Does your skin ever seem extra sensitive?
Many people say they have sensitive skin. However, sensitive skin isn’t easy to define. That’s because sensitive skin is a catch-all term, not one health condition or skin type. You may or may not have an underlying skin condition
So let’s discover what those health conditions could actually be.
Hopefully by the end of this segment, you will understand what sensitive skin is, if you actually have sensitive skin and what you can do to maintain it well.
You’ll be able to get back to ensuring you are using a skincare routine that’s actually right for you. Stop avoiding products that could be helping you because you have believed you couldn’t use them.
Sensitive skin isn’t the same for every person. Typically, people with more easily irritated, inflamed, red, itchy, or stinging skin claim their skin as being sensitive, but you can see these could be very different issues.
EX: Rosacea clients typically define their skin as sensitive. Well over 16 million Americans have rosacea and don’t know it. If they believe they have sensitive skin vs rosacea, they could be using products that are not right for their skin causing more issues.
This is why it’s important to work with a professional instead of using the "interwebs" to self diagnose.
To give you a better understanding of what's really going on with sensitive skin before you make an appointment with a professional, here are some key points to help you speak knowledgeably about your potential skin conditions.
1. Sensitive Skin is a skin condition; not a skin type
Just because you go through periods of sensitive skin, doesn’t mean you have it forever. Sensitive skin is a skin condition, not a skin type.
Your skin responds to what’s going on in your life. People with sensitive skin often report they are dealing with more stress, anxiety, or tension. Your skin can sense the extra stress and reacts to it.
Thinking back, you'll probably recognize a time or two when your skin freaked out during a stressful time.
If you learn how to read product ingredient lists well (which btw I think is one of the best ways you can level up your skincare game), you will notice that products formulated for sensitive skin are often lacking in formulation for a specific skin type.
It's important to know what your skin type and other skin conditions truly are (beyond the idea that it's sensitive) to ensure you are using the correct products for your skin.
2. Sensitive Skin often stems from contact dermatitis or another skin condition.
Not only do you need to understand what your skin type truly is, you also need to know what skin conditions you are really dealing with.
For example, contact dermatitis causes a red, itchy rash caused by direct contact with a substance. Usually your skin becomes inflamed from repeated exposure to that substance.
When your skin reacts to makeup, chemicals, your own sweat, too much sun etc., you may think you’re allergic to these items, but contact dermatitis isn’t the same as a skin allergy.
Contact dermatitis is different from allergic dermatitis. Allergic Dermatitis means a substance is causing an allergic reaction on your skin.
Contact dermatitis can happen easily when using an ingredient that may be too harsh for the skin.
And this is where people get tripped up.
3. It’s not necessarily that your skin is too sensitive. It could be that the product is too harsh.
Have you ever that maybe the products are too harsh vs your skin being too sensitive? This could 100% be the case. And it's truly not the same.
Certain fragrances for example can often be too harsh on the skin. If you're using an ingredient that is too harsh for the skin it means that it would be too harsh for anyone's skin. Not just someone who might believe their skin to be sensitive.
Now don't take that as your cue to run out to buy all “natural” products.
4. In fact, don’t be fooled by natural and organic claims
In the largely (unfortunately) unregulated personal care industry, these words have little meaning.
Natural doesn’t always mean safe. For example, lead is considered “natural” and I'm pretty sure none of us would want lead in our skincare products. Natural products can often be serious allergens as well since people tend to have heavy allergies to foods and other plants.
PLUS, not all synthetic ingredients are harmful. Skincare is based on cosmetic chemistry, so there are some synthetic ingredients that make absolute sense in products AND also make a huge difference in protecting the skin like AHA’s, Vitamin C derivatives, hyaluronic acid (which is technically naturally occuring in the skin) and retinol to name a few.
Products like this can help to protect the health of your skin’s barrier function.
Overall take away from this one? Natural doesn't always mean safe and/or good. Synthetic doesn't always mean bad and/or unsafe.
5. When you’re dealing with sensitive skin it is very important to ensure your skin’s barrier function is working properly.
Plainly put, your skin’s barrier is the outer layer that helps protect you from external threats like infections, free radicals, toxins and allergens while internally it helps us to ensure our body stays in homeostasis (allows us to be able to self regulate!) and holds in the moisture we need so our bodies don’t dry out.
I’m sorry, but our skin is SO rad.
People going through a sensitive skin period typically have slightly compromised barriers which may make the skin more permeable. Things that irritate or inflame your skin can get in more easily. That’s why it’s important to decipher what skin conditions and ingredients are causing the issue and to use the right products for your skin.
Read more about how to maintain your skin well during periods of sensitivity.
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