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1 What Exactly Is Sensitive Skin? on Wed Feb 17, 2010 1:10 am

Golden Girl

Golden Girl
Skin Sensitivity

What exactly is sensitive skin?
And what can you do about it, if anything?

Sensitive skin is more of a condition than an actual skin type. More than 40 percent of Americans consider themselves to have sensitive skin. Dermatologists define sensitive skin as reactions where patients may experience redness, pustules, bumps, and sometimes erosions. However, many individuals consider themselves to have sensitive skin because they experience stinging, burning, redness or tightness after exposure to an irritant. Source: American Academy of Dermatology

General Characteristics of Sensitive Skin

  • Sensitive skin tends to be thin or fine textured.
  • Is typically dry and delicate.
  • Prone to flushing from temperature changes, both cold and heat.
  • Sunburns and windburns easily.
  • Is prone to allergic reactions.
  • Irritation usually results in red and blotchy skin.
"There are many unknown factors in the diagnosis of sensitive skin, including, inherited factors, gender, age and race differences in skin sensitivity. What is known is that individuals with sensitive skin seem to have several unique skin attributes that affect their immune system and the skin barriers, making them more susceptible to skin irritation. " -dermatologist Z. D. Draelos, MD, Department of Dermatology, Wake Forest University

Common Skin Irritants

  • Sorbic Acid in cosmetics, medications, glue, inks, paints, rubber, and varnishes.
  • A variety of both natural and man made chemicals found in fragrances.
  • Formaldehyde and formalin found in a wide range of products including Antiperspirants, astringents, carpeting, cosmetics, disinfectants, dry cleaning, insulation, medications, paints, insecticides, plastics, rubber, permanent-press fabrics, wood composites such as particle board and plywood.
  • 4-tert-Butylphenol incosmetics (lip liners), plastics, adhesives, and lacquers.
  • Wool and lanolin
  • Chemicals used in pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.
  • Cyanoacrylates in glues.
  • Capsaicin from hot peppers.
  • Menthol and peppermint
  • Plastics used to make common household items.
  • Alkalis in detergents and toilet cleaners.
  • Gold and Silver metals
  • Rubber latex
Dermatitis, or Eczema
Dermatitis, or eczema, is a broad term used to describe dry, itchy skin inflammations. Early occurrences may be red, blistered, or oozing. With time the affected areas can become scaly, brown and thickened. Dermatitis almost always itches. Contact dermatitis has become a health issue in the American workplace, and in the home, as we increase our use of man made chemicals.

The four common types of eczema or dermatitis

  • Atopic Dermatitis is caused by dry sensitive skin which over reacts to certain allergies. “Atopic dermatitis affects about ten percent of children and three percent of all people in the United States.” -American Academy of Dermatology

  • Contact dermatitis is caused by direct contact with an irritating material to which an individual is hypersensitive or allergic. This type of dermatitis is not a reaction to initial exposure but develops after repeated contact with a substance.
  • Seborrheic Dermatitis is a red scaly rash that occurs in areas of high sebum production such as the face and chest. The exact causes are unknown but episodes are often triggered by stress and certain types of medications.
  • Actinic Dermatitis is a sensitivity to sunlight exposure, but does not mean a “sunburn.”

Rosacea is a common skin condition affecting three times as many women as men. The exact cause is not known. It can result in a wide range of manifestations from the tendency to easily blush to severe disfiguration. Fair skinned individuals are more prone to Rosacea than those with darker skin. It can arise suddenly or develop slowly over a period of many years. All cases of Rosacea flare up with exposure to the sun and are also sensitive to heat, cold, excess humidity or dryness, and the full range of common chemical skin irritants.

Environmental Skin Irritants
Yes, even Mother Nature can irritate sensitive skin, resulting in dermatitis. Heat, cold, wind, and sun exposure are environmental irritants that cause redness and rashes. Winter dermatitis, itchy scaly inflamed skin, often appears during the winter when we’re stuck inside with “heated’ dry air.

Tools for Reducing Sensitive Skin Problems

  • Remove as many chemical and environmental irritants from your environment as possible.
  • Keep skin moisturized.
  • Use sun screen and reduce sun exposure.
  • Test cosmetics before a full application, especially if you have an important event coming up. Hypoallergenic means less likely to cause a reaction. It is not a guarantee that you won’t have one.
  • Completely remove all traces of make-up before going to bed.
  • Avoid Lanolin and harsh soaps.
  • Avoid skincare with propylene glycol and ethanol (alcohol) which penetrate the skin.

  • Reduce or eliminate the use of perfumes. Test for a reaction by applying to the inside of your wrist.

  • Humidify heated inside air.
  • Skin needs water to stay hydrated. Drink those eight glasses of water a day.

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