You may not even know you have sensitive skin until you have a bad reaction to a cosmetic product, like soap, creams or makeup. Skin sensitivity and irritation can be even more frustrating if you aren’t sure how to pinpoint the cause.
Though you can control your symptoms by learning what triggers them and taking a proactive approach to skincare, it’s worth understanding what causes skin sensitivity and irritation. And it turns out skin sensitivity is quite prevalent in the US.
Sensitive Skin: What It Is
You’ve probably seen products in stores like creams and makeups designed “for sensitive skin.” But it’s worth noting that there is no official, medical definition of sensitive skin. The term sensitive skin is commonly used to explain a wide range of conditions, from redness and dryness, to more intense, conditions like rosacea, psoriasis and eczema. Most doctors consider sensitive skin as “skin that is irritated by things that don’t bother most people.”
However, trying to classify sensitive skin conditions by comparing them to what “most people” don’t experience is still not very helpful. That’s because half of the U.S. population claims to have sensitive skin per The International Dermal Institute. If you’re part of the 50 percent who experience occasional or frequent skin sensitivity, you’re in large company. A simpler explanation for you would be to refer to sensitive skin as common and prevalent skin reactions or problems that are caused by a variety of factors, from genetics and behaviors to irritants and the environment.
So, with that general explanation in mind, it’s now on to the crux of the matter: what factors cause certain people to have sensitive skin?
Factors That Make Skin Sensitive
One of the major factors that contributes to sensitive skin is genetics. First, consider your skin’s build. If you have more delicate skin with a lower amount of pigment, that’s often indicative of a thin epidermis, which means blood vessels are closer to the skin surface, so your skin may be more prone to show redness and irritation than someone with naturally thicker, darker skin.
Another major factor in skin sensitivity is how your body responds to allergens. Everyone’s immune system is different, and some individuals may produce large quantities of histamines when confronted with an allergen, which will cause itching and inflammation, while others may not produce much histamine at all. If you suffer from allergies, you can read more about how allergens impact skin by clicking HERE.
Physical triggers from the environment can also play a significant role in causing skin sensitivity. For individuals experiencing sensitive skin, these physical triggers could be sunlight, extreme hot or cold temperatures, or chemicals found in many of the things skin comes into contact with, like clothing, detergents and fragrances. Additionally, if you happen to live in a large, metropolitan area, you’re likely exposed to more pollution, which can affect skin sensitivity.
If you are experiencing sensitive skin, it’s best to visit a dermatologist who can help you identify the factor or factors that may be causing the sensitivity. In some cases, you may be experiencing an allergic reaction, and a dermatologist can conduct a popular scratch or patch test to test for certain types of common allergens. If the patch test identifies the allergen, you will have immediate answers to help in addressing your discomfort.
However, in many cases the factor is not an allergen and this makes it difficult to accurately pinpoint the factor. In these instances, a dermatologist will examine your skin closely and look for skin reactions such as pustules, skin bumps or skin erosion. They will also look for signs of other skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, dry skin and a tendency toward skin flushing. If you’re dealing with chronic dryness, the dermatologist may determine you have what’s called “skin xerosis” (ze-ROW-sis). Skin Xerosis is recognized by the accentuation of skin markings and fine scale.
An experienced dermatologist will also ask you a lot of questions about your skin care habits or the types of materials, like clothing, and chemicals, like cleaning products, you may come into contact with. This will help in recommending the right treatment plan.
Treating Your Sensitive Skin
After visiting your dermatologist you may learn that you need to make a few lifestyle changes to help you manage symptoms. Most likely, managing your sensitive skin begins with the inception or the enhancement of a skincare routine.
Yes, a skincare routine. Because while you may just try to avoid all possible allergens and irritants that trigger uncomfortable symptoms, it’s not very realistic that you can always avoid these. And a passive approach to skincare isn’t an effective one.
It’s important that your skincare routine effectively moisturizes you skin, which helps eliminate dry skin and repair your skin’s moisture barrier. Curél Ultra Healing Lotion (SHOP NOW) contains ceramides, a family of waxy lipid molecules that naturally occur in your skin. A moisturizer that contains ceramides will help to replenish your skin's ceramide levels, allowing skin to retain moisture and help prevent symptoms of dry, tight skin from returning. For more information on what a moisturizer physically does to your skin, click here.
Ultimately, those with sensitive skin must have a daily skincare routine to proactively care for skin and avoid the common causes of irritation. Because if your sensitive skin issues aren’t proactively managed, they can lead to more irritation, discomfort and even infection.
To learn more about ways to soothe problematic skin, click HERE.