selective focus portrait photo of woman with a towel on head looking in the mirror

The Lowdown on Sensitive Skin

The colder months are here, the heat is turned up and the air is harsh, this can be a recipe for disaster for an already sensitive skin.

If you’re someone whose skin gets irritated in the winter, you’re not alone. The lack of humidity in the air dries us out, exasperating certain skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and just overall sensitivity. 

But I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be this way! With a few tweaks to your skincare routine, as well as adding certain foods and nutrients to your diet, we can keep that sensitivity under control, if not eliminate it all together! 

First let’s talk about what causes sensitivity. The majority of sensitivity stems from impaired barrier function. Our skin has a layer on the surface called the “barrier” or the acid mantle. This layer is what protects our skin from the elements. When the acid mantle is compromised, our skin loses its natural defense, and is more susceptible to dryness, dehydration, and sensitivity. 

Some signs that your skins barrier might be compromised:

  • Flaky skin
  • Overly reactive skin (stings or burns)
  • General redness 
  • Breakouts
  • Tight feeling skin
  • Dermatitis

Now that you understand the cause of sensitivity, here are a few skincare products, as well as ingredients, to look for to improve the appearance of your skin, to soothe sensitivity, and to keep your skin healthy through the winter. 

Let’s start with products. These three products should be in your everyday skincare regime:

1. Oil: When your skin is dry, it is lacking oil. Oil will not only provide lubrication to your skin to reduce that tight feeling, it also creates a protective layer to prevent trans epidermal water loss (TEWL).

2. Serum: It’s easy to confuse dehydration and dryness, but the two often come hand in hand. If your skin is dehydrated oil will only do so much. Using a water based serum will provide a punch of active ingredients to treat sensitivity, and add that extra dose of water the skin is looking for. A toner can also be a great option, like Blissoma Botanicals Serene Sacrad Waters Toner

3. Cleanser: Cleansing is the first step in the skincare routine and one of the most important not only for sensitive skin, but for all skin types as it sets the tone for the rest of the regime. Cleansers can be stripping, and when your dealing with sensitive skin and a compromised barrier that is the last thing you want. Avoid cleansers that foam or suds, and stay away from artificial fragrance. The cleanser should be soap free, and pH balanced. Avoid over cleansing as this can dry the skin out more and contribute to sensitivity. 

4. Facial Masks: This should be a weekly staple. Face mask are jam packed with nutrients for the skin. It’s is one of the best ways to help repair the barrier and deliver skin healing ingredients through the epidermal layers. It’s also a great way to practice some self care, make it a ritual. Pour your favorite cup of tea, light a candle, listen to some music, whatever makes you feel good while your doing your mask.

Now that we know which products to use, even more important is what ingredients to look for in these products:

  • Reishi, or Ganoderma lucidum, is mushroom know for its calming effects on the skin. Rich in beta-glucans, which have the ability to modulate the skins immune system, as well as deeply hydrating the skin and reducing the signs of aging. It reduces inflammation, increases antioxidants in the skin, and makes sensitive skin more resilient. Try the Beta-Glucan mask from Blissoma
  • Sunflower Seed oil – this mostly non allergenic oil is the perfect oil for those with reactive skins. This mild oil is jam packed with the skin healing vitamin E in the form on alpha-tocopherol which has an anti inflammatory affect in humans. Not to mention it’s also high in antioxidants and carotenoids for age defying properties. Try the Herbal cleanser from Blissoma 
  • CBD – this powerhouse ingredient has so many benefits to the body as well as the skin, But it’s ability to combat inflammation in the skin is unmatched. CBD has anti microbial properties as well as anti inflammatory properties making it suitable for acne skin as well. It soothes the skin and reduces irritation, and is rich in antioxidants which protects the skin against oxidative stress. Try the 3 Part Beauty System from Moon mother hemp CBD oil
  • Bluetansy – this essential oil, as well as other blue essential oils like blue chamomile, contains a compound called Azulene. Azulene is calming, anti inflammatory, antibacterial, and helps Aid in skin cell regeneration. Blue Tansy is also a natural relaxant, calming the nervous system with its aroma. It also has anti-allergenic properties which means it can help reduce skin reactions to allergens it comes in contact with. Blue Serenity balm 
  • Marshmallow root – the antiinflammatory powers of marshmallow root make it a perfect ingredient for sensitive, Irritated skins. Its one of the best herbs for dry, itchy skin as it deeply moisturizes the skin. Try the Pure sensitive complex Blissoma 

