You might have come across the phrase ‘sensitive skin’ in product labels, beauty blogs, and even in conversations about skincare. Sensitive skin is considered to be skin that becomes irritated easily.
However, sensitive skin is not a condition itself, but a symptom of some skin or health condition. Before you label your skin as sensitive, it is important to understand what it means to have sensitive skin.
In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about sensitive skin, and the various methods and treatments you can use to deal with sensitive skin.
The first thing that should be clarified is that sensitive skin is not a medical diagnosis. It is a term that describes skin that has reduced tolerance for personal care products and cosmetics.
It can be defined as:
Skin that experiences a sensory reaction when triggered by environmental factors and other substances. It is often triggered without any visible clinical manifestation.
Sensitive skin was first described as CIS or Cosmetic Intolerance Syndrome by Maibach in 1987. It later came to be known as Sensitive Skin Syndrome (SSS). It was found that various factors like heat, cold, pollution, moisture, and sun lead to the development of skin sensitivity.
Most people with skin sensitivity reported sensations of tingling, burning, pruritus, besides dryness and thickening of the skin. The face is the most common site for developing skin sensitivity because it has a thinner barrier.
Besides, it is also the area where the maximum number of products are used. Other sensitive skin areas are nasolabial folds, forehead, chin, and upper lip. Some people also develop sensitivity in the scalp area.
Sensitive Skin – Causes
Here is a list of factors that are responsible for increased skin sensitivity in people –
Age: It has been found that younger adults tend to have more sensitive skin as compared to the elderly. People who are over the age of 50 are also more prone to developing skin sensitivity in the genital area.
Gender: Women tend to report having sensitive skin more often as compared to men. This is primarily because of the difference in the epidermal layer thickness, as men tend to have thicker epidermis.
Hormonal issues: The condition of your skin is also dependent on your hormonal status.
Ethnicity: It has been found that skin sensitivity is also dependent on the ethnicity of a person. For instance, Asians tend to have greater skin sensitivity.
Environment: Various environmental factors also influence skin sensitivity. In some cases, weather conditions can cause sensitive skin. Besides this, our skin is usually more susceptible to SLS in winter.
Other Factors: It has been found that there is a strong association between sensitive skin and stress. Besides this, if corticosteroids are used daily then it can also lead to sensitive skin.
Irritant Contact Dermatitis (ICD) is a common skin condition in which the skin’s barrier is damaged because of an external agent.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis (ACD) usually occurs because of an allergic reaction to a chemical.
Contact Urticaria is a condition when hives are triggered because of contact with an agent.
Rosacea is a skin condition that leads to skin sensitivity. It is accompanied by persistent redness, acne bumps, pimples, and localized swelling too.
Physical urticaria is a condition in which hives are triggered on the skin because of any physical event like pressure, cold, heat, etc.
Aquagenic pruritus is a skin condition that leads to sensitivity when the skin comes in contact with water.
Dry skin can be caused due to multiple reasons like genetic factors, medications, general health issues, etc. It can lead to skin becoming irritable and sensitive.
Any form of dermatitis or eczema, whether atopic, venous, or seborrheic, can lead to skin sensitivity.
Photodermatoses can lead to skin sensitivity, and even hives, sunburns, and blisters.
Cutaneous mastocyte is a rare condition that results in puffiness, redness, and irritation in the skin.
Sensitive Skin – Symptoms
Here are some of the characteristic symptoms of sensitive skin –
1. Skin is more reactive
You might notice that common household products like detergents, soaps, perfumes, and skincare products can lead to a skin reaction. When an individual with sensitive skin is exposed to any of the substances, the skin tends to become dry, itchy, and red. Sometimes, these skin flares can also be triggered due to exposure to the sun, wind, or cold.
If you have sensitive skin, you will notice that your skin becomes red quite easily. The redness can be in the form of red bumps, red rashes, flushing and blushing, and also dilated blood vessels. In most cases, the redness goes away after the irritant is removed, however, in some cases minor treatment might be required.
3. Dryness in skin
Sensitive skin and dry skin usually go hand-in-hand. If you have sensitive and dry skin, you will notice more acne breakouts along with cracked skin. Your skin sensitivity is also more likely to increase in the winter when the weather is dry and cold. To prevent skin sensitivity in winters, you can use a gentle moisturizer to protect your skin from the elements.
When sensitive skin is exposed to any trigger, it can lead to dry, red, and bumpy rashes. These rashes develop soon after getting in contact with an agent. Rashes are not only uncomfortable and unsightly, but they can also be quite stubborn.
People with sensitive skin also tend to have more acne-like breakouts. These breakouts are often in the form of pustules and red bumps. It is important to choose skin products wisely in this situation, as acne-fighting products with harsh ingredients can often lead to more irritation.
6. Skin is more sensitive to the sun
People with sensitive skin tend to get sunburned easily. If the skin is already flared up, then the harmful effects of the sun can be more pronounced. It is important to wear adequate sunscreen when you go out. However, make sure that the sunscreen does not have any harsh ingredients that can lead to an allergic reaction. It is best to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen, with zinc oxide and SPF 30 (or higher).
