Sensitive skin deserves a little T.L.C
What is sensitive skin? Sensitive has become a catch-all term to define almost any skin condition from medically-managed diseases to acne and everything in between. It does cover a broad range of concerns but strictly speaking, “sensitive” refers to skin that tends to get abnormal sensory conditions like stinging, burning, prickling, tingling, itching, or slight pain, and that may or may not manifest redness, swelling, rashes or other visible signs of irritation. A tendency towards acne isn’t usually considered sensitivity.
What causes sensitive skin? There are several possibilities including contact or photocontact dermatitis which are allergic or irritant reactions to chemicals (including natural extracts—remember natural ingredients are also chemicals). Most people who develop this reaction have an allergic tendency, often with a background of atopic dermatitis, asthma, rhinitis, or reactions to drugs or to their jewelry, foods, clothing, or other things. Dry weather can either cause or worsen sensitivity. And if skin gets so dry that it cracks, microorganisms can enter and cause more dryness and sensitivity.
Both men and women can have sensitive skin, although it is somewhat more common in women. The reason for this may be that women tend to use more products and experiment with different products more frequently. Men’s rituals tend to be more set and change little over time.
Two rules of thumb:
1) the more products in use, the higher the risk of a reaction;
2) the more variety of products, particularly from different brands, the more difficult to isolate the culprit.
What to do? Think, defense. Prevention alone, if accurate and consistent, can mean vast improvements. Avoid allergens and irritants. If your skin is very sensitive, ask your doctor for a patch test to identify the substances you need to avoid. In the cold months, be extra generous with skin-safe moisturizers.
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