Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Understanding Sensitive Skin

Do you get frequent skin reactions to new products, or even those you've been using for years? You stop using the product and start thinking, "I guess I have sensitive skin!" Contrary to what might be expected, the phrase "sensitive skin" is not a medical term, but is used colloquially to describe a number of skin conditions.

We get asked a lot...do you have products for sensitive skin? Will your products be good for my sensitive skin? As simple a question this might seem to be, it's literally impossible to predict. There are so many different medical conditions that live under the umbrella of "sensitive skin." Some skin sensitivities are caused by contact allergies. Some by eczema, acne, rosacea or psoriasis. Others have a condition called dermatographism, when the skin reacts in hive-like bumps to simple touching. Internal conditions like anemia or hypothyroidism can also cause skin sensitivity. Certain medications can also create the side effects of skin sensitivities, dryness, peeling, etc. Food allergies are also a big culprit that cause eczema and acne. Hormonal imbalances, fatty acid imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, candida overgrowth, immune system impairment--all of these contribute to skin problems. Because there are so many individual factors that come in to play, there is not one product that will work for everyone. Not even water. (Someone with dermatographism could rub water on their skin, rub it just a little too hard and they'll break out.)

Our first inclination when we start to experience skin issues is to think about what we can put ON our skin. Having dry flaky skin that's peeling? Our first thought is to apply lotion. And then when that doesn't work, we try another lotion and another lotion until maybe you find something that will somewhat manage the symptom. But, until you figure out what's causing the eczema on the inside, you're only covering up the symptom and not treating the problem.

Last year I had a strange problem. My lips started peeling and wouldn't stop. Soon it developed in to a bright red ring all around my lips. It was extremely embarrassing, as here I make lip balm for a living! I learned that the condition is called cheilitis. After trying numerous things I finally visited a Naturopath. Turned out that it was caused by hormonal imbalances! I got them back in line by starting up on my flax seeds again (don't know how or why I would have been failing to take them!) and taking some supplements that she recommended. Two weeks later my lips were back to normal, along with my hormones.

Now, it just so happened that we came out with our pomegranate kiss lip balm at about the same time that my problem started. For months I thought that I was allergic to this lip balm. But now that I've gotten my internal balance back in check, I can use it, and every one of our lip balms, with no issues whatsoever. It wasn't the culprit, but, again, we always have a tendency to look to the external when it comes to skin conditions. When a skin condition pops up, we tend to think "what did I put ON my skin that caused this?  When in fact, in so many cases, the products that we've been applying to our skin have nothing to do with the problem or the solution. Our skin is an organ that's kind of the great indicator of something that's going awry inside our bodies. (Of course there are plenty of exceptions and many true contact allergies, but the point still remains that we need to look at the body as a whole, and not just at the one organ that has visual symptoms.)

Many times drugs are to blame. Accutane is one of the biggest ones. The use of accutane and similar drugs will treat acne, but later in life, it can cause skin sensitivity, especially to sunlight, where skin becomes easily burned. In fact, any drug can cause eczema, hives, or other skin eruptions. "Almost any medicine can induce skin reactions, and certain drug classes, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antibiotics and antiepileptics, have drug eruption rates approaching 1–5%" (Source.) So, if you have developed mysterious skin issues, you may want to visit with your doctor about the medications that you are taking.

Another consideration to dry, itchy, sensitive or irritated skin, is the water in your home.  Chlorinated water can cause a host of skin problems.  Hard water can also leave irritating deposits on your skin.  Simple shower head filters can make a big difference (or a whole-house filtration/softening system as well.)

Of course, everyone's skin is different, and there are true contact allergies to substances, whether they're synthetic chemical or an organic herb.  But always keep in mind that our skin is a reflection of what's going on inside the body, and my suggestion is to look at internal, as well as external causes when you're dealing with sensitive skin. 

13 comments:

Sara Pearsall said...

Great post! I usually have reactions to anything that touches my face, but they generally go away within a day or two. I found out long ago that certain ingredients make my skin even more sensitive. And I have discovered a few medicines that have made my skin worse. I try to be more careful and it is especially helpful to eat healthy. I couldn't believe how much my skin changed when I ate only healthy foods. Since all of this started I attempt to only use natural soaps and face products. I feel that if it grows out of the earth somewhere it has got to be better for my skin than something produced in a chemical factory.

Anonymous said...

