To summarise: sensitised skin is different to sensitive skin in that it is a direct result of environmental aggressors. These might include things like medication, improper cleansing, harsh products and stress. Most recently though, the effects of certain ingredients, technology, pollution and diet, are cause for serious concern for many consumers and their skin.
LS:N Global, a trend tracking company, has examined the key factors that are driving the increase in new found skin sensitivities like the above and what it could mean for beauty brands moving forward.
An important point to begin with is that the definition of skin sensitivity is moving beyond irritation to include dryness, redness and dullness. Here's what's causing it.
Urban living and the rat race
Gone are the days when skin protection simply means wearing SPF. The ever-increasing number of city dwellers means that by 2035 there will be over 2 billion people around the world dealing with the effects of pollution on their skin. And it's not just air and particulate matter that's causing mayhem.
Hard water in non-coastal cities has been found to exacerbate skin sensitivity and aggravate dermatitis and eczema. "Alkali deposits [from hard water] can irritate skin and cause inflammation and itching in the same way that other allergens such as chlorine and pollens cause the same sort of problems," Dr Martin Schiele, founder of skincare brand Salcura, told LS:N.
Urbanites also work long hours, often glued to screens, resulting in high levels of stress and blue light exposure. The effect of this could mean damaged or diminishing skin cells which increases the effects of ageing.
America's International Dermal Institute reports that the primary factor leading to adult acne is chronic stress, while the Journal of the
American Academy of Dermatology found that 40–55% of the adult population aged 20–40 have been diagnosed with low-grade persistent acne and oily skin, while 54% of women aged over 25 have some kind of facial acne. This could be down to the increase in, and unique responsibility of women in their 20s, 30s and 40s who are under pressure to start a family while maintaining a steady income.
While consumers are becoming more savvy about ingredients in beauty products - some 62% of Millennial women read beauty product labels prior to making a purchase - brands are still using words for ingredients that can be incredibly misleading.
Botanicals are often referred to by their latin names, colour additives are identified by Colour Index (CI) numbers and there are terms written in alternative languages such as as 'Aqua' and 'Parfum' instead of 'Water' and 'Fragrance'. Different regulations across the world also means that the same ingredient can be named something completely different depending on which country it's being sold in. All this makes it hard for consumers to determine
what effect the ingredients will have on their skin.
Similarly, there are few legal standards when it comes to terminology in the natural beauty sector. Words like 'Superfood' have "no scientifically based or regulated definition," according to the Los Angeles Times. This makes it impossible to know exactly how much cacao butter is in a product that claims to moisturise and heal, or how often it should be used in order to combat the effects of 21st century life on the skin.
D is for diet and detox
Confusion around ingredients may be having an impact on the unfolding desire among consumers for stripped back skincare and detoxifying beauty routines.
Mintel reports that detoxing is a new focus of the beauty market, with "detox bath salts and antioxidants seen as a key trend in product launches", according to Mintel senior beauty analyst Charlotte Libby.
Just as people avoid certain foods that don't agree with them due to genetic reasons or overexposure, this same consciousness is being carried over into beauty. If you're conscious about what you're eating, its a paradox not follow that through with what's in your beauty routine, reports LS:N.