Sensitive skin is prone to irritant and allergic reactions. Dryness, breakouts, dull complexion, tightness, peeling, redness, and even excessive oiliness at times can all be signs of sensitive, reactive or “intolerant” skin. Dermatologists strongly recommend treating acne-prone skin as sensitive skin.
It is more accurate to refer to sensitive, or reactive skin as a skin condition rather than a skin type. Our skin becomes sensitive when the natural skin barrier is compromised. In the majority of cases, the skin barrier becomes compromised because of the external environment (for example, dry heated air, cold temperatures, wind) and substances we expose our skin to (cosmetics and cleaning products). Once we remove the “offending” factors (for example, use a humidifier in a room, start using protective gloves when cleaning the house, and/or stop over-washing, over-exfoliating our skin, or remove irritating ingredients from our skincare routines), the skin barrier starts healing and usually returns to normal within a couple of weeks.
In some cases, skin sensitivity is caused by an internal factor (for example, genetics) that leads to an abnormality in the skin barrier function, in other words, skin sensitivity can be caused by a chronic medical skin condition such as atopic dermatitis (eczema), psoriasis or rosacea. If your skin sensitivity is severe (the skin shows signs of irritation frequently, even if you remove most potential external “offenders” such as harsh cleansers, exfoliators, essential oils and perfumed cosmetics), it is best to seek a consultation with a dermatologist to identify the cause of the reactivity and work out a skincare regimen that suits your skin. Even if your skin sensitivity is caused by an internal medical condition, a gentle minimalist skincare routine can help you support your skin barrier and minimize unwanted symptoms.
Photo by Jessica Felicio