Sensitive skin is common in babies and children so it is important to understand what it is and how to look after it effectively.
Sensitive skin is an uncomfortable feeling on the skin which can vary from person to person. It could be stinging, burning, itchiness, redness or tightness or a combination of these.
These sensations can be triggered by many different factors: changing temperature, using cleansing products, and hormonal changes, often making it hard to control and predict what might cause sensitivity.
Sensitive skin is not skin type specific, however people are more likely to have sensitive skin if they have very dry skin. This is because people with very dry skin have an impaired skin barrier.
With sensitive skin, the skin barrier is compromised and the skin cells and the lipid layer the 'bricks and mortar' of the skin may not be arranged in an optimal structure. Uneven shapes and sizes of the cells leave larger gaps in the stratum corneum often exposing the more sensitive inner layers of the skin. These gaps make it easier not only for water to leave the skin via trans epidermal water loss (leaving skin drier too) but also makes it easier for irritants and external aggressors to enter the skin.
Normally the highly organised bricks and mortar structure of the skin means that substances cannot penetrate the barrier. When the skin barrier is impaired and leaves bigger broken gaps, it gives irritants and environmental allergens a more direct route to enter the skin and potentially damage the barrier even further. This then stimulates an inflammatory response in the skin causing the classic redness and irritated skin appearance associated with sensitive skin.
Supporting the integrity of the skin barrier is key to healthy skin- both with cleansing and moisturisation. Gently cleansing the skin will help remove any dirt and grime that could be potential irritants whilst keeping the skin moisturised and hydrated will support the normal functioning of the skin barrier.