Athletes strive for perfection…fine-tuned bodies, competitive personalities and the amazing will to finish what they started. No matter how hard you work to keep your body in top shape and your mind sharp, you can still be slowed down by sensitive skin.
If you have sensitive skin you may experience discomfort upon exposure to certain skin care or household products and environmental elements. Skin can tingle, burn, flush, be excessively dry or even develop bumps or pustules. There are steps you can take to care for your sensitive skin.
Sensitive skin can respond differently to cleansers depending on the individual. In general, “deodorant” soap or highly fragranced soaps that contain harsh detergents should not be used, especially on the face. Aim for a mild, non-irritating liquid facial cleanser with a lower pH than soap or a gentle disposable facial washcloth. Try DermaSpaRx Facial Enzyme Cleanser or Face Off Gentle Cleansing Pads if you are on the go. These cleansers have less potential for facial skin irritation.
Soaps designed for your body may leave you feeling clean, but agents known as surfactants can be agitating to sensitive skin. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a harsh emulsifier that is found in body washes, facial cleansers, and soaps. It can break down the lipids that bind skin cells together and keep them resistant to dryness and damage. Antibacterial agents such as tetra sodium EDTA and triclosan can over-dry already sensitive skin causing itching and peeling. Instead, wash with soaps specifically formulated for sensitive or dry skin or avoid soap altogether when possible.
Tip: Your bath or shower should be luke-warm, not scalding hot, as that leads to the stripping away of necessary skin oils and over-drying. A hot shower is tempting, especially with sore muscles, but don’t give in. Your skin will be better off in the long run.
Moisturizers help your skin retain moisture so it resists drying and abrasion. Emollients and humectants make up the majority of moisturizing ingredients. Emollients work by forming a layer on the top of the skin that traps water in the skin. Petrolatum, lanolin, mineral oil and dimethicone are common emollients. Humectants, including glycerin, lecithin, and propylene glycol, draw water into the outer layer of skin.
Many common emollients and humectants can be linked to allergic reactions in people with sensitive skin. If you have a recurring problem, to determine the specific ingredients that irritate your skin, schedule an appointment with your Dermatologist for a patch test.
Look for a moisturizer that contains soothing ingredients such as chamomile or aloe and doesn't contain potential allergens, such as fragrances or dyes. Also, avoid products containing fruit acids, such as alpha hydroxy and glycolic, which can irritate sensitive skin.
Tip: Hypoallergenic skin care products are not necessarily safer for sensitive skin. The FDA states there are no federal standards governing manufacturers’ use of the term “hypoallergenic” -- so it can mean whatever a particular company wants it to mean.
Spending time outside on the sunny, UV-filled days isn't so fun for those of you with sensitive skin. Likewise, the cold, dry air of winter can cause skin to dry out, crack and redden. To protect yourself against UV rays and photosensitivity, wear a physical sun block rain or shine. Unlike potentially irritating chemical UV absorbers such as PABA, benzophenones, and cinnamates, the physical blockers zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are easier on fragile skin. Try DermaSpaRx Sun Protection System, SPF 45.
If you live in a climate with high humidity, your skin is less likely to become dry and itchy. In dry climates and for those of you who still suffer dryness even in damp air, apply a moisture-rich lotion designed for sensitive skin to restore hydration and prevent moisture from further evaporating from your face and body.
To learn more about protection from the environment, read my past articles for Girls Gone Sporty-Real Sporty Medicine.
To your skin health,
Dr. Richard Asarch, M.D.
Header image credit: photl.com