If you’ve ever spent time shopping at a chemist or cosmetic stores you would have noticed that many products claim to be for ‘sensitive skin’. However, not all sensitive skin is the same. In fact, there are two types: sensitive skin, and sensitized skin.
Sensitive skin is a genetic trait that you ae born with. Sensitised skin is caused by the skin’s exposure to pollution, stress and chemicals and is usually developed over time.
Biologi dermal specialist Lucy Kuper says sensitized skin is a growing phenomenon worldwide these days.
What is sensitised skin?
“Sensitised skin is caused by a damaged barrier function that leads to irritated nerve endings,” says Lucy. “It’s a more intermittent problem that flares up in line with specific lifestyle and environmental factors, or as a reaction to products.”
Skin can become sensitized by things such as reactions to skincare products you’re using, exposure to environmental factors (such as wind or extremely hot or cold weather), stress, chemicals and pollution, exposure to dust and lack of sleep, says Lucy.
What does sensitised skin look like?
“In most cases, you won’t need a professional to tell you if you have sensitised skin, you’ll feel it. It can reveal itself in the form of dryness, itchy patches, redness, bumps, flushed patches, irritation and stinging when you apply products.”
What is sensitive skin?
Lucy explains that conditions such as eczema. Rosacea or allergic reactions are more commonly found to be associated with sensitive skin.
“Sensitive skin refers to an underlying skin condition that is usually caused by a genetic predisposition, usually inherited,” says Lucy. “It’s often the result of a defect in the skin’s epidermal lipid barrier layer (the protective layer) which then causes irritants, and allergens to penetrate the skin and cause various reactions. A disturbed epidermal lipid barrier is an important component in several inflammatory skin diseases such as rosacea, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and eczema.”
Can sensitive or sensitized skin be fixed?
Although sensitive skin is genetic and little can be done to change it there are treatment options that can relieve symptoms of sensitive skin. However, sensitive skin conditions can also be triggered by
a response to food intolerances, or an autoimmune condition, says Lucy.
“Sensitised and sensitive skin can be both painful and uncomfortable but can be treated. Start by learning about the ingredients you’re using in your skincare products and avoid the ones that can cause irritation, or those containing fragrance. Try to avoid touching your face, as your hands can contain bacteria which can irritate already irritated skin. Exfoliate regularly to keep skin free from bacteria and use a serum daily to hydrate, nourish and protect cells deep within the dermal layer.”
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