Is Your Skin Sensitive or Sensitized? Here’s How To Know and How To Deal
Skin sensitivity is a common skin concern. There are two types of skin sensitivity: sensitive skin and sensitized skin. While both can cause similar symptoms (redness, dryness, flaking, stinging), their causes are very different.
Sensitive skin is a chronic condition caused by a weakening of the skin’s protective barrier (the outermost layer of your skin). This type of sensitivity is typically genetic and often accompanied by eczema or rosacea.
People with sensitive skin may experience itching and redness when they use certain products, but they do not experience irritation from pollution, lifestyle factors or over-exfoliation.
Sensitized skin is an inflammatory reaction that can be caused by anything that disrupts the skin’s protective barrier: pollution, harsh ingredients, lifestyle factors (like dehydration, stress and fatigue), UV rays, over-exfoliation, etc.
People with sensitized skin may experience itching and redness from certain products as well as irritation from pollution, lifestyle factors or over-exfoliation. Sensitized skin can become even more sensitised if you use
“There is an epidemic of sensitive skin today,” says Dr. Whitney Bowe, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. “It used to be that sensitive skin was a rarity, but now it’s the rule rather than the exception.”
No wonder. We’re bombarding our skin with more than 1,500 ingredients every day, according to research conducted by Procter & Gamble and published in Skin Research and Technology. From anti-aging creams and acne cleansers to hair dyes and fragrances, these products can contain perfumes and preservatives that can irritate skin. So how do you know when your skin is truly sensitive and what do you do about it?
Sensitive Skin vs. Sensitized Skin
Sensitive skin often feels tight and uncomfortable after washing with a cleanser or using a moisturizer, makeup or sunscreen, according to Bowe. It also may itch or burn on occasion, especially if exposed to irritants such as soaps or perfumes.
Those symptoms may be due to a true sensitivity to certain chemicals (called contact allergy). But they may also be due to irritation from harsh products (called contact
There is a difference between sensitive skin and sensitized skin. Sensitive skin refers to a genetic trait that you are born with, while sensitized skin is an over-reactive state of the skin’s barrier caused by outside influences. We’ll discuss how to better understand this distinction, and offer practical tips you can use to improve the comfort of your skin.
Sensitive Skin: A Genetic Trait
Sensitive skin is a genetic trait that means your skin has a thinner barrier than average (the stratum corneum). As a result, it has difficulty retaining moisture, and chemicals and other irritants tend to be more easily absorbed across the barrier. When people with sensitive skin use products containing strong ingredients, they may experience stinging, burning or redness upon application. They also may be prone to chronic redness and irritation from environmental triggers such as windburn or extreme heat or cold.
Sensitive Skin Is Often Dry
People with sensitive skin are often dry because their thinner barrier does not retain water well. Their condition may be further aggravated by harsh cleansing practices (in this case, “harsh” means foaming cleansers or scrubs) or by aggressive use of astringents or exfoliants (like toners or acids). This is one common
As a facialist, I’ve been asked every question under the sun, but one of the most common is “why does my skin feel so sensitive?” While it’s easy to just give the blanket answer of “It’s all about your skin barrier!” and leave it at that, that’s not really fair to you. The truth is that there are actually two main types of skin sensitivity and they require totally different approaches. So, while these terms may be thrown around interchangeably in skincare-land, there are real differences between “sensitive” and “sensitized” skin—and you don’t want to treat them the same way.
To help clarify these two skin types, I’ve rounded up everything you need to know about each one—from what causes it to what makes it tick—so you can identify which category your complexion falls under (or if you’re lucky, neither) and how to deal accordingly.
One of the most common concerns I hear from people is that they have sensitive skin, but what they generally describe is not actually skin sensitivity.
In order to understand the difference, let’s take a look at the two types of reactions: Sensitization and Sensitivity – and how you can deal with each type.
Sensitization is when your skin reacts to something that it has not reacted to before. This type of reaction is called an allergic reaction. It can be caused by a single ingredient or by a combination of ingredients.
The most common type of sensitization is contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis occurs when the body comes into contact with something that it deems harmful and it tries to protect against the harmful substance by giving off inflammatory signals. These signals cause swelling, redness, itching and irritation.
Sensitization does not occur immediately when you come into contact with the ingredient or product for the first time. The first time you encounter an irritant/allergen there are no visible signs or symptoms. However, if you encounter the same irritant/allergen again, your body remembers it and triggers an inflammatory response as a means of protecting itself from being harmed by the substance again.
We’ve all heard of the term sensitive skin. Whether you have it or not, you probably know someone who does. Some people are lucky enough to be born with calm and resilient skin, but for others it can take a little more work to get it there.
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