As a sequel to my “What Is Sensitive Skin“ blog post I’m here going into detail about how to manage sensitive skin, the Do’s and Don’t’s.
The words “sensitive skin” can be found pretty much in every blog post on my blog. Mainly because I find my skin highly reactive to a variety of things, e.g. physical manipulation with fingers or brushes (see it happen here), sunlight, heat, cold, certain skincare products, alcohol consumption, emotional excitement/discomfort and the list goes on – all thanks to my rosacea.
But what is ‘sensitive skin’ exactly?
If you go to your GP (general practitioner) and consult her about your sensitive skin, she might not know exactly what you mean, as it isn’t an actual medical term. ‘Sensitive skin’ is layman’s term and essentially a self-diagnosed condition. Among dermatologist it’s synonymous with ‘reactive skin’, ‘hyperreactive skin’ or ‘hyperirritable skin’.
As it is a self-diagnosed condition, studies based on questionnaires among people with sensitive skin, has come to the definition that sensitive skin is a reduced tolerance to cosmetics and toiletries .
The symptoms typically occurs after application of either makeup or skincare products followed by onset of erythema (skin redness), prickling, burning, tingling, tightness sensations, sometimes itching and even pain. These symptoms often have a rapid onset, within minutes, but can in some cases be experienced hours later. Besides the redness, the objective signs of sensitive skin can be hardly recognizable or absent altogether. This makes the diagnostic process even more complex if you would consult a doctor.
The French dermatologist, MD Annick Pons-Guiraud, defines it as a multifactorial syndrome: “This hyperreactivity of the skin is a non-immunologically mediated skin inflammation.” The cause of sensitive skin is multifactorial and thought to be due to both exogenous factors and endogenous features (listed below), which in combination are responsible for the hyperactivity in the skin.
The sensitive skin has an impaired barrier function making it more susceptible to potential irritating substances. It’s characterized by a thin stratum corneum (the outmost layer of the skin) which is more permeable, ie. making it easier for product to penetrate, which in turn can lead to an inflammatory reaction.
If you feel you have sensitive skin, you may recognize some of the listed factors to trigger your sensitivity symptoms.
The overall prevalence is unknown. However, a British study found (by asking a bunch of men and women) that approximately 52 % of the female respondents had self-reported sensitive skin compared to nearly 39% among the male respondents. And we know that women with fair, dry and thin skin are more frequently affected. Finally, atopic dermatitis (eczema) is thought to be a promoting factor for sensitive skin [3,6].
Many classifications of sensitive skin has been proposed, however the following classification is the most meaningful in my opinion. And as with any case of doctors trying to fit medical conditions into boxes, there’s an overlap of the clinical manifestations. You may find yourself nodding to one or more of these characteristics?
Wrapping this up: Sensitive skin is a layman’s term, and essentially a self-diagnosed condition, that covers a range of symptoms due to a reduced tolerance to cosmetics and skincare products. The etiology is believed to be multifactorial; skin thickness, hydration-level and innervation play a role; that is fair-skinned women, with thin and dry skin are more often affected. In severe cases it’s important to rule out a potentially overlooked skin disease. Patch-testing for standard allergens can be necessary along with patch-test to the specific cosmetics/skincare products the patient is using.
Hope you found this helpful – XO Caecilie