While there is no true medical definition for sensitive skin, it’s something we are hearing about more and more – in fact, up to 70% of women and 50% of men report that their skin is sensitive, a fact that often influences the types of skin care products they use.
While “sensitive skin” may not be an actual dermatological diagnosis, it’s pretty well established that skin which is easily inflamed or irritated would be considered sensitive. People who break out in rashes or experience itching, burning, or redness as a result of the weather or using certain products, would likely consider their skin sensitive.
What causes “sensitive skin?”
Just as no singular definition exists for sensitive skin, there is no specific “cause” for it either. Individuals with eczema, rosacea, dermatitis, psoriasis, and some other diagnosed skin conditions often have sensitive skin, as their skin is more reactive to environmental factors such as skin care products, pollutants, and the weather.
Among dermatologists, it appears that most of the people who have diagnosed themselves with sensitive skin likely wouldn’t be diagnosed as such by a dermatologist. That doesn’t mean their skin doesn’t get irritated, but that most of the time the itching, burning, rashes, redness, etc. are all avoidable through simple lifestyle changes.
Avoid things that trigger skin “flare-ups”
Regardless of your skin type and sensitivity, there are some skin care tips that are mostly common sense. Often, a rash or redness will be caused by a product that is simply too irritating for your skin – after all, everyone’s skin is different, and not every product works the same for everyone.
Things like extreme heat and cold, excessively dry skin, cigarette smoke, and fragrances and detergents can all cause skin to become irritated and/or inflamed. That doesn’t necessarily mean that someone experiencing a flare up due to these factors has sensitive skin; it may simply mean that their skin is irritated by a specific experience.
The best way to avoid skin sensitivity – more accurately, skin vulnerability – is to keep skin healthy. Keeping skin moisturized and hydrated can go a long way to keeping skin healthy.
Also, make certain to “patch test” any new skin care or cosmetic product. When trying a new product – especially those containing ingredients that have greater potential to irritate skin, such as retinoids, alpha-hydroxy acids, alcohol, or antibacterial ingredients – start by using the product on the inside of your forearm or behind your ear for a few days. Then, if no reaction develops, you can try using a small amount near your temple. After a few days with no reaction, you can feel pretty confident that it’s safe to use on your face. But it’s still important to always look at the ingredients – even on products you’ve used in the past – as sometimes products get reformulated, and even a small change can cause a reaction.
Of course, a visit to the dermatologist can help to address any skin care concerns you may have.