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Navigating skin sensitivities in the beauty industry

Inline | minute read

At an increasing rate, more people in the UK are recognising and identifying with skin sensitivity conditions like eczema and dermatitis. While research does suggest an increase in young people being diagnosed and treated for sensitive skin conditions, there is also a rise in awareness of these issues among adults. This broader cultural shift means beauty brands need to do their part to understand and address skin health, by ensuring the products they bring to market cater to this growing demographic.

At Inline, it is crucial for us to stay ahead of shifts in the market so we can continue to innovate and meet the evolving needs of our customers. In this article, we’re looking more closely into industry insights to understand the new market dynamics when it comes to skin sensitivities, and how brands can commit to creating products that are tailored for those with sensitive skin.

The rise of skin sensitivities

Sensitive skin is a term used to describe skin that is more prone to adverse reactions or irritations. This can be caused or worsened by environmental factors, skincare products or lifestyle habits, but can also sometimes be genetic or caused by hormonal changes. People with sensitive skin might experience symptoms like redness, burning, dry skin and acne-like breakouts. Common sensitive skin conditions include atopic eczema, a chronic condition that causes inflammation and irritation, and contact dermatitis, a type of eczema that is triggered by contact with a particular substance and causes problems like itchiness, blistering and dry or cracked skin.

As awareness grows around the world, studies are being carried out to look more closely at the increase in sensitive skin conditions. One study, published in ‘Clinical & Experimental Allergy’, looked into eczema diagnosis and treatment in children and adolescents and reported a 10-year increase in its prevalence. Interestingly, the British Skin Foundation also reported in 2020 that the need for regular handwashing since the Coronavirus pandemic resulted in an increase in skin problems in children’s hands. 24%, or 1 in 4 children, it found, were suffering from hand eczema due to increased hand washing.

These statistics tell us that specialised skin and body care for skin conditions is increasingly important. The parallels between increased skin conditions in children and a growing awareness of skin sensitivities in adults suggests a rising demand for skincare products specifically tailored to sensitive skin. 

The fragrance issue

Whether synthetic or natural, fragrance can be a common irritant for those with skin conditions. By removing or minimising using fragrance – particularly artificial – in skincare products, brands can effectively cater better to people with sensitive skin. Fragrances are usually made up of different compounds, some of which can be allergens. Fragrance-free products can provide a safer alternative that’s kinder to the skin by removing these potential allergens. They can offer a more comfortable skincare experience with less worrying about triggering a reaction.

At present, EU regulations list 26 potential fragrance allergens that must be included in an ingredients list when the concentration is more than 0.01% for rinse-off products or 0.001% for leave-on products. However, a recent update to this legislation expanded the list to include 56 newly identified potential fragrance allergens. This shows an increased concern in allergen awareness but is also big news for manufacturers, who now need to consider updates to labelling, formulations and testing before the changes come into effect.   

Specialised solutions for sensitive skin

Aside from carefully considering the use of fragrance, how can brands cater to those with sensitive skin conditions? It all comes down to skincare formulations that are gentle, transparent and effective. Here are the basics about how this can be achieved:

  • Hypoallergenic formulas
    Brands can go one step further by developing products that can be labelled as hypoallergenic. These products are ones that manufacturers can claim result in fewer allergic reactions than other products. They’re created to be gentler to the skin, reassuring consumers that they’re less likely to trigger a reaction. It’s still important to note that thorough testing and correct, legally compliant labelling is crucial in any products that claim to be hypoallergenic. We’ve covered this in more detail in our article, The dos and don’ts of allergy labelling and testing.’ 

  • No harsh ingredients
    When developing sensitive skin formulations, manufacturers can aim to eliminate ingredients that can be harsh on the skin. This could include fragrances and preservatives.  

  • Straightforward ingredients
    When creating skincare formulations for sensitive skin, it is always best to opt for products with simple ingredients lists. There are two great benefits here – it not only reduces the chance of any potential irritants, it also means customers are reassured that they know exactly what they’re applying to their skin.

  • Dermatologist testing
    Consulting with an expert like a dermatologist when working on a sensitive skincare range is a great way to make sure products are safer for sensitive skin. Involving a skincare professional in the formulation process gives customers trust and confidence that the products they use are backed by science.

  • Moisturising properties
    Sensitive skin often has a weakened skin barrier, meaning it can be very prone to dryness. Dry skin can lead to discomfort including itching, redness and irritation. Offering products that help maintain the skin’s hydration is a great way to help reinforce and repair the skin’s barrier. Moisturising ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides and glycerin can positively affect the skin by offering up a dose of much-needed hydration.

  • pH-balanced formulas
    Ensuring that skincare products have a pH level that works with the skin’s natural balance means there’s less chance of irritation. The pH scale measures how acidic or alkaline a substance is. The average pH of skin is considered to be in a range of around pH5, with some research suggesting as low as 4.7 for some layers of the skin. People with sensitive skin are often more likely to experience disruptions when it comes to pH balance, so creating products with a pH level that’s similar to the skin’s natural pH can help maintain its healthy levels.

As the demand rises for skincare solutions that cater to sensitive skin, brands need to prioritise creating ranges with formulations that are both effective and gentle. At Inline, we can help you create products that look after skin health while meeting the needs of your customers.

Our end-to-end fulfilment process means we know everything there is to know about creating high-quality, safe products with ingredients that work. We can work with you on contract manufacturing or white labelling. Please get in touch to find out more.