What is sensitive skin?
When thinking about health, you might not think about your skin. However, your skin is just as important to take care of as any other part of your body – skin protects you from the environment and from irritants and infections.
Generally, your skin naturally adjusts and protects itself from the elements. Many factors are constantly adjusted by your body to ensure your skin is healthy and working to protect you from external problems.
But if this balance is compromised, several things can happen.
In some cases, your skin becomes vulnerable to the elements and can dry out or suffer damage much more easily than normal. In other cases, it is your skin’s own attempt to fix the imbalance that can cause problems, leading to swelling, irritation, and oiliness.
For some people, this can happen much more easily than in others, for a variety of different reasons. And it can happen anywhere on the body, including the face. If you have sensitive skin, it can be a nightmare to try and determine what went wrong and how to fix it.
Read on to learn about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of sensitive skin.
What are the symptoms of sensitive skin?
Sensitive skin can manifest in a number of ways.
- Redness and swelling.
- Rashes or raised bumps.
The most common is dryness, with patches of skin becoming slightly rough and tender to the touch, and occasionally flaking as skin cells die off and fall away. Scaly skin can also occur, with rough patches becoming visibly cracked.
Redness and swelling are another common symptom, showing as shiny skin in severe cases.
The skin can feel itchy or tight due to moisture loss.
Rashes and raised bumps can indicate sensitive skin.
What causes sensitive skin?
In order to successfully treat sensitive skin, identifying and understanding the cause is the first step. Sensitive skin can be caused by a number of things.
- Overexposure to the elements.
Overexposure to sunlight is a common cause, as is windburn and dry weather.
- Ingredients in food, makeup, or skincare products.
Ingredients in food, makeup, or skincare products can cause sensitive skin, and care should be taken to identify the offending items.
- Skincare and makeup regimens.
Skincare and makeup regimens and products can be the problem, even if you are not allergic to their contents.
Soaps and moisturizers alter the balance of your skin and can strip away healthy oils without adequately replacing them or cause your skin to overproduce oils to counteract the loss. This can lead to a vicious cycle where washing causes skin to become oilier, necessitating more washing, and so on.
Makeup overuse can similarly cause skin problems, especially with the overuse of cleansers and removers.
- Illness and allergies.
Illness can cause the body to weaken and upset the balance of your skin, while allergies can result in rashes and other skin ailments.
- Stress and hormone imbalances.
Stress can lead to skin problems, as can hormone imbalances caused by puberty, menopause, or medication.
- Lifestyle and diet.
Diet and lifestyle can affect your skin too. Unhealthy eating and habits such as staying up late, getting low amounts of sleep, being overexposed to air conditioning, and smoking all have negative effects on skin health. Dehydration in particular can cause many skin problems.
Aging causes skin problems as the body’s ability to regulate and look after itself degrades.
How to treat sensitive skin
The correct treatment for you will vary based on what is causing your skin to become sensitive.
In the case of sun or weather damage, take precautions to protect yourself by using sunscreen.
In the case of food, lifestyle, stress, or hormone-related sensitive skin issues, try to determine what is causing your problems and change it. See a doctor, nutritionist, or skin care professional if you need help with this.
If you think you might be allergic to something in your skincare products, switch to hypoallergenic brands and take note of the ingredients in the products you use.
If you find some common ingredients in the products that cause you trouble, buy products that do not include those ingredients in the future.
When the issue is skincare products themselves, the solution can be a bit trickier. Go “cold turkey” and break the cycle of washing and overproduction of oils. This may take a few days to balance out.
Once that is done, use milder products and adjust your regimen until you find one that works for you.
Q: Why is skin health important?
A: Apart from looking good, skin health is essential in keeping moisture in your body and viruses and bacteria out.
Q: How can I check if I am allergic to a new product?
A: Try applying a small amount behind your ear. The skin there is both sensitive and out of sight. Wait a few days to ensure there’s no reaction, then repeat the process just next to your eyes. If all is clear after a few more days, the product should be fine.
Q: Is sensitive skin inheritable?
A: Yes. Many common causes of sensitive skin are genetic and can be passed on.
Q: Should I see a doctor about my skin?
A: It’s always a good idea to mention any concerns you might have when you see a doctor. If you’ve tried the methods mentioned here and not noticed any differences, see a dermatologist.