Is your skin really sensitive or just sensitized?

More than 40 percent of Americans consider their skin sensitive. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, many people that think they have sensitive skin because they experience stinging, burning, redness or tightness after exposure to a topical irritant.  This misconception is common.  The definition of sensitive skin varies based on who you ask. Some common conditions fall under the umbrella of ‘sensitive skin’ like rosacea and dermatitis (eczema). Typically, sensitive skinned patients experience bumps, redness and inflammation. It is unclear what specific factors lead to a person having truly sensitive skin.  It can be a combination of genetics, age and race.

Even if you don’t have clinically sensitive skin, it can still become sensitized as a result of over-exposure to harsh topical ingredients or climate. Some common irritants that contribute to this sensitization are:

  • fragrances
  • lanolin
  • formaldehyde
  • latex
  • menthol
Additionally, aggressive use of chemical and mechanical exfoliants can increase the response to these and other irritants by impairing the natural barrier function of the skin.
Treating skin gently and avoiding the use of know topical sensitizers and irritants can help most avoid sensitization.  Patients that have truly sensitive skin usually need to seek additional assistance from a licensed professional or their dermatologist for product recommendations.
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