January 11, 2018

How do I tell the difference?

About half of us think we have sensitive skin.  In truth, that percentage is much lower, the real percentage is unknown since there is no defined condition called 'sensitive skin'.  This is actually great news for most of us since sensitive skin is a genetic condition where adverse symptoms can be alleviated but will ultimately return.  Sensitized skin, however, can be treated, and with minor changes to your behavior, environment, or diet, you will find that your symptoms will either go away or at least be less acute.  So here's the big question, which do you have, sensitive or sensitized skin?


Sensitive skin is the real deal.  It is passed down from generation to generation and is part of your genetic makeup.  While you may be able to treat some of the symptoms that arise from the condition you will never be able to 'cure' your sensitive skin.  While not ideal, it's actually okay since there are some simple changes you can make to improve the health of your skin which we will discuss later.  Check out the list below first though - if you find yourself marking a few of these as a resounding YES - then you may indeed have sensitive skin.  

  • You have a long history of sensitive skin in your family, check with mom, dad, and the grandparents to see if they suffer from something similar.
  • You have Northern European roots and would consider your skin to be fair (darker skinned women can also have sensitive skin but it is less common).
  • You have suffered from rosacea, psoriasis, dermatitis, or eczema.
  • You also have allergies or asthma.
  • Your skin flushes easily, especially if you eat spicy foods or drink alcohol.
  • Your skin is easily irritated by perfumed soaps and skin care products.

Great, I Have Sensitive Skin.  Now What?

If you have sensitive skin it means you should keep a few things in mind.  First off, you have a thin epidermis (this is the outer layer of your skin that keeps out all the baddies).  Since your skin is thinner, it is less effective as a barrier to bacteria, chemicals, and environmental pollution.  This results in rashes, bumps, redness, irritation, dryness, and itchy skin.  In order to alleviate some of these symptoms it is important you remember that for you less is more.  Less exfoliation, less sun exposure, less heat/steam, and fewer products.  You want to avoid any products with synthetic fragrances or dyes, sulfates, alcohols, or strong acids.  We also recommend a diet that stays away from food and drinks that make you blush, so fewer spicy foods, less coffee, and unfortunately, fewer martinis too!  Finally, make sure to test new products on the skin behind your ear and your wrist.  These two areas are representative of the skin on your face and body.  A reaction here will likely mean that your skin will not tolerate the product.


The above conditions don't apply to you?  Congrats (kind of) you have sensitized skin.

If you find yourself saying "No" to most of the markers above but still seems to suffer from redness, dehydration, tightness in the skin, acne, or even a rash of small bumps, then you most likely have sensitized skin.  There are a number of ways that our skin can become sensitized, some we can control and others, (like where we live) we can't.

There are several triggers for sensitized skin.  Our beauty regime is often the biggest culprit.  We sometimes fall into the habit of trying something to combat dryness to find that it doesn't work.  Then we switch to something else, and so on and so on.  This results in our skin being exposed to way too many active ingredients in too short a time frame.  Our advice is to pick one active ingredient and stick to it for a while before switching.  You may not know whether your skin will respond well to salicylic acid, retinoids, or benzoyl peroxide but rapidly switching between them will stress your skin, make it impossible to distinguish what works from what doesn't, and can even irritate your skin further.  Beauty boxes are fun, but if you find that your skin is acting up it may be time to take a beauty box break while your skin heals.

Stress and your environment are also big factors that can trigger your skin to react.  Try to do yoga, meditate or exercise your stress away.  In addition to better skin, these have myriad other positive benefits which we are sure you are aware of.  Try to eat and drink a bit healthier too.  Those extra spicy tacos are great every once in a while but they could be triggering a reaction in your skin if overconsumed.  The same thing goes for that extra glass of wine.  Too much alcohol can dry your skin out and lead to a negative reaction.  Also, try to avoid the sun (easier at this time of the year) and use a moisturizer that includes some sun protection.  Finally, consider a break from your routine.  It takes your skin about four weeks to regenerate itself completely.  Take two weeks off from your routine.  Just use a mild cleanser and cream and see if your irritation and inflammation symptoms go away.  You never know, sometimes simplicity IS best.



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