A lot of us suffer from sensitive and problem skin these days. It could be because of our environment, the food we eat, the products we use, or our genes. It is probably a combination of all these factors that causes our skin to become reactive to even the mildest changes. This can be frustrating for anyone that has experienced rosacea, eczema or psoriasis, and those with generally sensitive or dry skin.
The good news is that a lot of skin problems can be managed and brought under control with a combination of lifestyle changes, where you try to identify and eliminate any possible triggers one by one. Here are some of the most common things to avoid when you have problem skin.
1. Harsh skincare products: These can irritate the skin with strong perfumes, artificial colours, preservatives and petrochemicals. Look for simple formulas with few ingredients, which are less likely to cause problems - or learn how to make your own skincare products. When your skin is sensitive, the less it has to deal with, the better. Remember to be gentle with your skin - don't rub it vigorously, pinch or pull on it. Thoroughly rinse off any traces of your cleanser. Use a mild moisturiser, and indulge in a gentle facial massage, which will benefit your skin health.
2. Hot showers: While it may feel relaxing and soothing on sore muscles, a hot shower will open up your pores and cause the thinner, more delicate facial skin to flush. This, in turn, makes it even more sensitive and reactive. Try turning down the temperature on your tap, and finish your shower with a slightly cooler stream of water.
3. Frequent showers: Tend to disrupt your skin's acid mantle and strip it of protective oils. If your skin is sensitive, and especially if you have rosacea, eczema or psoriasis, try to limit your showers to not more than two a day.
4. Hard water (limescale): Hard water contains a higher than normal amount of limescale, or calcium carbonate (CaCO3). If you live in the UK, and particularly around London, where we get hard water, you will be well aware of the white, scaly deposits in your kettle and on your shower screen - that's limescale. Limescale has the ability to disrupt the skin's protective barrier, causing redness, irritation and dry skin. You can find out your water hardness from your water company - here is a handy list of UK suppliers. If you notice that your skin reacts to it, you can reduce limescale by using a water softener. UK's Drinking Water Inspectorate has an interesting PDF on water hardness here.
5. Spicy food: Who doesn't like a good, hot chilli curry? The problem is, spicy food often triggers or aggravates rosacea, according to a survey by the National Rosacea Society. See if avoiding chilli, horseradish or MSG helps, and if so, try cutting down on those ingredients in your diet.
6. Processed foods, meat, dairy, additives: What we eat has a big impact on our overall well-being, and that includes the skin. Avoid heavily processed fast foods, often rife with additives; and cut down on meat and dairy. Making a shift towards a plant-based diet, rich in organic produce such as fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and beans, will infuse your body with beneficial vitamins, minerals and nutrients, designed to support your health and revitalise your skin. Try an organic soya or coconut yoghurt, which are packed with probiotics - good for your digestive system and your skin.
7. Infrequent or excessive sun exposure: Moderation is the key here. While too much sun without a sunscreen can definitely aggravate rosacea, too little sun can do as much harm to sufferers of eczema and psoriasis. Vitamin D is crucial not only for the balance of the immune system and healthy bones, but it also affects our skin. The best way to get enough vitamin D is through moderate exposure to sun.
8. Alcohol and cigarettes: Can cause dehydration, skin spots and permanent changes in the quality and elasticity of your skin, further aggravating problems like rosacea, eczema and psoriasis. Try giving up smoking and consuming alcohol in moderation - there are many other uses for your left-over booze. To help your liver recover, consider doing a liver cleanse, or including milk thistle, a traditional liver tonic, in your diet.
9. Stress and anxiety: These known triggers for a number of mental and physical ailments also affect the skin. Try a simple mindfulness meditation for 5 minutes a day, where you simply sit with your eyes closed and focus on your breathing. It's that easy, and is proven to work! If meditation is not your thing, relax in a way that suits you - listen to music that makes you feel good, take a bath or paint or dance.
10. Dehydration: Being properly hydrated is vital to our health. Drink at least 1.5 litres of pure, clean water a day to ensure your body and your skin are supplied with enough H2O to function optimally and flush out toxins from your system.
Living with problem skin can be tricky and discouraging. I started MuLondon because of my own issues with dry, sensitive skin, eczema and psoriasis. I set out to create a range of mild, effective products based on natural and organic ingredients to help soothe irritated skin. With a combination of the right products for you, and making small but beneficial lifestyle changes, your skin can regain its glow.
Some of the triggers mentioned above may cause no symptoms, while you may notice that something not on this list aggravates your condition. Let me know what works for you, and what doesn't. What makes your skin react, and what soothes it? Please share!