Contrary to what you might have heard, sensitive skin isn’t considered a medical condition. When someone says he or she has sensitive skin, it typically means the skin has become irritated, red, swollen and/or itchy as a result of either an environmental condition or use of a certain product. The term is also used to describe changes to a person’s skin in response to allergic reactions.
Why can skin be sensitive?
Although there are several reasons why skin can be sensitive, the most common is that skin is reacting negatively to a certain product or possibly some combination of products. Think about your daily skin care regime, specifically the number of products you use. Soaps, cleansers, toners, blemish reducers, blemish concealers, foundation, blush, facial masks, after shave lotion the list never ends! You probably use products that are made by a number of different manufacturers, too. While your intentions are good, some skin cannot tolerate such an assault.
Causes of sensitive skin
Trying to pinpoint the cause of sensitive skin is not always as simple as discontinuing use of a certain product. Because of the nature of sensitive skin, it can take hours or even days before the signs of sensitivity are visible. And the sensitivity may not be caused by a product. Exposure to the sun can create skin problems, as can extremely hot water. Your laundry detergent, fabric softeners, shampoo, perfume, hair spray, and even the household cleaning products you use can be the culprit. Certain foods and even some plants can cause symptoms of an allergic reaction as well.
Healthy skin is less sensitive because it’s able to act as an effective barrier. Sunburned skin, skin that’s excessively dry and skin that is otherwise damaged tends to be more sensitive. That’s one reason why people who don’t normally have sensitive skin develop skin sensitivity during winter months when dry, cold air strips skin of its protective moisture.
How to treat sensitive skin
Before sensitive skin can be treated, it’s important to figure out the underlying cause of the problem. It may be necessary to seek the advice of a dermatologist as you may have a skin condition such as eczema, psoriasis or rosacea. Here are some tips for treating sensitive skin. Start reading product labels – the fewer ingredients, the better. Avoid products containing alcohol, fragrances, botanicals, antibacterial, ethanol and propylene glycol.
Spot test new facial products before applying to entire face. Apply a few dabs behind ears for 5 days, and if there’s no reaction, apply beside eyes for another 5 days. If all goes well, full facial coverage likely will be safe. Choose natural fabrics for pillowcases and washcloths like 100% cotton or silk instead of synthetic materials. Check your ‘cotton’ balls, too. Some look like cotton but really are polyester.
Eat a balanced diet to ensure skin gets the nutrients it needs to remain healthy.
Keep skin moist and always apply sun protection.
Gently clean skin. Avoid harsh products like scrubbing mitts, excessively hot water and abrasive exfoliating products.