Several years ago, at a presentation of a beauty product of which I can’t recall the brand, the speaker-cum- skincare expert claimed: “The Japanese are fixated on cleansing, the Americans focus on rejuvenating and energising, and the French are obsessed with calming and comforting their skin.”
Today, it appears that the whole world is following the French. The reason is simple: everybody (and I do mean everybody) over the age of 25 has experienced some forms of skin sensitivity. The most common symptoms are dehydration and inflammation from constant exposure to air-conditioning, UV rays and pollutions, as well as heightened irritation to regular skincare ingredients thanks (not) to daily makeup application, slowed metabolism and emotional stress.
As a young grooming writer, I used to brag about my Kevlar skin, which never saw a single breakout irrespective of the fact that I was constantly trying out new products that found their way to my desk. A diet consisted of coffee and fast foods required nothing more than an extra layer of moisturiser to restore my early 20s glow. Nearing my 30s, my grooming arsenal has seen an evolution from let’s-wear-all-the-skincare to a collection of exclusively skin-soothing solutions.
I don’t remember there being a switch since the change was gradual: firstly, a serum to reduce the faint blotchy redness on my cheeks, and then, a cream to calm down the sudden outcrop of itchy patches around my nose and chin. Luckily, as my skin got weaker, products for sensitive skin got sexier. Soothing, calming preparations have made the transition from pharmacy shelves to the counters of mainstream international brands. They are no longer your usual boring unscented products in no-frills plastic packaging (usually in plain white), but luxuriously – or should I say, excitingly – textured formulas in Instagrammable jars and bottles.
Anti-inflammation and anti-irritation botanicals dominate the ingredient lists, allowing skincare products to not just be gentle enough for compromised skin, but also improve and boost its condition with added benefits. Aloe vera hydrates, while calendula and lavender counter breakouts, and arnica, a rare flower used to treat burns and stings, provides antioxidant benefits. Even if you don’t have overtly sensitised skin, it’d do well to add a skin-calming step to your daily routine to refresh and reset tired, stressed-out skin.
The easiest way, I’ve found, is to use a soothing mask – that you apply after cleansing and leave on for five to 15 minutes before rinsing off – twice or thrice a week. Not only does the skin receive an added hydration boost, but also a reduction in redness and blotchiness (most of the latest masks in the category are naturally scented to promote relaxation and relieve tension making them perfect ending to a long day.) After all, stress is among the top on the list of the most common causes of skin sensitivity.