A blog by Daisy
For as long as I can remember I’ve always had sensitive skin. When I was younger whenever I had my face painted, or even once a sticker stuck on my cheek at a party, once it was taken off, I was left with red, irritated skin. Later on, I learnt that I also had mild rosacea, which can cause my skin to flare up a bit.
Fast forward to my early 20’s and I started to get eczema on my neck. Originally I was told it was most likely intertrigo, and thought it also had something to do with stress, so to help me relax I was using diffusers with essential oils and baths with oils, which were meant to help relax me. I was using skincare ranges which were deemed suitable for people with sensitive skin and hoping they would help calm my skin, that was becoming more and more irritated.
Looking after and keeping my sensitive skin calm has played a huge role in my skincare routine
Nothing seemed to be helping and eczema had started to appear on my arms and face, so eventually, I ended up going to see a dermatologist for further help. Straight away she diagnosed it as eczema and recommended products to use to help soothe it. She also referred me on to get patch tested and asked what products I used in my skincare routine, along with their ingredients. She mentioned fragrances might be causing it, to which I said, “but I only use products with essential oils, and are for sensitive skin”, but what I didn’t know was that even the best essential oils can cause reactions and eczema.
I went and had the patch tests, and the results showed that I was having reactions to nickel, but also a whole host of fragrances including citronella, neroli, rose, lemongrass, geranial, vanillin, lyral, citral, citronellol, and farnesol. Looking back over my sensitive skincare products I was using, I realised that most of them contained one or more of these essential oils which were causing my skin so much distress.
All those relaxing essential oil baths, diffusers, and sprays all had been causing my skin to get worse. Not only those, but my body wash, shampoo & conditioner, laundry detergent, makeup, perfumes, and even deodorant had been adding to my eczema!
It’s a strange one going from never even having a second thought about most of these products, to having to scan and check ingredients to see what was going to impact my skin, or if it was going to be fine.
I swapped to fragrance free soap, shampoo & conditioner, laundry detergent, and even deodorant. I also chose makeup brands which don’t use fragrances, and only use perfumes occasionally (I spray my perfume on my clothes in another room (PS this may not be as good for my clothes, but it’s better for my skin)).
I've been using our Lucy Bee Fragrance Free Soap
It’s amazing how much your choice reduces when fragrances are involved. There’s been products which I’ve looked at and wanted to try which are suitable for sensitive skin or rosacea-prone skin, but when I’d look at the ingredients there was always some form of essential oil. So, for me, I always look for fragrance free or unscented.
There is a reason for this blog, not just me going on about my overly sensitive skin. If you suffer with sensitive skin, I thought I’d add some tips about what to look out for when buying skincare products.
When I talk about fragrances there are two types:
Synthetic: usually added to cosmetics, skincare products and toiletries, to make them smell nice. However, they have been linked to dermatitis.
Natural Fragrances (Essential Oils): most people who are sensitive or allergic to synthetic fragrances may be fine with essential oils. However, even these natural oils can impact skin, especially if you have really sensitive skin, or an allergy to them. If you find that even when using skincare products that only use essential oils your skin is irritated, it would be worth switching to unscented products. As these are fragrance free you won’t have a reaction to any fragrances. Check the labels for any mentions of essential oils or perfume.
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)
SLS is something that the dermatologist told me to avoid even before I knew what was causing the eczema. SLS is used to provide a foaming agent to whichever product it is used in and strips the skin of its natural oils. Usually, you’ll find it in face washes, shower gels, shampoos, soaps, and even toothpastes.
If you do find that products which use SLS irritate your skin, you could try swapping for products which use Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS). SCS comes from coconuts, and foams just like SLS, but is less likely to penetrate the skin and cause irritation.
When looking at alcohol, the one that has been linked to be skin irritating is ethyl alcohol. Alcohol can cause dryness and damages the skin.
When looking at products, aim to choose one which is free from ethyl alcohol, products needs to contain some form of preservatives as it helps to prevent the products from going off.
Be aware that physical exfoliants can have an impact on your skin, especially if you have sensitive skin that is easily irritated. It is important to exfoliate to help remove dead skin cells. Physical scrubs, if used incorrectly or used too harshly, can cause inflammation. It’s best to choose one that is gentler. You can also get chemical exfoliants which can be harsh on the skin, so should be used less frequently, and always patch test first.
It’s important we protect our skin from UV rays. There are two types of sunscreen, physical and chemical. Chemical sunscreens have been shown to be potential irritants for sensitive skin and can cause allergic reactions and inflammation. Chemical sunscreen ingredients absorb the UV rays and release it as heat and include; octinoxate, oxybenzone, and avobenzone.
Physical sunscreens (mineral sunscreens) contain 2 ingredients which work to physically block UV rays, these are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These may be a more suitable option for those with sensitive skin that is prone to irritation.
Did you know?
When something says it’s dermatologically tested it only means that the product has been tested on human skin but does not explain which test has been carried out, or what the results show. The assumption is that it’s been tested to be allergen free but don’t assume this unless the product states this.
Suitable for sensitive skin would make you think that it doesn’t contain the common allergens which cause irritation. However, we are all different and have differing levels of sensitivity. You can’t assume just because something is suitable for sensitive skin, that it’ll be suitable for everyone. If you know what you are looking out for, always check the ingredients to see if there is something that you know you would have a reaction to.
Hypoallergenic does not have a legal or medical definition for the word, so it goes by the basis that it may have fewer allergens in it, but that does not mean it may not contain other allergens.
If you have sensitive skin and find that it is reacting to products that you are using, try keeping a skin diary on products you're using. Any ingredients you notice they may be using (SLS, synthetic or natural fragrances, alcohols, etc.), record if there are any reactions. This can help you notice and identify which products may be the triggers, and you can make changes around that. If you are really suffering with your skin, go talk to a healthcare professional, whether that’s a GP, or if you have access to a dermatologist, they will be able to assist you as an individual. It may not even be due to anything that you are putting on your skin but may be instead caused by an allergy to something that you are eating. So as mentioned before, it’s always best to go speak to someone about it.
Daisy, MSc PGDip ANutr, is a Registered Associate Nutritionist with a Master's Degree in Public Health Nutrition, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Eating Disorders and Clinical Nutrition, both of which are Association for Nutrition (AFN) accredited. She, also, has a BSc degree in Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience; and has completed an AFN accredited Diet Specialist Nutrition course.
Daisy has worked for an NHS funded project, the Diabetes Prevention Programme; and shadowed a nutritionist in Harley Street.
About Lucy Bee Limited
Any information provided by us is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. We always recommend referring your health queries to a qualified medical practitioner.
Lucy Bee is a lifestyle brand selling food, skincare and soap products all completely free from palm oil and with minimal use of plastic. Lucy Bee is concerned with Fair Trade, organic, ethical and sustainable living, recycling and empowering people to make informed choices and select quality, natural products for their food and their skin.