Cleaning and caring for sensitive and atopic skins

Skin feels and is expressed through various reactions at different intensities and frequencies. These act like shouts of warnings that tend to increase and are linked mainly to a stressful lifestyle. This is quite habitual in western societies, which are curiously more advanced.

Sensitive skin alters more quickly or intensely than normal skin does in exactly the same circumstances; it appears more frequently in young women and improves with age. Skin reacts mainly to environmental factors, allergies, stress, pollution or overexposure to synthetic ingredients.

Atopic skin is another diagnosis as it implies chronic inflammatory disease in patients who tend to be genetically predisposed to it, especially children, but also adults. Irritation, itchiness, and even eczemas and lesions, are usual symptoms of atopic skins. Some causes that activate these reactions are stress, brusque changes in temperature, allergies, diseases like asthma, allergic rhinitis, continuously using of irritating products every day, and even excessive or aggressive hygiene that certainly does not help.

In both these cases, it is absolutely necessary to listen to and care for skin, and to apply care in hygiene matters to help sooth, reduce and avoid these symptoms.

It is preferable to shower or take quick baths with cool or warm water, but avoid very hot water.

Use nourishing soap. It is not necessary to do so on a daily basis with the whole body, but is best applied only to areas such as the face, armpits, genitals, hands and feet.

Do not use sponges, or scrub or exfoliate skin. Soapy hands suffice to provide good hygiene.

To dry your skin, use cotton towels. Wash with organisc soaps or detergents, and never use conditioners. Do not scrub skin with a towel, but dab skin until all the water on it has been absorbed.

Next moisturise skin while it is still slightly wet because this form of moisturising is the most effective.

At this point, we often find recommendations about using “soapless soap”, neutral soaps or to not directly use soaps to clean atopic skins, but “mild cleaners” instead. These statements are based on soap drying sking and not respecting its pH.

It is true that conventional soap is alkaline and soap eliminates part of the hydrolipidic barrier that protects us as our skin is slightly acidic. However, this epicutaneous emulsion is regenerated an instant later. In other words, our pH must be around 5.5 and the pH of most soaps is around 9 (alkaline), which is why it may temporarily alter our skin’s natural protection barrier.

However, very little is heard about the ingredients behind a “soft cleaner” that is not soap. Many skin gels sold in chemists have a neutral pH, but they contain very aggressive ingredients for any skin type in general, and especially for sensitive or atopic skins. Is it worth it?

If the cleaner is “soapless”, its composition probably includes aggressive sulphates (sodium laureth sulphate) and ethoxylate compounds. In rinsing products, the following are quite usual: parabens, phenoxyehtanol and methylisothiazolinone (kathon). The sad thing is that so many ingredients are found in conventional cosmetics which harm our skin and health in general in the mid and long terms. We will look at such ingredients more closely on another occasion.

A healthier option is to use Eco- or Bio-certified organic products (Natural-certified ones do not suffice). Organic bath gels use sulphites of plant origin, which are doubtlessly much better than conventional ones of a petrochemical origin; even so, if there are alternatives to avoid these sulphates, then so much the better.

Back to conventional bars of soap. No doubt some bars of soap dry our skin by making it feel tightly drawn after using them. It is worth leaving to one side all industrially machined soaps with their syndet-type synthetic bases, their synthetic ingredients and additives (colourings, perfumes, preservatives, etc.); even “natural soap” like the Lagarto type, which is heat-produced and contains animal fats.

Not any soap is good for our skin. Fortunately there is an ample offer and increasingly more options that also guarantee bio-certificates to ensure the origin of their ingredients and, thus, their quality. The result of using organic soaps made with 100% plant-based extracts, butters and oils obtained from sustainable crops is completely different: cleanliness + nourishment for skins with no toxins.

For soap to be more nourishing, it must be cold-produced (not boiled) because such production better preserves properties of oils. A percentage of base oils, plus the cosmetic extracts, butters and oils added to their formulae, not undergoing saponification is a good thing as their properties directly affect our skin.

All in all, the careful enriched formulation of eco-handcrafted organic soap makes all the difference and provides extranutrition that sensitive and atopic skins require. As with so many other situations, the principle “less is more” is once again ratified; senstive and atopic skins generally need very few simple products, but with good quality formulations.

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