Sarah’s Health Notes: New Products For Sensitive Skin

Sarah’s Health Notes: New Products For Sensitive Skin

If you think you have touchy skin that frequently has a flare-up, join the gang. ‘Sensitive skin is one of the most reported consumer skin problems’, according to biochemist and researcher Stewart Long, past President of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists. Around 50% of people count themselves as having sensitive skin when questioned but, in fact, global research suggests the rate could be considerably higher, up to 68% according to Long. Nowadays, more people are recognising they have a problem, particularly men, he adds.

Labelling your complexion as ‘sensitive’ covers a range of concerns. Dermatologists call it ‘a condition of subjective cutaneous hyper reactivity to environmental factors’. In other words, there’s no scientific test – that’s the subjective bit - but you find that you experience an uncomfortable reaction, such as itching, burning, stinging, feeling tight and so on, to some or many cosmetics including make-up and skincare, fragrance (including in topicals), also soaps and sunscreens. Pollutants can also play a part.

You might, however, have a diagnosed inflammatory facial skin condition, such as atopic dermatitis (aka eczema), acne or rosacea, which also flares up or becomes worse in response to topical products. Equally you might have an allergy to materials such as nickel or to workplace chemicals, also household paints and varnishes.

Whatever the underlying cause, these symptoms are often worse in cold and wind, or conversely in sun (UV light can be a trigger) and parched or humid conditions. Also, people with food allergies or intolerances are more likely to have sensitive skin.

For these people (and Team Beauty Bible is certainly part of this sector), what you put on your skin is of key importance. Problem is that many people have no idea what’s triggering a flare-up (90% in one survey, see below). They may be tempted by products labelled, for instance, ‘clean’, ‘natural’ ‘organic’, or ‘free from’, which sound good but in fact have little or no meaning and certainly don’t tell the consumer whether or not they are likely to have an adverse reaction, as Stewart Long points out.

However, some people have discovered their skin trigger/s, including our friend and colleague Gill Sinclair at Victoria Health. She is profoundly allergic to essential oils. In fact, so much so that on occasion she has had to be hospitalised. It was Gill’s account of her extreme reaction that led, five years on, to the launch of Oodee, a new concept called Allergen Neutral Skincare.

Oodee co-founder Victoria Tydeman, the originator of Steamcream skincare, told me that she never forgot her conversation with Gill and the fact that she couldn't try Steamcream because of her extreme sensitivity. Determined to do something about the situation, Victoria linked up with Karen Harwood, another longtime beauty industry insider, who had never been able to find a solution to her red, raw and painful skin flare-ups.

As Karen says, she felt ‘exposed and stressed and the greatest frustration was that even as a skincare professional, I couldn't find a solution’. A light bulb moment came when Karen realised that many products contain food allergens as well as other potential irritants. That led Karen and Victoria to spend five years working with skincare experts to create Oodee Allergen Neutral Skincare.

Part of their research involved examining the ingredients in 283 cosmetic products. They found that between 50 and 60% of those products contained potentially allergenic ingredients, including 156 food allergens in over a third of products. And, of course, it’s not just the effect of one allergen of any type, it’s what scientists call the ‘cocktail effect’ of a number of allergens, which can have an unpredictable effect as ingredients are usually only tested singly.

These diligent researchers didn't stop there. From products they went on to poll 1,564 consumers on skin sensitivity and what they wanted from skincare. The key finding for me was that 58% of respondents considered themselves to have sensitive skin and the same number had experienced a skin irritation or flare-up while using a beauty product. As I mentioned above, 90% of those respondents did not know which specific ingredient in their product caused the problem.

So – drum roll here and on to the Oodee products! Let’s look first at what the sophisticated formulas in this capsule collection – cleanser, serum and moisturiser - exclude:

  • 14 major food allergens, responsible for 90% of all allergic/intolerant reactions, including gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts, sulphites, sesame and fish
  • 26 fragrance allergens including anise alcohol, benzyl benzoate, citral, eugenol, hydroxycitronnellal, oak moss and tree moss
  • all other known skin irritants, including sulphates, parabens, silicones, synthetic colours, PEGs, animal-derived ingredients

What they include are complexes of ingredients with known skin benefits such as the dermaRDE+ complex, which gives what Stewart Long calls ‘a daily topical multivitamin for skin to provide all the nutrients it needs’.

Oodee’s 3-Step Phenomenal Skin Edit contains:

HALO Purifying Cleanser, £24 for 150ml: do remember to shake this silky featherlight but super effective cleanser before you dispense two or three pumps to remove all the dirt, oil and make-up

AURORA Perfecting Serum, £65 for 50ml: ultra light but packed with antioxidants and inflammatories to help boost the skin’s natural ceramides

NOVA Illuminating Moisturiser, £55 for 50ml: this really does what it says – they call it ‘glow enhancing’, we call it a short cut to luminous skin.

Victoria Health is currently offering Oodee’s 3-Step Phenomenal Skin Edit with all three products for £105 – they would add up to £144 if you buy them separately, so that’s a saving of £39.

Find out a bit more about Oodee here, in our recent Fab Find of the Week.