Sensitive skin is a condition that people experience as a result of the skin overreacting to environmental factors, products, or natural or artificial compounds. People with sensitive skin typically report frequent irritation, discoloration, itching, hives, stinging, peeling, dryness and many other abnormal responses that affect skin comfort and appearance.
Who Has Sensitive Skin?
Newborns have increased sensitivities due to the skin being up to five times more thin than adults. The elderly also experience more skin issues due to thinning skin and a reduction in fat behind the skin.
Interestingly, research shows that there is an increasing number of adults reporting skin sensitivities. This is thought to be the result of the increased use of cosmetics, cleaning products, and changes in culture. In regards to culture, globally more companies are advertising products for “sensitive skin,” which researchers suggest is creating a phenomenon whereby sensitive skin is seen as desirable and thus more people self-report skin sensitivities and buy products for those issues, even when the issues are minor or normal.
While there is some debate about self-diagnosing sensitivities and how we take care of the skin, women especially are prone to skin sensitivities due to the use of feminine products. Materials, chemical additives, and ingredients that affect hormone levels or control menstruation can contribute to changes in skin sensitivity. Skin problems related to makeup or cosmetic products are also highest among women.
Signs You Have Sensitive Skin
Sensitive skin can affect people of all ages and ethnicities. While it can be difficult to diagnose the cause of skin issues without consulting a primary care physician, there are several ways to determine if you may have sensitive skin.
- Frequently dry skin
- Ashy skin
- Broken or bleeding skin
- Rough texture
- Oozing skin
- Red or brown patches
- Excessive or persistent flushing
- Visible blood vessels
- Pimples or acne
- Sensitivity to sunlight
- Sensitivity to water
- Discolored spots
These symptoms can be present anywhere from the top of the head and down to the soles of the feet. Your skin is the largest organ in the body, and it is continuous from head to toe. Skin problems can start in one place, disappear, and reappear with little warning.
It’s also important to recognize when a skin issue is a sign of a serious allergic reaction. While it is rare that symptoms would begin in the skin, you should seek medical help if you struggle to breathe, swallow, or swelling of the face, throat, or face occur.
What Should You Avoid?
People that experience skin sensitivity often report problems when exposed to any of the following.
- Excessive sunlight
- Pollution (avoid busy roadways and congestion)
- Ozone (most common during hot days)
- Low humidity
- Nickel or other metals
- Raw foods
- Bath and body ingredients
- Materials (fabrics, rubbers, animal skin)
- Synthetics in cosmetics, lotions, sunscreens, and any product applied to the skin
- Artificial colorings
This list may be incomplete for some people. Your skin sensitivity could be the result of something less obvious or entirely unknown. If you recognize the cause of your sensitivity or aren’t sure, use the next section to learn about some useful tips that may either help to reduce or prevent hyperreactivity.
How to Care for Sensitive Skin
If you have sensitive skin there are some steps you can take to try and minimize problems through the products you use and changes to your daily routine.
- Take short, warm showers
- Avoid astringents and exfoliants
- Avoid artificial fragrances (essential oils and plant extracts may be okay)
- Switch to organic cleaning products
- Gently dry yourself after showers
- Test new products behind the ears before general application
- Buy a humidifier to help moisturize your skin
- Eat foods with less spice to reduce flushing, and irritation around the mouth
- Detergents can stay in fabric after washing and irritate the skin, so opt for natural laundry products
- Some fabrics, like wool, can cause skin problems
- Vacuum with a HEPA filter to reduce dust and pollen in the home
- Stay out of the sun
- Avoid swimming in chlorinated water
Moisturizing is important. When our skin dries out not only does it crack and flake, it also increases the production of natural oils in the skin. These oils capture dirt and harbor bacteria. Acne, pimples, or oily looking skin may be a sign that your skin is dry.
Some people’s oily skin may be the result of overactive sebaceous glands and will require consultation with a dermatologist to go over treatment options, but for everyone else, moisturizing may be ideal for helping to maintain normal oil production, and healthy-looking skin, texture, and tone.
There are lots of available products made from natural, tropical, and exotic ingredients. Check out these many unique moisturizer options for your specific skin needs!
Because we spend almost all of our time looking at each other’s faces and obsessing over our own, it’s doubly important to pay extra attention to the needs of our skin, lips, facial hair, and what cosmetic and makeup products we use.
Facial care options are many, and that’s a good thing. When shopping for products, you’ll find items specifically for acne, eye cream, face serum, cleaners, masks, moisturizers, scrubs, night cream, treatments, and toners.
Makeup helps to bring out your inner beauty and can help to create a look that is truly you. But don’t forget that makeups can be heavy. Not heavy in terms of weighing down the skin, but heavy in the sense that they clog pores, trap dirt and bacteria, and leave the skin irritated, red, bumpy, and prone to whiteheads and acne.
Not only that, but makeup products containing synthetic ingredients can get into the eyes and bloodstream, creating potentially short- and long-term health problems.
“Clean” makeup products are formulated to provide the same quality you expect from some of the more popular brands found in the cosmetic aisle of stores while replacing synthetic ingredients with more natural options.
It may seem less obvious that what you put in your hair would affect more than just your scalp, but when you rinse your hair, anything in your hair will wash over your face and other parts of your body. Hair care products, like shampoos, conditioners, and styling products that limit or eliminate the potentially harmful synthetic ingredients that strip the skin of its natural oils are ideal.
Bath & Body
Everything said above about hair grooming products applies here too. Lathering your skin with potentially harmful ingredients is not ideal. Yes, there are many popular products available in the bath and body section of your local retail store that help you to smell and feel clean, but how they work is questionable – just look at the ingredient list.
We shouldn’t accept that getting clean requires potentially harsh chemicals and artificial fragrances. The good news is that more natural bath & body products are available and may provide a feeling of clean with the use of more gentle and natural ingredients. In the previous link you’ll find bar soaps, bath salts, massage oils, body lotion, body scrubs, body wash, and shower gels.
Natural feminine hygiene products offer an alternative way to maintain the health of the female body while also seeking to reduce exposure to unwanted chemicals and fragrances that may lead to discomfort in the pelvic regions.
Keep Track of Everything
There is a lot to cover when it comes to sensitive skin that may not be addressed in this post. Make sure to keep track of the products you use and what you experience to help pinpoint the source of your skin issues. While changing out one or two things may helps, a holistic approach is best. If several little things are contributing to issues, then you need to make a bigger change in your life. If you make those changes you will hopeful start to notice a change your life for the better.