Skin to other organs of the human body, functioning of the skin too is affected by one’s nutritional intake and exposure to external applicants like cosmetics and skin care products. Being the largest and visible organ though, these effects are immediate and easily observable. As such, skin blemishes, rashes, redness, dryness etc. are easily detectable as symptoms of an imbalance in the physical body.
Sensitive skin is a skin condition where the skin erupts in acne, zits, rashes and redness or turns flaky. These symptoms are a result of various factors namely hormonal imbalance, food allergies, reactions to skin care products, and lifestyle habits such as excessive alcohol consumption and smoking.
For both men and women, hormonal imbalance can be the primary reason for skin eruptions. Hormones are required by the body in small amounts to cause significant changes and carry out vital functions. A surge of hormones however (oestrogen and progesterone in women & testosterone and DHEA in men ) affects the sebaceous (oil producing) glands in the skin, which in turn starts producing more oil that clog skin pores thereby causing acne. Typically in women, it is observed that hormone related acne is commonly found on the lower face. Thus, any disruption in the normal functioning of hormones will immediately manifest on the skin as zits.
Cosmetics form an integral part of our daily routine. In addition to perfumes, all personal care products available in the market today are scented. However, what pleases the olfactory senses, may not necessarily agree with the skin. The term fragrance used on the label of many products is a lose term that conceals many chemicals and toxins. Fragrances found in perfumes, air fresheners, cosmetics, toiletries contain chemicals like ethanol, acetaldehyde, menthol, acetone, benzoyl alcohol, benzaldehyde, limonene and camphor to name a few – the toxic effects of which are overwhelming. Many creams and lotions containing AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) are marketed as anti-ageing products which claim to reduce wrinkles and spots and thus are ignorantly lapped up by consumers. However, they have been known to cause severe skin rashes, itching, burning, redness and skin discoloration.
Statistically, preservatives in cosmetics are the 2nd most common cause of skin problems. They are added to products to prevent damage by exposure to air or light by preventing the growth of fungus and bacteria. But they also cause skin irritation. Examples of preservatives are parabens, formaldehyde and phenoxyethanol. Most perfumes typically contain potentially hazardous synthetic chemicals, many of which are derived from petroleum. These are known to be hormone disrupters and cause allergic skin reactions that can cause burning, itching and skin rashes. Most of those who apply perfume might find the exposed area of skin turning red or observe skin irritation and itching.
Similar is the case with makeup products. Compared to the rest of the body, face is the most sensitive area of the skin. This fact, combined with the method and technique of application of certain makeup products makes the skin more susceptible to irritation. Certain eye shadows and mineral makeup contain mica – a light reflecting pigment – that is known to cause skin itching. Another ingredient called bismuth oxychloride, used to enhance sheen in products, can cause stinging. Many makeup products are powder based which requires application with a brush and when frequently and aggressively rubbed on the skin, can increase skin irritation. There are a few makeup brands available that claim to be hypoallergenic (minimise skin allergies) and are specially designed for sensitive skin. However, it should be kept in mind that they are not chemical and preservative free.
Environmental factors such as exposure to extreme weather conditions too can play havoc with your skin. Prolonged exposure to sun causes/accelerates most of the skin changes, that we perceive to be a normal part of ageing. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the foremost cause of skin cancer. UV rays damage the fibres and tissues in the skin called elastin and collagen respectively, which are responsible for maintaining the firmness and tightness of the skin. Thus skin begins to sag, stretch, loses its elasticity resulting in fine lines and coarse wrinkles. Sometimes, sun damage may also result in dilation of blood vessels under the skin or lead to a yellow discolouration of the skin termed as sallowness.
Excessive consumption of alcohol and smoking are detrimental to one’s health and severely affect the skin and its appearance. Tobacco is one of the major accelerators of the skin’s natural ageing process. Smoking causes narrowing of the blood vessels which in turn reduces the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the skin. Hence skin shows premature signs of ageing. It also destroys vitamin C in the body which is crucial for the immune system. Alcohol has a dehydrating effect and strips the skin of its natural suppleness causing dryness and/or red spots and itchiness.
Sensitive skin is a condition that can be reversed/kept in check by altering exposure to the above contributory factors so as to minimise their effect. Following effective changes can be made to one’s daily routine and lifestyle habits:
- Use organic and chemical free skin care and personal care products
- Avoid fragrances that contain alcohol which are bound to cause skin itching
**Certain organic brands also use some of the above mentioned chemicals, so read the labels carefully before you go organic.