Sensitive Skin – Treatments and Solutions
The treatment of sensitive skin depends on the underlying skin conditions. The key is to avoid the triggering factors or agents that can lead to skin sensitivity.
Sensitive skin management can also be done by –
1. Gentle cleansers: When it comes to choosing cleansers for sensitive skin, it is very important to look for the right formulation. In general, you should avoid soap-based cleansers as they are known to irritate sensitive skin further. Besides this, look for no-rinse and foam-free formulas that do not strip your skin of moisture.
2. Alcohol-free toner: If you have sensitive skin, you should invest in a toner, as it helps in maintaining the pH balance of the skin. If you feel that your skin feels too dry after applying a toner, you should switch to an alcohol-free toner. Toners are not only great for maintaining the skin’s pH balance, but also for keeping it glowing and healthy. If you feel a burning sensation after applying a toner, you should stop using it immediately.
3. Non-irritating emollients and moisturizers: Some moisturizers can cause a stinging and burning sensation in the skin. It is important to choose ones that have non-irritating ingredients. You can consider using a lightweight cream or gel formulation that is fragrance-free. Regular moisturizing is key for the proper management of sensitive skin. It helps in improving the skin’s barrier function and also reduces signs of aging.
4. Exfoliate less often: Although exfoliation is a great way to clear up the pores of your skin and remove dead skin cells, it can damage your skin if it is sensitive. It is important to be mindful of the number of times you exfoliate your skin, as over-exfoliation can lead to skin irritation. Your skin barrier can get compromised which can then lead to redness, inflammation, and rashes. Stick to exfoliating 2-3 times a month, as this will prevent the stripping of skin’s natural oils.
5. Sun protection: Sunscreen should be an important part of every person’s skincare arsenal, irrespective of their skin type. It is all the more important for people with skin sensitivity as the damaging effects of the sun are more pronounced in sensitive skin. Sensitive skin gets tanned and sunburned more easily, which is why you should apply sun protection over your moisturizer every day, whether you are outdoors or indoors. Sunscreen will not only protect your skin from sun damage, but it will also prevent burning and redness that is usually caused by sun exposure. You can choose a physical sunscreen that has titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, and make sure it is a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 (or higher).
6. Night-time skincare routine: Developing a night-time skincare routine is very important as our body repairs and heals itself when we are sleeping. With a good night-time routine, you are supplementing the body with the things it needs to assist in the process of healing. The most important part of a night-time skincare routine is the moisturizer cream. You should choose one which can help in repairing, replenishing, and rejuvenating the skin. With repeated use, the skin sensitivity would decrease over time.
7. Drink water: If you want a healthy functioning body, it is important to drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day. Inadequate water levels in the body can lead to a host of problems in people with sensitive skin, like eczema, itching, and redness. If you want to keep your skin supple, soft, hydrated, and prevent any flare-ups, you should ideally drink 3-4 liters of water every day.
Sensitive Skin – Recommendations
When choosing products for sensitive skin, look for hypoallergenic and fragrance-free formulations which contain ingredients that don’t aggravate the sensitive skin. Some ingredients that have skin-soothing and anti-inflammatory properties are –
Here are some of our recommendations for excellent products for sensitive skin –
Wow Skin Science Ubtan Foaming Body Wash is a great option for a gentle body wash containing skin-soothing ingredients. This plant-powered body wash has a natural formulation, consisting of excellent ingredients like turmeric, saffron, and aloe vera extract.
Wow Skin Science Castor Oil is especially great for keeping the scalp healthy, as this region can also develop sensitivity. Rich in Vitamin E, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids, this is a great product for maintaining both scalp and hair health.
Wow Skin Science Multi-Vitamin Face Cream contains the goodness of shea butter, aloe vera, Moroccan Argan Oil, and Niacinamide. This can be a great emollient-rich face moisturizer for people with sensitive skin.
Dermatologists also recommend some ingredients you should stay away from if you have sensitive skin. Products containing salicylic acid, glycolic acid, tretinoin, hydroquinone, retinoid, hyaluronic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and AHAs can be quite harmful for sensitive skin.
Sensitive Skin – Expert Tips
Here are certain dermatologist-recommended tips you should keep in mind for taking care of sensitive skin –
1. Take 5-10 minutes short showers with warm water (rather than hot).
2. Avoid any products with exfoliating properties and astringents.
3. Use fragrance-free gentle cleansers.
4. Substitute perfumes with essential oils.
5. Pat yourself dry rather than rubbing with a towel.
6. Apply moisturizer as soon as you dry yourself.
7. Wash your clothes in laundry detergent that is fragrance-free and gentle.
8. Before trying on any new product, test it out in a discreet area for any adverse reactions.
With this, we have covered everything there is to know about sensitive skin. Equipped with the knowledge and tips provided in this article, you will be able to care for your sensitive skin in a better way.