Everything You Need To Know About Sensitive Skin

Despite skin sensitivity being so prevalent, there is no widely agreed upon definition, and sensitive skin is not a diagnosis. Those who may describe themselves as having sensitive skin may find they have a reduced tolerance to topical products and environmental conditions. Let’s find out more about sensitive skin.

Despite skin sensitivity being so prevalent, there is no widely agreed upon definition, and sensitive skin is not a diagnosis. Those who may describe themselves as having sensitive skin may find they have a reduced tolerance to topical products and environmental conditions. Sensitivities can present on the skin in a number of ways, such as stinging, burning, itching and tightness. Visible skin changes, such as redness, dryness, bumps, scaling and peeling, may also be present.


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Sensitive vs Sensitised Skin 

Sensitive skin is a genetic skin type. Skin will be sensitive from birth, and will require lifelong consideration and management. Skin conditions that affect  Sensitised skin, on the other hand, is an acquired skin condition. Resulting from a trigger in the environment, sensitised skin is temporary and can be managed through skincare and lifestyle changes.

Sensitive Skin Triggers

As sensitive skin is genetic, irritation and inflammation may occur very easily, with no underlying skin condition. But, sensitive skin also envelopes a range of skin concerns and conditions. There are several reasons why symptoms may appear on the skin, ranging from the weather to skin diseases.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors such sunlight, heat, cold or winds may trigger the frustrating, painful symptoms described above. Exposure to heat can cause a heat rash, consisting of painful, itchy blisters and bumps. This occurs when the heat closes off sweat ducts, trapping moisture under the skin and forming the bumps. Alternatively, cold weather and harsh winds can strip the skin of moisture. Symptoms such as dryness and scaling are common in these cases.

Dry Skin 

Dry skin caused by environmental factors can further increase skin sensitivity. When excess water is lost from the skin, it loses the protection that the moisture and fats were offering to nerve endings. As a result, the skin will be even more reactive to triggers. Those with sensitive black skin are at an increased risk of dry skin, as black skin contains lower ceramide levels than white skin. As a result, black skin is prone to increased transepidermal water loss, contributing to increased dryness, flaking and ashy skin.

Inflammatory Skin Diseases

Those genetically predisposed to sensitive skin may also find they are prone to experiencing inflammatory skin diseases, such as dermatitis, eczema and rosacea.

Sensitive Skin: Dermatitis 

There are many different types of dermatitis and they can affect anyone, at any age. However, as those with sensitive skin are more prone to irritation, dermatitis is likely to increasingly affect this group. Contact dermatitis is a very common skin condition that shows up as an itchy rash. It can be divided into two categories: irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is another type of dermatitis, more commonly known as eczema. Let’s take a look at the differences between each type.

Irritant Contact Dermatitis

If you experience irritant contact dermatitis, it is likely to occur very quickly after encountering an irritating substance. The rash will show up in the area that the irritant has had direct contact. This skin will appear dry and discoloured, appearing red on lighter skin, or dark brown, purple or grey on darker skin. Burning and itchiness is likely to occur with the discolouration. There is no immune response involved in the reaction, as it is not an allergic reaction. To heal the damage, the body will repair the skin with its own natural mechanisms. If necessary, medication can be used to soothe the skin.

Skin Sensitivity Elimination 

If you think you are exposing your skin to an irritant, and know for sure that it is not an allergy, you can find out what it is through the process of elimination. This will allow you to avoid the trigger in future. For example, if you think a skincare product is the reason for your irritation, stop using it immediately. Wait and see if the irritation clears up to identify if the product was causing problems for you.

Top Tip: It is important to remember that introducing a new product into your skincare routine may initially disrupt the skin, causing symptoms until the skin gets used to it. Be sure that you are dealing with irritant contact dermatitis before potentially removing a beneficial ingredient from your skin.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis 

Allergic contact dermatitis, as the name suggests, is inflammation resulting from a substance you are allergic to. Swollen, itchy, raised, blistering skin can appear after the exposure, However, it can typically take several days after your skin is exposed to the allergen before seeing a response. As allergies trigger an immune response in the body, the reaction will not be confined to the contact site, as with irritant contact dermatitis. Common skin allergens include plants, such as poison ivy, metals, particularly nickel and silver, fragrances and cosmetics.

Skin Allergies 

If you think you have allergic contact dermatitis, it is important to see your doctor to confirm the allergy. Do not use trial and error to figure it out yourself. Generally, symptoms get more severe after subsequent exposure to an allergen, as the body increases the production of antibodies. Worst case, allergies can cause breathing difficulties or anaphylactic shock, so treat allergic contact dermatitis very seriously.

Atopic Dermatitis: Eczema 

Eczema is caused by the body’s inability to repair the skin barrier. This results in excess moisture being lost from the skin, and environmental allergens entering the skin. The combination of factors leads to dry, itchy, scaly skin. The eczema rash will vary in colour, depending on the colour of your skin. On lighter skin, patches may be red while brown, purple and grey is common for darker skin. It may occur in small patches, often in the creases of the skin. However, it can be widespread – causing inflammation across the body.

Diagnosing Eczema 

If you have sensitive skin and symptoms of atopic eczema, make an appointment with your doctor. They will be able to examine your skin and ask you relevant questions. Once you have confirmed that you are suffering with atopic dermatitis, you will be able to begin treating it.

Treating Sensitive Skin 

When treating sensitive skin, try to keep your routine as simple as possible. Gentle, soothing products are best – such as the SkinBase Essentials range. To minimise risk when introducing new products to your skin patch test them on a small area, e.g. your neck, and wait 24 hours to ensure there is no reaction. Look for beneficial ingredients such as vitamin B, aloe vera, bisabolol, shea butter, and zinc oxide. Remember – less is more when it comes to sensitive skin.

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