tendency to blush or flush. They will also ask for a detailed history of any skin reactions in the past. If you have ever been treated for conditions like eczema, rosacea, contact dermatitis, allergies to certain triggers, or food and gluten intolerance.
Blood investigations or patch testing can help narrow down triggers for reactive skin, which may make the condition worse. However, it is often difficult to find the exact reasons for reactive skin, because so many factors can cause it.
Track The Triggers
How do you know if your skin is reactive? Here are a few common signs to look out for!
- You may notice that certain triggers cause your skin to become red or inflamed. This can take on the form of a rash, red bumps or flushing.
- Your skin may be drier than usual, either over large areas or small patches. Cracked skin is more prone to infections and breakouts as well.
- Acne may occur with red bumps or pustules.
- You may develop a rash that can be dry, flaky, or bumpy. The rash could be accompanied by raised itchy, red patches or hives, which can be extremely uncomfortable. They may persist for a long time, even after you identify and avoid the trigger, and even require treatment.
- Your skin may be more susceptible to sun damage, with pigmentation, sunburn, reddening and peeling of the skin commonly seen.
- You may experience skin irritation after exposure to heavy winds or extremes in temperature.
- After repeated flare ups, frequent itching, and skin damage, you may be left with extremely dry, leathery patches of skin.
- Facial skin is usually the most reactive because it comes into contact with more skin care products and cosmetics. In addition, it is usually uncovered and is more exposed to harsh temperatures and the environment.
- Dig Below the Surface! Find out how inner health affects your skin.
It’s famously said that true beauty is not simply skin deep. Current scientific research proves that this is very true. We all know the importance of hydration, and the benefits of a nutrient rich diet to healthy and glowing skin.
Go with your Gut!
Research indicates that gut health plays an even more important role than we thought. Although the main function of our stomach and intestines is to break down the food, we eat into nutrients we can then absorb and utilize, our gut is also home to a rich ecosystem made up of trillions of bacteria and microbes. Collectively called the gut microbiome, it controls the way we digest our food and has a significant effect on our immune system.
As with all things in life, balance is key! There is a mix of healthy and unhealthy microbes, and we need to ensure that we support the growth of good bacteria in our gut by looking after our diet and adding a good mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fermented foods.
The Gut – Skin Axis
The number of good bacteria in our gut microbiome has a positive effect on the body’s immune system, which controls the way the skin reacts to its triggers. The skin also has a rich network of minute organisms called the skin microbiome. These organisms educate and train the skin’s immune system and exist in a delicate balance with our skin. Disruptions on either side of the equation may leave the skin open to hypersensitivity reactions, allergies, and reactive skin.
Recent studies have shown that gut bacteria affect the balance of skin microbiomes, disrupting skin health. Changes in how our body’s immune system reacts to certain triggers, internal or external, can cause inflammation and reactive skin conditions. It increases TEWL (trans- epidermal water loss), dehydration, and skin damage, leading to red rashes, itchy flaky, dry skin, and chronic issues like acne, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis, and eczema.
Recovering from Reactive Skin
Specific treatments for reactive skin conditions may include topical steroid creams like hydrocortisone or analgesic numbing creams, to help relieve inflammation and itchiness. In addition, some severe cases due to allergies may need an antihistamine, while sunscreen and moisturizers can also add protective layers to sensitive skin.
At Integrity, we offer a wide range of products and treatments from Lira Clinical that help with sensitive, reactive skin conditions and skin-friendly hydrators that lock in moisture to strengthen the skin’s PH and protective barrier.
There are many ways to deal with reactive skin and they all start with the right diagnosis. Get in touch with our practitioners at Integrity Skin clinic for a consultation today!