Throughout my teenage years I hated my skin. I wasn’t plagued by acne, or oily skin – in fact I get more spots and blackheads now than I did between 13 and 18 years old. My teenage nightmare was sensitive skin. Mixed in with bouts of eczema and heightened by bad early grooming practices, my skin was often left dry and stressed, which as anyone who has or is struggling with teenage skin problems will sympathise with.
Looking back now, it was probably my desire to change the appearance of my skin that made me look closer at grooming products and started me on my journey to where I am today. If you had known me back then it would have been laughable to think that I’d be one day handing out advice about skincare and shaving, but hopefully my personal experiences with my own skin will add more to the advice I can now pass on. Continuing my recent theme of men’s grooming problems, sensitive skin is now on the agenda as we try and establish tell-tale signs, the causes of sensitivity and the solutions which could help change the face of your skin.
Seen, alongside acne, as one of the more negative skin types because of its tendency to have unsightly side effects, sensitivity can range from small seasonal changes in skin condition to a daily struggle to retain something close to a ‘normal’ complexion. If your skin is prone to any kind of sensitivity, then you will be familiar with the characteristics:
I wanted to include this point first as (along with changing my skincare routine) analysing my lifestyle was one of the biggest factors in me transforming my skin as a teenager. While sensitive skin is innate, there are many external factors beyond skincare contribute to the sensitive nature of your skin, so the easiest thing to do is stop the problem at the source – and it could be problems that you have not yet considered.
My first piece of advice would be to book yourself in for an allergy test via a doctor or health professional. This will help establish whether you have any allergies that you were unaware of that may be contributing to your skincare dilemmas. While not considered to be full blown allergies, a health professional advised me cut out dairy products from my diet, as transpired that I was dairy intolerant (something that’s very commonly linked with sensitive skin) and this was causing my skin, and my eczema to become irritated. I was also advised to cut out lager (imagine telling THAT to a 17 year old lad!) as the yeast used in brewing could also be adding to my sensitive skin woes. Both of these tips helped to calm my skin and made treating it a lot easier (and the good news was, I discovered cider as a result!).
Secondly, I would advice you to think beyond the skincare that you’re using to other products that come into contact with your skin. The big one for me is detergent and fabric conditioner. If in doubt always always always stick with a non-bio washing powder and a fabric softener without any heavy fragrances as things like your clothes, your towels and your bed linen can cause your skin to become irritated without you even realising it. Think how much contact your skin has with these items, and you’ll then think twice about snuggling into that pillow that’s covered in irritating chemicals.
Now, this will vary from person to person but I found that making small lifestyle changes really made a difference. Your personal experiences, skin conditions and diet may be very different from my own, but a health professional or your doctor should be able to point you in the right direction.
The aim of this article is to help you to improve the condition of your skin, not worsen it. So the last thing you want to do is apply products with ingredients that will cause your skin to flare up. Nowadays most manufacturers clearly publish the ingredients of their products – often highlighting when a product is suitable for sensitive skin.
When checking labels, bottles and canisters always look out for terms such as ‘Dermatalogically Tested’, ‘Hypo-allergenic’, ‘Alcohol Free’, and ‘Fragrance Free’, as these mean that the product in question should be suitable for your sensitised skin. Similarly avoid products that include any of the following ingredients (particularly if they make up a large % of the formula); anything mentioning alcohol, parabens, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (also known as SLS), petroleum or petroleum by-products, lanolin and other animal by-products, along with any kind of fragrance or perfume. If you’re ever unsure then either steer well clear or be sure to…
Sometimes called a ‘patch test’, trying out your products on an area of your skin before use will help you minimise unsightly side effects rather than unleashing a product on your entire complexion. Try them on an area out of sight around 24 hours before using a product fully. Keep an eye out for any changes in the texture or colour of your skin – use your common sense as any ill-effects will be fairly easy to spot. Often products sold in larger department stores have testers so (as cheeky as it is) you can always try it on the back of your hand in a store, or ask an advisor for a small sample.
