Beauty, skin and nutrition insiders reveal the tips they swear by for healthy skin
To celebrate La Roche-Posay’s Skin Health Month, The Irish Times readers gathered at The Dean Hotel in Dublin for a panel discussion with a host of skin, nutrition and beauty experts
La Roche-Posay Skin Health Month takes place annually to highlight the importance of skin health and the abundance of information and skin advice available from local pharmacies across Ireland.
On March 4th, La Roche-Posay gathered with The Irish Times readers and an expert panel at Dublin’s Dean Hotel to talk about Skin Health Month, common skin issues, nutrition, and the products and practices that help.
The panel, including consultant dermatologist Dr Niki Ralph, who has a specialist interest in inflammatory dermatology, Janette Ryan, La Roche-Posay’s Head of Education with over 18 years’ experience in skincare and dietician Sarah Keogh, founder of Eatwell, answered readers’ questions on the skin issues they are facing, from chronic conditions to basic skincare.
What is the difference between sensitive and allergy-prone skin?
Dr. Niki Ralph says: Sensitive skin isn’t actually a skin condition or a medical condition in itself. For example, if you had eczema in childhood you might think of yourself as having sensitive skin as an adult because you may still have a touch of mild eczema.
20 per cent of children in Ireland have eczema and roughly 11-12 per cent would still have mild eczema or what we would think of as sensitive skin that can flare from time to time. Even if you’re just prone to dry skin, sometimes it might feel itchy or sensitive.
With allergy-prone skin, you’re really talking about a patient with eczema, or atopic dermatitis. When you have eczema, you have a defect in your skin barrier so that everything that skin comes in contact with gets in more easily and the more this happens, you can develop an allergy. If you do have eczema, the most common allergens will be house dust mites, animal dander and pollen, so patients with eczema will report seasonal fluctuations in their skin.
What is the relationship between food allergies and skin: it seems that every other person is eliminating some food groups from their diet in the name of better skin and health?
Sarah Keogh says: There is a trend for food intolerance and food allergies at the moment. If we went round the room right now, I’d bet at least half the people here have at least one food that they avoid or don’t eat, sometimes for good reason.
But we have to remember that if you’re allergic to something, you’re going to have a big immune reaction it. It’s not hugely common that food would cause an allergic reaction in skin. For example, I work with a lot of people who have eczema, and most people don’t know that eczema causes food allergies. Food allergies very rarely cause eczema.
It’s also quite unusual for food intolerances to express themselves through our skin. It’s essential if you think might have a food intolerance to go to a Coru-registered dietician and get properly checked out for it. There are lots of tests I’ve encountered over the years – hair testing and different blood tests, but unfortunately you can’t diagnose food intolerances this way, so you’re better off to sit down with an experienced dietician who can take you through an elimination diet to find out what you really are intolerant to, if anything.
How common is sensitive skin in Ireland?
Janette Ryan says: It’s very common. La Roche-Posay conducted research earlier this year and it showed that one in five people claim to have sensitive skin. Surprisingly, a staggering 53 per cent of people claim to have hypersensitive or reactive skin.
I work closely with pharmacists and pharmacy skincare advisors and they tell me that sensitive skin is one of the most common customer issues. Under that umbrella term ‘sensitive skin’, rosacea – redness and sensitivity – is the issue they’re seeing most.
Most of us in Ireland have the lightest skin phototype – type one or two – making it more fragile and sensitive to sunlight. We can have a harsh winter climate and we don’t tend to be serious enough about sun protection even though we know we should protect our skin from UVA and UVB rays all year round. There’s a rise in pollution and stress is rife. All of these factors have an impact on the barrier function of our skin!
How important is maintaining a skincare routine in managing sensitive and allergy-prone skin?
Dr. Niki Ralph says: A structured, consistent skincare routine is absolutely vital. It’s understandable that we all get bored and complacent sometimes and stop taking those extra steps we were taking to maintain our skin, but once you stop, you suddenly start to flare again. If you’ve got a regimen that works, stick with it!
We all get the craving to try new products, and that’s absolutely fine, just test it first. Don’t just cover your face or body in a brand new moisturiser if you have sensitive skin; always do a home patch test. The skin in the crook of your arm is incredibly sensitive, so if you put a product there every single day for a week and you don’t have a reaction, you should be fine to use that product as normal. The face should be the last place you apply a product if you’re concerned about a reaction.
What should we be eating for general skin health?
Sarah Keogh says: First, we need to stop focusing on what foods to cut out of our diets for skin health. The focus with skin should be on what you are incorporating into your diet. One of the most important nutrients is fats. Over the years when I’ve seen people on super low-fat diets, they always have very dry skin. Fat is like a barrier in your skin and holds the moisture in your skin. We need it!
Good healthy fats like moderate amounts of nuts and seeds; fish is incredible for omega threes, which reduce inflammation. Oily fish, like salmon or mackerel or sardines. If you just won’t eat fish, think about a fish oil supplement. Vitamin C works really well applied to the skin, but eating it builds collagen! Make sure to get plenty of protein as well.
What is an optimal La Roche-Posay skincare routine?
Janette Ryan says: Every La Roche-Posay product is suitable for sensitive skin. Each range has a very specified purpose. So if the skin is feeling a little bit tight and uncomfortable or tingly, we have the Toleriane range. It’s full of soothing thermal water to hydrate sensitive skin.
We include fewer ingredients in higher concentrations to make sure the products work for sensitive and reactive skin. Toleriane Sensitive would be ideal for that tight, tingly skin. If the skin tends to be more reactive, prone to flushing, redness and potentially rosacea, we have the Rosaliac range for anti-inflammatory action to treat the redness.
If you’re more allergy-prone, there is the Toleriane Ultra Range. It’s for the most sensitive skin – an ideal range now that we are coming into hay fever and high pollen season. If you’re prone to itchiness or blotchiness, Toleriane Ultra is the right range for you.
For more information visit www.laroche-posay.ie or your local pharmacy online