DO I HAVE SENSITIVE SKIN?
SYMPTOMS, CAUSES & PREVENTION

There is not one, but a whole spectrum of skin sensitivity. Knowing which type of sensitive skin you have is the first step in making peace with your skin and adopting a routine adapted to your diagnosis.

YOUR QUESTIONS
OUR ANSWERS

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What causes sensitive skin?

The exact cause of sensitive skin is unknown. It seems to be a skin type, meaning that some people are prone to the symptoms associated with sensitive skin lifelong. In most cases there's a weakened skin barrier which has led to low-grade excessive inflammation and damage to the skin's nerve endings over a period of time. Dr Cara McDonald, Dermatologist – Complete Skin Specialists

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What is sensitive skin?

Sensitive skin is a skin type which presents with some redness and unpleasant sensations in response to external stimuli such as environmental changes or application of skincare. Skin sensations include burning, stinging, tight or flushing feelings and an intolerance to heat, cold, wind, sun and many skincare products. Dr Cara McDonald, Dermatologist – Complete Skin Specialists

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Why is my skin sensitive to touch?

People with sensitive skin have a lowered threshold for the activation of nerve endings in the skin. For this reason, the skin can be sensitive to touch as well as to other external stimuli. Discomfort is often seen with changes in the temperature or weather and also with application of skin care products to the skin. Dr Cara McDonald, Dermatologist – Complete Skin Specialists

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What is the best moisturiser for sensitive skin?

Sensitive skin formulations should be free from irritants such as fragrance, lanolin and parabens, and containing ingredients to decrease inflammation and skin discomfort. Niacinamide and ceramides are particularly effective for sensitive skin and neurosensine® in La Roche-Posay products is helpful to reduce discomfort. Dr Cara McDonald, Dermatologist – Complete Skin Specialists

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TRUE
OR FALSE

SPICY FOOD CAN
TRIGGER SKIN SENSITIVITY.

TRUE

If the walls of your blood vessels have become fragile, certain external factors like eating spices, drinking alcohol, hot baths, or too much central heating can trigger flushing and skin sensitivity
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NATURAL HOME REMEDIES MAKE
GOOD TREATMENTS FOR SENSITIVE SKIN.

FALSE

Though tasty, the contents of your fridge or kitchen cupboards are actually more likely to harm your sensitive skin. “Natural” or DIY home remedies such as honey, oatmeal, avocado and chocolate masks are best avoided as they could contain potential allergens and irritants. Instead, look out for expert skincare and solutions.
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HOW I FEEL IN MYSELF
CAN AFFECT MY SENSITIVE SKIN.

TRUE

Stress and intense emotion cause blood vessels in the skin to dilate, triggering flushing and sensations of discomfort. Many people find mindfulness or similar relaxation techniques a valuable ally to keep their sensitive skin in the Zen zone.
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SENSITIVE SKIN NECESSARILY
LOOKS DIFFERENT.

FALSE

One of the frustrating things about sensitive skin is that however annoying your symptoms may be, doctors will often say the skin is “normal” since it shows no visible signs. But clued-in dermatologists will recognise the features of sensitive skin and recommend specific treatments for sensitised or hypersensitive skin.
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DIAGNOSING 
SENSITIVE SKIN

Any skin type can experience sensitivity, from oily and acne-prone, to dry and mature. Countless internal and external factors can trigger sensitivity, causing a host of unpleasant symptoms such as redness, prickling and stinging.

To help you get your skin back in the safety zone, you need to know more about possible sensitivity triggers. Here are some of the most common, plus some tips for tackling them head on.

 

The seasons

Seasonal pollen levels vary, with many people experiencing vast changes in sensitivity from January through to December. Skin also struggles to adapt to quickly changing temperatures and humidity levels.

LRP Tip: Listen to your body. Try to stay inside as much as possible on high pollen-count days and wear protective clothing. Stay hydrated throughout winter by investing in a humidifier and a good quality moisturiser. Sun protection is also key, and should be an all-year-round effort!


The time of day

Skin has a biologically programmed 24-hour or circadian rhythm. At night, lower levels of the anti-inflammatory hormone cortisol combined with a surge of pro-itch mediator histamine can accentuate skin’s sensitivity, leading to a restless night’s sleep and a tight, itchy and unpleasant sensation upon waking.

LRP Tip: Opt for natural, breathable fabrics, change bedding regularly, and avoid overheating while in bed.

 

Our life stage

Longer-term physiological changes also play a part.

Baby skin: with a cutaneous barrier still “under construction,” baby’s skin is highly prone to redness and irritation.

Teenage skin: teens often use harsh cleansers and abrasive scrubs to tackle their oily skin or acne, stripping skin of its natural defences and leaving it more sensitive.

Pregnancy and menopause: hormonal fluctuations affect the skin’s sebum secretion, which can lead to a weakened barrier function. These same hormones also influence the skin’s network of blood vessels, causing flushing and redness.

Ageing skin: as we age, sebaceous gland activity diminishes, while both the epidermis and dermis are thinned. Often dehydrated with a weaker defensive barrier, ageing skin is more vulnerable to external aggressors.

LRP Tip: We can’t do much to change biology, but choosing age-appropriate skincare products is essential for maximum skin health.

 

Our lifestyle

With its fragile barrier and reactive nerve endings, sensitive skin requires a “less is more” approach. As a rule of thumb, the fewer the ingredients, the more suitable the product is for sensitive skin.

LRP Tip: Look for products that are dermatologically tested for sensitive and allergic skins, and free from known irritants such as alcohol, lanolin, fragrances and colourants.

Did you
know?

DidYouKnow_Desktop_1

Only 11% of redness results from an underlying medical condition. Most commonly, skin redness is seen in people with a fair complexion and sensitive skin. Such skin has a particularly delicate surface barrier, leaving it vulnerable to UV radiation, irritants, and environmental factors.

DEAR
READERS

The information displayed here is intended for general educational purposes only and should not in any case be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any medical question.