Dry Sensitive Skin In A Tropical Climate


A question from Ashley

Dear Colin,

I am 47 of age…lives in tropical country having dry sensitive skin which feel tight after washing, feel itchy after exposure in sun and prolonged air-conditioning. I surfed the web a lot and got confused on the ingredients to avoid until I found your blog which I think is honest truth. I like to hear your comment on alcohol denatured, can my skin type use it.

I used to have dry and itchy eye area especially eyebrow, in between eyes and forehead. Raised red spot on the forehead and sometimes to the extent of swell and flakiness on the eyelids.

I felt eye gel is the culprit, so I stopped using it and started using Avene Mineral Cream SPF50 on my whole face and it help a lot. I still use moisturiser(with fragrance) on face underneath but avoid the eye area.

I like to know is there any face moisturiser or cream that can be apply on the whole face including eye area because I don’t seem to find a suitable eye gel or cream.

Thank you in advance and look forward to hear from you.

I can’t really recommend any particular brands.  I don’t use much cream on my face, and when I do I usually use stuff I have made myself.  Also I don’t live in a  tropical country – far from it.  As I look out the window I can see a heavy frost coating every surface.  This means that the air where I am is exceptionally low in moisture and consequently is very drying indeed.  I might well be getting out a moisturiser later today, something I generally only do this time of year.

Someone living in a tropical climate – you don’t say exactly where you are – will probably have a very humid atmosphere while you are outdoors.  But air conditioning affects humidity as well as temperature, and although the humidity of an air conditioned room will still be a lot higher than a frosty morning in England, you will probably find indoors a lot more drying than outside.  Bright sunlight is another problem that we don’t have much where I am.  Leaving aside the long term ageing effect of sunlight, in the short run it can provoke the immune response that left to itself will eventually lead to sunburn.

So it is pretty clear you will need a very different kind of skin cream to what I need.  Indeed I think in the future we will learn to use products that are formulated for our specific local conditions and will spurn internationally marketed brands.  But for now here are the things I would look for.

Avoid products that contain a lot of denatured alcohol.  As a very simple rule of thumb if it is one of the first five ingredients it is probably too much.  I have written more about the effects of alcohol on the skin in a previous post.

Avoid high SPF values.  There is a lot to be said for including some kind of sunscreen in a face product for use in the tropics, but it isn’t a cost free option.  The more sunscreen is included the more likely it is to irritate your skin.  Having said that, if you are getting good results from Avene Mineral Cream SPF50, then it would seem like a good idea to keep going with it.  But for anyone else reading this who is looking for a product that might help them with similar problems can I point out that this formulation is very high in chemical sunscreens as well as physical ones.  I admire the skill of the people who came up with it but it because such a high SPF is not at all easy to produce.  But the fact is that if you read the reviews of it on Makeup Alley you’ll see that a lot of people have problems with it.  Many find it irritating and others find that the pigments are really obtrusive in use.

Avene Mineral Cream SPF50 on Makeup Alley

I would pay attention to the texture of any product.  You want something that is light, spreads easily and is absorbent.   You want to minimise the amount of work you have to apply to the skin – the rubbing of the product into the face is itself likely to provoke irritation if you have sensitive skin.  I would consider looking at lotions – they can be just as moisturising as creams.

The other thing about the skin of the face is that it has more pores than other parts of the body so it is more prone to irritation by individual ingredients.  It might be worth looking out for fragrance free products and steering clear of irritating preservatives.  The least irritating preservative option are the parabens, so the easiest way to do this is to use products that contain them.  Methylparaben on the ingredient list is a good sign if you have sensitive skin.

I hope these notes are of some help, and please do use the comments below to share any products you find helpful for the benefit of other people with similar issues.

Photo credit: iksobert via photopin cc

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