Let me start by painting a few scenarios: you travel between cities with vastly different climates, and your skin feels dry and tight, even flaking in some areas; you’ve just survived a super-stressful work week, and red, itchy patches appear on your cheeks; you try a new skincare or makeup product that seems to set your skin on fire.
Surely these reactions mean you have sensitive skin? Or is your skin simply going through a bad phase because of external and internal stressors?
People with sensitive skin experience burning and tingling sensations, dryness, tightness, itching and more every day, because their skin condition is written into their DNA (read: inherited).
On the other hand, sensitised skin is an “acquired” condition in which you occasionally experience the same symptoms as for sensitive skin. The symptoms crop up when normal skin faces triggers such as stress, or drastic changes in environment, lifestyle and dietary habits. The symptoms may last days to weeks before subsiding.
Bad skin moments
According to a Lancome-commissioned study by the Institut Francais d’Opinion Publique (IFOP) – an international polling and market research firm – two in three of the 2,000 Chinese and American women surveyed have skin-sensitivity outbreaks at least once a year.
This year alone, global searches for “itchy skin”, “dry skin” and “skin irritation” each had 10,000 to 100,000 hits a month on Google.
And in Singapore, a poll of 50 women showed that three in four have experienced skin sensitivity, even though they may not have sensitive skin. They have “bad skin moments”, or chrono-sensitivity, as Lancome terms it.
Bad skin moments are caused by external factors such as UV rays and air pollutants, as well as internal stressors like mental stress, hormonal changes and fatigue. Your skin reacts by going into battle mode – it starts producing free radicals to combat the “attackers”.
When skin flares up, it’s telling you that it’s struggling to fend off aggressors, and its barrier is weakening. A weak and thinning barrier means that nerve endings in the skin are more easily stimulated, leading to further discomfort. Other side effects include premature ageing and dull skin (try these editor-approved radiance-boosting facials), since the cells are unable to function well.
What you need
… is a solution that soothes skin, helps repair its barrier, and makes it more resilient – which is what Lancome’s latest innovation, Advanced Genifique Sensitive ($120), promises to do. The serum is said to hydrate, soothe irritation and tightness, and stop tingling and burning sensations. Use it like a pre-serum (apply before your usual night serum) and apply it nightly for a month at times when your skin has a bad reaction.
Dr Veronique Delvigne, scientific director for Lancome, says the serum should immediately soothe skin and reduce redness by nearly 90 per cent.
According to the brand, although the serum soothes discomfort after just one use, you should continue applying it for a full month to reap the long-term benefits: repairing the skin barrier, and giving skin a boost so it looks more radiant and youthful. Discard the bottle after a maximum of two months, as the formula is most potent at the point of “activation”, then gradually loses its efficacy.
The lightweight product is made up of an encapsulated antioxidant blend (kept in a capsule within the bottle, and “activated” only when you push down and twist the cap to release it), and a soothing base that contains probiotics. To fight off skin-damaging free radicals, 98 per cent of the blend is made up of antioxidants like ferulic acid and vitamin E. The base, on the other hand, has three probiotics – lactobacillus, bifidobacterium extract, and yeast – to soothe skin, strengthen its barrier, firm it, and plump it up.
“Ferulic acid, derived from plant extracts, is often combined with other antioxidants such as vitamins C and E to treat spots and facial pigmentation,” says Dr Tay Liang Kiat, consultant dermatologist at Dermatology & Surgery Clinic. “And emerging evidence suggests that probiotics may decrease the severity of eczema, characterised by itchy, red, swollen and cracked skin.”
The product comes in a handy 20ml bottle, which makes it suitable for travel (a major trigger of chronosensitivity), and ensures you can finish using it by the two-month mark. Free of alcohol, lanolin, mineral oils, silicone and parabens, the serum boasts a naturally-derived, hypoallergenic fragrance. It has been tested on women with all skin types – including sensitive – but if you have conditions such as eczema or rosacea, check with your dermatologist before using it.
Although there is no limit to how many times you can use Advanced Genifique Sensitive in a year, Lancome researchers recommend that you apply it only in times of peak skin sensitivity, which could occur anywhere from one to three times a year.
This story was originally published in the September 2017 issue of Her World magazine.