How to treat irritation following a skin reaction

Have you ever wished you could press CTRL-ALT-DELETE on your skin? Dreamed of giving it a complete reboot following a meltdown?

I'm talking about those moments of extreme skin irritation when you've broken out in bumps, burning, dry flaky patches, redness or irritation – and nothing seems to resolve it...

These are all signs of a skin reaction – something even the most balanced and resilient complexions can experience from time to time.

So what should you do when this happens? And is there any way to prevent it? Here's the expert guide to pressing 'refresh.'

By Sarah London Hero facial oil

"Beautiful facial oil, sinks in to skin well and creates a lovely base for makeup. Great for dry sensitive skin that is also acne prone. Light and lovely mild scent." - Fiona M., customer review

What is the difference between irritation and an allergic reaction?

The majority of reactions are simply skin irritation but in some cases, you may be suffering from a skin allergy.

Irritation is caused by contact with an 'irritant' and involves inflammation at the skin's surface. An allergy, on the other hand, is an abnormal reaction by the immune system. Both can result in swelling, itching and redness.

If you suspect you are allergic to something, you can contact your GP or a dermatologist who can help diagnose it using a patch test. And if you ever experience any serious symptoms such as trouble breathing or swelling in your throat, you should always call 999.

What causes a skin reaction?

The main culprits behind skin reactions tend to be too much exfoliation, harsh active ingredients, such as glycolic acid or retinol, over-cleansing the skin or the use of fragranced products and essential oils.

The reason? All of these things can give our skin's important protective barrier function a beating. Once this wall has been weakened – whether immediately or over time – it becomes less able to keep irritants out and water in; resulting in those tell-tale 'freakout' signs like dehydration, dryness and itching.

Another cause of irritation can be medical treatment – something my sister, Lauren, experienced first-hand. Following her treatment for leukaemia, her previously strong and healthy skin began shedding like a snake, reacting to anything that came in contact with it.

It was that battle that led to the creation of By Sarah London, in fact. I worked relentlessly to research and develop hand-made plant-based blends to help soothe Lauren's skin and rebalance her compromised microbiome. Now, these very products make up our best-selling collection.

By Sarah London Body Oil

"This oil is pure heaven in a bottle. It soaks in quickly nourishing my dry sensitive skin-highly recommended." - Gillian G., customer review

How to prevent skin irritation

It's not just sensitive skin types that need to be cautious of irritation. Everyone's skin has a tolerance limit – it's just that some of us have a higher threshold than others.

The best way to prevent this from happening is by keeping your skincare routine gentle, consistent and streamlined:

1. Be gentle

Look for products free from harsh active ingredients and resist the urge to over-exfoliate your skin. That includes manual exfoliation (such as facial brushes and scrubs) as well as chemical exfoliation via alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid, and beta hydroxy acids, such as salicylic acid.

At By Sarah London, all our formulations are plant-based and kind-to-skin. Instead of potent salicylic acid, our By Sarah London Ally Blemish Recovery Oil targets blemishes using Hemp Seed Oil. Similarly, our Balancer Oil-to-milk Cleanser melts away makeup instead of stripping it using sulphates.

Prebiotic skincare ingredients are also vital and keep our skin's precious microbiome balanced. Find them in our Reviver Hydrating Mist.

By Sarah London Reviver Hydrating Mist

"A gentle, restorative and refreshing spray which I use AM and PM before the Facial Oil. it definitely aids hydration." - Feefo customer review 

2. Be consistent

Our skin ADORES consistency and predictability. Yes, it's tempting to experiment with countless new products and treatments, but in the long run, you'll probably find your complexion's worse off. Give things a chance to work and resist the urge to constantly chop and change your products. In general, skincare can take six to 12 weeks to show results although you'll notice an immediate nourishing, soothing and radiance-boosting effect following the use of our plant-based products.

By Sarah London Organic Facial Oil

3. Be streamlined

According to research by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the average woman uses 12 products containing a whopping 168 unique ingredients every day. The more ingredients we use, the more risk there is of our skin disagreeing with something.

You'll find just a handful of ingredients in each By Sarah London formulation with every single one listed on the front of the packaging – which means no hidden surprises!

We're also big believers in keeping skincare routines minimalistic with products that do multiple jobs in one skin-loving blend.

Take our cult By Sarah London Hero Facial Oil that hydrates, plumps, softens and soothes – without the need for extra serums, creams and gels.

What should I do if my skin suffers a reaction?

When you do experience skin irritation, it can be tricky to know what to do. Piling on further products in a bid to quell things is a bit like fighting fire with fire. Instead, take your routine right back to basics with a focus on nourishing, reparative plant-based goodies.

For a fortnight, simply cleanse with our By Sarah London Balancer Oil-to-milk Cleanser followed by a calming application of our Hero Facial Oil – both morning and night. The latter will work like a fire extinguisher to ease any discomfort while rebalancing your microbiome and rebuilding your protective wall thanks to restorative Sweet Almond Oil, Argan Oil and Apricot Oil.

By Sarah London Balancer oil to milk cleanser

"This is such a pleasant way to cleanse the face every morning and evening and leaves my sensitive skin feeling good." - Feefo customer review

Keep towels fluffy, showers tepid and skip makeup, too, if you can. Within days, you'll notice the reaction subside while dry flaky patches, redness and itching will instantly be calmed.

Your skin's 'factory' setting? Consider it restored.


Written by: Sarah, Co-Founder, By Sarah London

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