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If your sensitive skin is crying for attention, treat it gently. Easily irritated and frequently inflamed skin needs special consideration. It may surprise you to learn that a minimalist approach works best when caring for delicate skin.
Triggers for sensitive skin include weather (excessive heat, cold, wind, low or high humidity), pollution, harsh chemicals, irritating topical products, and soaps. Any of these can act as allergens or irritants, often resulting in what dermatologists refer to as atopic dermatitis—an inflammatory response that causes skin to feel dry and tight, turn red, itch, flake, crack, or break out in blemishes.
“In my practice, the majority of women who reported sensitive skin had a history of using too many topical products, resulting in a host of problems,” says Nicholas Perricone, MD, board-certified clinical and research dermatologist and best-selling author of Forever Young and other books. “Avoid heavily fragranced products, harsh cleansers, drying toners containing alcohol, glycolic acid, alpha-hydroxy and other fruit acids, dermabrasion kits, peels, drying masks, and PABA as well as other chemical sunscreens. Ascorbic acid, the water-soluble form of vitamin C, can also irritate skin. And throw away cosmetics that are more than three months old,” he adds.
Instead, choose skin care products designed for sensitive skin. Proper cleansing is important to keep debris from clogging pores. Use warm water, not hot. Hot water will remove the skin’s natural protective oils and make it susceptible to irritation. To seal in moisture, apply moisturizer while your skin is still damp. Select sunscreens that use zinc and titanium oxides for maximum sun protection.
“Keep it simple,” Perricone advises. “Choose very mild cleansers, nondetergent soaps, fat-soluble treatment products, and moisturizers that are antioxidant-rich to act as natural anti-inflammatories. Look for fat-soluble antioxidants like DMAE, vitamin C ester, alpha-lipoic acid, and the super form of vitamin E known as tocotrienols. These nutrients have tremendous healing power when applied topically and also when taken internally as supplements.”
Hydrate and nourish your skin from the inside. Drink six to eight glasses of water each day. Water helps to hydrate your skin and moves toxins out of your system. Sensitive skin may be related to allergies and occasionally vitamin and mineral deficiencies. A good diet and supplements help improve the health of your skin.
“Eat foods that contain healthy fats, such as cold-water fish (salmon, sardines, trout, herring), nuts and seeds (providing you have no allergies), avocados, olives, and extra virgin olive oil,” says Perricone. “Include quality protein at each meal so that the cells in the body can repair themselves—without adequate protein we experience cellular breakdown. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants.”
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