Just like dry and dehydrated skin, sensitive and sensitized skin are two terms that tend to get mixed up a lot. More often than not, we come across people who complain about their skin being ‘super sensitive’. Is it really, though? Sensitive and sensitized skin do share the same signs, such as redness, itchiness, stinging, flaking, even small, rash-like bumps or breakouts. However, they are not the same thing. Therefore, it is paramount to know whether you’re dealing with sensitive or sensitized skin when searching for relief. Let’s break down both kinds of skin sensitivity and how you can manage them!
What is Sensitive Skin?
Sensitive skin is caused by genetic predisposition. Basically, you’re born with it. Those with sensitive skin also commonly experience other non-related skin sensitivities, like allergies or asthma as well. Their skin tends to have a weaker, or structurally thinner, stratum corneum (aka the outermost layer of the skin). As a consequence, the skin becomes more prone to attack from exogenous stimuli or allergen, causing irritation or rash. It’s also associated with increased transepidermal water loss (TEWL), which may lead to dehydration. Although sensitive skin does not go away, it is manageable!
What is Sensitized Skin?
On the other hand, sensitized skin can happen to anyone. It is an acquired condition. Several factors that can trigger this reaction are as follows:
- Lifestyle Changes: poor diet, stress, alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking
- Environmental Conditions: UV exposure, hot/cold weather, wind, heavy pollution
- Overdoing Harsh Products or Ingredients: over-cleansing, over-exfoliation
- Others: aging, hormones, medication
But the good news is, identifying and eliminating the root cause can treat and/or resolve the problem! Doing so, can help the skin transform back to its optimal health.
How to Manage Sensitive and Sensitized Skin?
For both sensitive and sensitized skin, it is fundamental to keep your skincare routine simple: cleanse, moisturize, and protect. Opt for gentle skincare products with ingredients that focus on soothing irritated skin, restoring moisture and fortifying the skin barrier. Ingredients like ceramides, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, guaiazulene, fatty acids, glycerin, and colloidal oatmeal are what your skin needs to accelerate its healing process. Conversely, you may want to steer clear of products containing parabens, alcohols or fragrances. Furthermore, don’t forget to apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or more daily.
Also, something to keep in mind for those with sensitized skin is you may need to give your skin time to heal. Take a break from exfoliation or any potentially irritating ingredients, like acids, retinoids, and vitamin C. However, if you’re experiencing sensitized skin from, let’s say, an exfoliating acid, it doesn’t mean you can’t use it at all for the rest of your life. Chances are you’ll be able to keep using the product, nevertheless you may want to reconsider if the concentration is too high and/or you’re applying it too frequently. The key is to build up your tolerance slowly and sensibly, pausing every now and then to see if your skin agrees with it.
- Introduce new products slowly.
- Do patch-testing before trying out a product to make sure there’s no allergic reaction.
- Look for products that are paraben, alcohol, and fragrance-free.
When cleansing both sensitive and sensitized skin, it’s best to use a cleanser that is gentle. COSRX’s Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser is specially formulated to cleanse the skin without stripping it. The low pH will also help balance the pH of your own skin, helping to reduce irritation and heal the skin barrier.
Hydrating the skin with soothing ingredients is key. The Real Barrier Extreme Cream works to replenish the skin’s natural lipids to strengthen and repair damaged skin barriers. Ingredients like ceramide and hyaluronic acid moisturize the skin, while panthenol, allantoin, and madecassoside help calm it.
Protecting the skin from harmful UV radiation will also keep it healthy. Thank You Farmer’s sunscreen is hypoallergenic with testing determining an irritation index of 0.00, and has a plant-based formulation targeted at relief. It offers protection without grease or white cast, and is also reef-safe.
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If you’re looking for the perfect products to help soothe skin sensitivity, check out our app for easy to understand ingredient breakdowns by skin type and a handy comparison feature to find the best fit for you. We also run monthly giveaways you can join for your chance to try new products, and our discussion boards are a great place to get honest reviews and skinformation!