If you’ve ever read any of my articles before, I’m normally all about an extensive regime – especially when there’s a problem to be solved. But when dealing with sensitive skin the idea is “less is more” as using too many products can aggravate and totally overload your skin. So keep it nice and simple and go back to basics with a cleanser and a moisturiser on your face, and a body wash and simple body moisturiser to complete the regime.
Now when I say less product it doesn’t mean that your choice of product isn’t important, in fact it’s more so. When you’re dealing with something as temperamental as sensitive skin it’s best to leave it down to the professionals. The guys at reputable brands like Dermalogica, Murad, Clinique, Alpha H, REN and Ole Henriksen have spent years analysing what’s best for sensitive skin. They know what to put in, and what to leave out, so opting for a specialist skincare brand with a sensitive skin range, or product designed for your skin symptoms is a wise investment.
Also, once you’ve found a brand that works for your skin – stick to it and let the skincare professionals do the rest. Unsure which products are best for sensitive skin? Check out my recommended products below.
For my skin nowadays, a face or body scrub is a lifesaver – removing dead skin cells to brighten and helping combat ingrown hairs. But for sensitive skin that’s red and irritated a face scrub is normally going to make the situation much worse as it removes your skin’s natural barrier – even if it’s one from a reputable brand.
Likewise, physically over-scrubbing when applying your chosen products isn’t advisable either. Apply with your fingertips in VERY gentle circular motions so that the act of applying a sensitive skin care product isn’t in fact causing more irritation.
Another common mistake that guys make (not just those with sensitive skin) is to wash with water that’s far too hot – particularly when it comes to washing your face. The skin on your face isn’t very tolerant of high temperatures, and it leads to – you guessed it – further skin irritation. So rather than washing your face and body at near scolding heat, go for warm water which will be much kinder to your sensitive complexion.
Whether it’s applying sun cream, sticking in the shade, sheltering from the wind or wrapping up in minus temperatures – preventing exposure to any kind of climate extremities is going to be a good thing for your sensitive skin. I know my skin was particularly bad during the winter months and while the cold wind may seem like a cooling sensation, extreme weather only subjects your skin to a further battering and causes yet more dryness, redness and irritation.
One of the things that helped improve my skin, particularly the skin on my body was to up my levels of hydration. Dry, flaky skin isn’t just unsightly, it breeds irritation too so when you get out of the shower or bath pat your skin gently with a towel before applying a moisturising body lotion (suitable for sensitive skin of course) all over in large helpings before giving it a couple of minutes to soak in.
For the best choice of body moisturisers see my recommended products below.
When your skin is already under immense pressure, shaving can seem like an unnecessary stress. But if you follow the correct shaving practices then it really shouldn’t cause too many flare ups, and it may even improve the condition of your complexion. Firstly, remember not to shave with water that’s too hot, and rinse your blade regularly between strokes. Also if you can shave in the evening when you’re skin is at its most supple, you’ll cause less friction between your blade and your razor.
Sticking with top quality products is also a given, and there are also plenty of top quality products specifically designed for sensitive skin – especially cooling after shave balms. If you’re unsure which products are best for sensitive skin – check out my recommended products below.
If there’s one final thing that is an absolute MUST for anyone helping to avoid shaving irritation – it’s always shaving with the ‘grain’. Shaving against the direction of hair growth (or grain) is a guaranteed way for those with sensitive skin to welcome in raised bumps, ingrown hairs and razor burn. So if you don’t fancy reaching for the fire extinguisher, shave with the grain and not against it – your sensitive skin will thank you for it.
The best way to tell the direction of hair growth is by running your fingers across short, to mid length stubble, remembering that the direction may vary depending on the area of your face, normally growing in the other direction on your neck.
It’s clear that with any type of skin condition, whether it’s acne, oily skin, dryness or sensitivity – these things can cause a great deal of stress. But by following these tips it can be easier than you think to make big changes and improve your overall outlook. I struggled for years with my skin, but I overcame my problems and my skin is now better than ever.
If only sites FashionBeans had been around when I was struggling with my skin, I know I would have found things a great deal easier – so if you want to ask me any specific questions, or go into detail about your specific symptoms then please leave your comments below.
Thanks for reading.
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