What if your sensitive skin isn’t necessarily sensitive?
Traditionally in the beauty industry, there’s a tendency to treat skin as almost something separate from our bodies. We wouldn’t dream of applying acids and harsh exfoliators on our kidneys or heart, especially if the organ was perhaps going through a problematic time, but that is a commonly completely accepted way of handling our skin, the body’s largest organ.
In everyday life, people often talk about skin with judgement and negativity. We can say things like “problem skin”, “reactive skin” or “sensitive skin” with a punitive tone of dismissal and degradation (like a misogynistic guy disparaging a woman politely rejecting a sexist remark with a “oh calm down princess, I was only kidding. Don’t be so sensitive”) rather than warmth and compassion - like anything but a flawless complexion is unacceptable.
The compassionate approach
If our so-called sensitive skin would be a character, perhaps it would be that slightly neurotic but soulful friend, or a cuddly but fussy baby. Do we respond to that person with care and compassion, or do we try to get him/her to suppress his/her need and just shut up – and which way is more effective in the long-run for a harmonious interaction?
When our skin is feeling unbalanced, reaching for a strong exfoliator, an oil stripping cleanser, or booking an appointment for an acid peel might feel like a powerful way to maneuver the situation and, short-term, shut down whatever is happening, but it might actually make things worse and distract us from what’s really going on.
Rather than dismissing any sign of “sensitivity” as evidence of weakness or crankiness, what if your skin is trying to tell you something, essentially delivering a report of what works well and what works less well for your body? What if we were to view sensitive skin as merely.. communicating?
Sensitive skin vs. communicative skin
If we were to interpret signals from our skin as communication - and refer to sensitive skin as communicative skin instead- it could transform how we interact with our bodies and help to destigmatize skin issues. At LXMI, we believe in synergistic, effective, plant-based products that support the body’s wholeness, applied to aid a smooth communication and allow our bodies to heal rather than forcefully shutting down any attempt from our bodies to protest.
Reframing sensitivity as communication, we could calmly take in the signs from our bodies and do what we can to adjust accordingly (for example seeing that something we ate was connected to that pimple and/or stomach ache a couple of days later – and responding to that by avoiding to feed that same food to our bodies again, at least for a while – rather than just slathering on some drying cream to get the pimple to go away).
The effect of communicative skin vs. the communication
Don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying we shouldn’t treat skin conditions or do what we can to look and feel our best – but we believe that ignoring the signs from our bodies can push the problems ahead of us and cause us to fall out of harmony with self.
We understand that the communication can be confusing and listening to our bodies is sometimes easier said than done. We completely relate to and humbly recognize how debilitating skin issues can be, both physically and psychologically. When, for example, the cystic acne is raging, our instinct is often to just make it STOP. The general intolerance and historical stigma in our society towards skin issues such as acne definitely don’t help either. We completely understand that the promise of some prescribed pill can hold more hope than the energy we have available to dedicate to some rather nebulous inner journey.
Even if we perceive the communication from our bodies, the lost-in-translation feeling can be palpable - like the communication we receive is in a foreign language to which we don’t have an intuitive dictionary.
And that’s ok.
Our hope, by widening the narrative and through our general approach to skincare as a compassionate act to self, is to help change our, oftentimes, dismissive and intolerant relationship to sensitive skin – and the view of it as something negative. The effect of a communicative skin (for example acne, eczema, etc.) can, of course, be unpleasant and something we want to treat (and there are different ways of doing that) – but the fact that your skin is telling you what it does and doesn’t like, we believe is inherently a positive thing.
It’s like being in a relationship with someone who never communicates to you his or her likes and dislikes, but secretly builds up negative energy and resentments until the relationship falls apart. Not feeling heard in a relationship can cause anyone to:
- Frustratedly raise his/her voice in an attempt to be heard
- Go silent as a sign of resignation and despair when it feels like “there’s no point, my partner just won’t listen”, leaving a sense of numbness and lack of vitality.
- - or
By the same token, when we don’t listen to what our bodies are trying to tell us, our bodies can respond in similar ways:
- By screaming louder - for example, increased flare-ups or breakouts, pain, or whichever way might be your body’s preferred method of signaling
- Going numb, until the point of breakdown - for example skin initially calming down after a new antibiotic treatment but then coming back with even more breakouts some months later (which can cause us to want to shut it up even more forcefully with something even harsher.. and the vicious cycle continues).
- - or
Shifting the narrative from weakness to resilience
A so-called sensitive skin that clearly alerts you when something is off, should perhaps even be viewed as resilient rather than fragile. Rather than resigning into numbness, despite whatever happens, it continues to reiterate the message that something is off, even if you don’t listen.
Just as with human connections, realizing that relationships are a two-way street, there can be tremendous progress once we start to actually listen to each other. The person who previously screamed when he/she didn’t feel heard, feels listened to and can lower the volume.
There might still be things underneath that need to be resolved, but it tends to be much easier to get to the root of the problem when things are less agitated and the lines of communication are open. The same goes for when we begin to honor the signals from our bodies and see the feedback as more than just a nuisance. To not shoot the messenger, we can look deeper and see if there are things to address holistically, such as barrier repair, inflammation, and gut imbalances.
This might be a bit of an unconventional perspective, but we invite you to just explore the next ping from your body as a request to tune in, reconnect, and realign. To look at your skin as a bulletin board displaying news from your body, rather than dismissively labeling your skin as being sensitive and difficult. Maybe your skin is of a shy, less communicative character, or maybe yours is simply a talker? :)