Getting regular facial treatments, as well as using the correct skincare products at home, can help repair the skins barrier, hydrate, nourish, and sooth sensitive skin. Our Canna-Calm facial is specifically designed for sensitive skin in mind, using the above ingredients combined with techniques to heal the skin from the inside out. Click here to book your appointment!

Besides topical skincare, it’s important to care for you body as a whole to combat sensitive skin. Eating a balanced diet, drinking lots of fluids, moving your body regularly and trying to reduce stress will all benefit the skin. 

To try one of the products discussed above, feel free to contact me to order!

woman getting a facial treatment

The Body Keeps the Score – Facial Mapping

Facial Mapping has been used for centuries in other cultures, like in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine. It helps the practitioner identify imbalances within the body. 

Depending on which school of thought you’re using, each area of the face corresponds to an area of the body, which are connected by qi, or chi, or life force energy. 

Our skin is a reflection of our internal health, and when we have imbalances internally, it will eventually manifest in our skin. One example that is often used in the skincare world is how breakouts around the chin are associated with hormonal fluctuations. 

Trapped trauma or emotions can also show up in the skin. When we have experiences that create stress within the body that are not properly dealt with, the emotions surrounding it gets stored in our tissues.

We react to emotions using our face, these are our facial expressions. When we experience a specific emotion, our face can communicate how we are feeling with the world.

For example, when we experience fear, we open our eyes wide (orbicularis oculi muscle) we open our mouth (orbicularis oris muscle) and we raise our eyebrows (frontalis muscle).

When we experience anger we flare our nostrils (nasalis muscle), furrow our brows (curragator muscle), and tighten our lips (orbicularis oris).

And when we are happy we smile, squinting our eyes (orbicularis oculi), and the corners of our mouths lift (zygomaticus muscle).

When we experience an emotion over and over again, or when we have a significant event in our lives linked to a certain emotion, we start to subconsciously make the expression associated with that emotion. Our body, and muscles, are holding onto that emotion through muscle memory.

This is why when someone asks you “whats wrong?” when nothing seems to be wrong, its is your subconscious state making the facial xexpression, aka your facial posture.

By looking at the skin we can see fine lines, or feel tension around areas of the face. This tells us that the person is subconsciously holding onto emotions. 

When talking about “emotional release” around using Gua Sha, cupping, or even manual massage, we are talking about releasing these stored emotions from the tissue. It is relaxing your facial postures and ironing out the tension. As we release muscles, fascia, and lymph that is intertwined, these trapped emotions can also release along with it. 

We can restore the flow of qi, or energy into these areas, allowing oxygen and nutrients to flood the tissue, allowing the body to heal and repair both on a physical level (releasing the muscle) but also on an energetic and emotional level. This is a true holistic healing treatment.

Most people feel a sense of relief after, but some may experience uncomfortable side effects. This work might bring these emotions to a head, making the person feel a little more emotional then usual, or a bit “off”. Releasing any kind of toxin from the body, even an emotional toxin, can also lead to some physical feelings like being a little lightheaded.

Home care is so important to bring the body back to balance and continue the work that was done. Breathing exercises, or self care rituals can further release any stagnant fluid, emotions or waste from the body.

various beauty products on ceramic shelf in bathroom

Beauty & The Bacteria

When you think of healthy skin, do you think of microscopic bugs, virus’s, fungi, and bacteria? You should.

Our microbiome is a complex ecosystem of microorganisms that live both inside of us, in our digestive tract, our lungs,  our reproductive system, and our bio-fluids,  and outside on our skin and in our pores and follicles.

When in balance, we have a healthy diversity of microbes that work harmoniously to keep our skin, and body, healthy. These “bugs” communicate with each other, protecting us from harmful pathogens. If you’ve heard of the Gut-Skin connection, this connection is because of the communication of microbes between the skin, and the gut.