I have actually found that elminating dairy from my diet has helped my skin tremendously (and it has worked for my daughter also). I am now trying the elimination of wheat to see if that has any effect. I do have to say that the Tea Tree Shampoo has helped my scalp a lot!

Unknown said...

Thank you for this post. I forget the skin is an organ and it will secrete toxins to cleanse the body. I have missed your posts.Again, Thank you!

Anonymous said...

This post was so timely for me! I have had a crack in the corner of my lip for the past week that I had been dismissing as chapped/dry lips. Your post prompted me to do a little internet searching, where I found that one cause could be nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin B2 or iron. My hemoglobin is typically low so I take a supplement with B vitamins, etc. to help increase this (the supplement is called 'blood builder' by mega foods). Ironically enough, I have been forgetting to take this supplement for the past few weeks. Time to re-start the supplement and see what happens with the crack on my lip! Thanks again for the thoughtful post!

anne said...

i mysteriously developed cheilitis and found that lysine cream cleared it up. Lysine is one of the amino acids. I had also read that B vitamin deficiency could be the culprit. I went to see my doctor about this and she prescribed Valtrex! thinking it was cold sores which I've never had. I have also had dry skin until recently. Since I've been taking SAM-E and silica my skin in is no longer dry. ;)

anne said...

I developed cheilits and went to see my doctor and she prescribed Valtrex! think it was cold sores. i cured it with some lysine cream. I have also read that it can be caused by vitamin B deficiency. I have also had dry skin forever but have recently cured this by taking Sam-E and silica. No more dry skin :)

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you mentioned the lip dryness. I love your products, but I must tell you, I cannot use your lip balms any more. I don't consider my skin sensitive, in fact it's quite normal. Not too dry, not too oily. I rarely break out or have dry patches. A few months ago I used your coconut lime lip balm and my lips started peeling and I had cracked corners and a red ring around my mouth, just as you described. It was horrible. I kept using your lip balm, but it kept getting worse. Finally I started using pure sea buckthorn oil, and it cleared up. I haven't had any problems since. Then the other day, I borrowed a lip balm from my sister, and it just happened to be Bubble and Bee Peppermint Cocoa (I turned her on to your company!). At first my lips felt great, but then in a couple of hours, they felt drier than they did before, and started itching! I only applied it just the once and immediately knew the culprit. I started using argan oil on them (that's all I had at the time) and they got better. I really think there is something in your lip balm that is causing this, but I don't know what. That is the ONLY product I've ever experienced that effect with.

Stephanie Greenwood said...

@Anonymous--I'm sorry to hear it! It sounds like you probably have a beeswax allergy. Please e-mail me at stephanie@bubbleandbee.com if you have any further concerns! We are developing a vegan lip balm with no beeswax that should work better for ya! Sometimes, even with the simplest ingredients possible, there can be allergies!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for responding, Stephanie. I don't have a beeswax allergy because I'm currently using lip balm from Lotus Moon with beeswax, and I have no reaction whatsoever. Any other suggestions?

Stephanie Greenwood said...

Sometimes you can be allergic to one beeswax but not another because you're not actually allergic to the wax itself, but the traces of propolis and pollen within. So, it can vary from beeswax to beeswax, depending on where it was harvested. If you'd like to e-mail me at stephanie@bubbleandbee.com I'll be happy to share more details and help you further.

Alyson said...

Hi Stephanie,

I was just recently diagnosed with eczema at the age of 34. I was quite shocked to get that diagnosis. Other than having the occasional battle with dry skin I have never had any other skin issues. My dermatologist had me go and have blood drawn to see what caused the horrible "flare up" and after running every test under the sun, it all came back normal. My dermatologist did not suggest I do anything else to figure out what triggered it but I hate not knowing. I had not eaten anything new, used any new products, etc. so I am baffled as to what caused/triggered me to have eczema. Do you have any suggestions or advice?

Stephanie Greenwood said...

Hi Alyson, thanks for your question! I would visit with a naturopath perhaps, to figure out if maybe you've developed a gluten intolerance or if there's some sort of other imbalance going on. It could be a zinc or magnesium deficiency. A hormonal imbalance, omega-3 fatty acid imbalance...a lot of different things.

Alyson said...

Thank you for your response Stephanie. I will definitely look into seeing a naturopath. I did not realize all of the many different things that could have caused it. Everything I have read seems to limit it to food or some reaction to a product so I truly appreciate the other possible causes you shared with me. Thanks again!