When our skins barrier function is compromised, it leaves us in a state of dysbiosis, or imbalance, leading to certain skin conditions, for example acne. The health of our gut microbiome will play an important role in re-balancing our skin. If our gut microbiome is also in a state of dysbiosis, our body is not able to heal and repair, leading to inflammation. The imbalance in our skin only worsens, and we end up with chronic inflammatory conditions within the skin and body.

When a client comes in with certain conditions like acne, rosacea, or dermatitis, one can assume they are in a state of dysbiosis. Treating these conditions topically will improve the appearance short term, but will not resolve the issue. We must reduce the inflammation, repair the barrier, and repopulate the microbiome in order to see lasting improvement to the skin. This takes time and consistency, and its important to explain this to the client, there is no quick fix.

So how can we help our clients?

Reduce inflammation and discomfort. 

We are supporting the body’s natural healing processes in this phase. This can be done easily with topical treatments and products, and is where as Estheticians we will be able to make the client look and feel more comfortable. This approach is “putting a bandaid over it to stop the bleeding”, but will not resolve the issue. Some treatments I like to do include LED light therapy, anti-inflammatory treatment masks, Kansa wand massage or very gentle cooling techniques including Gua Sha and Jade rolling, and lymphatic drainage massage underneath the effected area. We do NOT want to add more insult to injury by doing aggressive exfoliation or using certain ingredients that will cause more aggravation.

Repair the barrier.

Repairing the barrier is really an inside out approach. We need to heal the gut first, in order to heal the skin. As we already mentioned, there is a huge connection between gut and skin health, and you cant heal one without the other. Some things that can damage our gut lining include

  • Over the counter medications like NSAIDS
  • Alcohol
  • Chronic Stress
  • Overuse of antibiotics
  • -Consuming excess amounts of sugar

Remember to remind your client this didn’t happen overnight. If the skin is showing signs of imbalance its usually a result of long term imbalance in the gut. This can go as far back as childhood taking antibiotics over and over for ear infections. It is going to take time to heal and repair before they start seeing results in the skin.

This may be where you need to refer out to a holistic nutritionist or function medicine Dr, depending on how severe the issue is. But there are some things we can recommend to our clients to get them on the right track…

  • Elimination diet – try this for at least 6 weeks. You can eliminate the most common culprits, dairy, wheat, soy, eggs and nuts, either one at a time or all at once. Then slowly reintroduce them (one at a time if you did it all at once) and see how you feel. There are also blood tests that can be done  (with a functional medicine Dr.) to know for sure what foods are creating immune responses (this is usually what I recommend.)
  • Add more Omega-3 fatty acids into the diet. In the standard American diet we eat a large amount of Omega-6 foods, which throws the balance of fatty acids off in our body. Omega 3 is important to form the building blocks for healthy cells, and they play a roll in reducing inflammation. 
  • Manage Stress – stress creates a cascade of events within the body. It can mess with our hormones, our blood sugar, and will eventually manifest itself as disease. As Estheticians, this is one major way we help or clients, allowing them to decompress and de stress while in the treatment room. Other options are mediating, dancing, journaling, getting out in the fresh air, whatever allows the client to fully relax and enter into the parasympathetic nervous system, where the body can heal and repair.

Repopulate the “good guys”.

We can replenish our good bacteria in our gut by eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha. We can also help feed the bacteria we already have with prebiotic foods such as garlic, onions, leeks, and asparagus. Supplementing with pro and prebiotics has also shown to repair the skins barrier, prevent trans-epidermal water loss, and repopulate the skins microbiome. Using topical probiotic skincare can also help diversify the microorganisms on the surface of the skin.  Lactobacillus strains have been shown to reduce inflammatory skin conditions such as acne. Make sure to use a reputable brand, as there is a science to how to preserve the microorganisms in the product in order for it to be effective. 

As always when giving advice outside of skincare please tell your client to consult their Doctor before starting any new supplement protocol or diet.


Good Bacteria for Healthy Skin, Paula Simpson

The Mind-Gut Connection – Emeran Mayer, MD

Clean – James Hamblin