Remember growing up and hearing those inspiring messages in TV shows and school assemblies telling you that we’re all one of a kind and that there’s no one exactly like you? When you’re young, it makes you feel special and think about your unique and positive qualities, like a rare talent you have or a quirky sense of style. When you get older, though, you realize, “Oh yikes, I’m unique in not-so-positive ways too.”
For some, one of those unwelcomed unique qualities is sensitive skin. If you’ve watched your friends apply random new skincare and makeup products with abandon while knowing that if you did the same, your skin would look like an angry lobster, this one’s for you. Welcome to your crash course in everything you need to know about sensitive skin.
What Causes Skin Sensitivity?
Skin sensitivity is actually a broad term that applies to anyone whose skin is easily inflamed. Because it’s such a broad category, skin sensitivity can come from a variety of different sources.
One of the most common problems is skin dryness. Moisture helps to protect your skin from irritants, so when your skin is dry, it’s also more susceptible to irritation.
Sensitive skin can also be caused by one of many chronic skin conditions, like eczema or rosacea. In both of these conditions, certain triggers like physical irritants from skincare products can cause a flare-up of your symptoms.
In some cases, skin sensitivity is actually a skin allergy. You might think you’re sensitive to irritants in general or that you just break out easily, but there might be one ingredient or chemical your skin is reacting to. Or, there could be several ingredients causing those reactions, because your skin could have several different allergies.
With all that taken into consideration, there’s another possibility for your sensitive skin: bad luck. Everyone’s skin has slightly different features, and some people’s skin is simply sensitive for no other discernible reason. Sorry folks, but sometimes that’s just the way it goes.
Will My Skin Sensitivity Go Away?
This is the question everyone asks with such hope, and the reality is that sometimes sensitivity does go away or get better. It just depends on what’s causing your sensitivity and whether you address that underlying problem.
For example, if your skin is overly dry, hydrate it daily with a moisturizer for sensitive skin like Doctor Babor Cleanformance Revival Cream Rich. If there’s a chronic skin condition behind your sensitivity, getting effective treatments for that condition like prescription medications could help. Likewise, if you have a potential skin allergy, you’ll find yourself with fewer breakouts if you get an allergy test to find out what you’re allergic to so you can avoid it.
Top Tips for People with Sensitive Skin
Now that you have an understanding of the basics behind sensitive skin, what can you do about it? There are a few key rules to live by if you want to keep your skin calm as much as possible.
One of the tricky parts of having sensitive skin is that you don’t know what’s going to set off your skin. There are some common culprits that you’d do well to avoid, though, and one of them is fragrances. Avoid any skincare products and makeup products that aren’t fragrance-free.
Fragrances tend to contain harsh chemicals that send sensitive skin into a tailspin. With fragrances, you also have no idea what you’re getting because scents are considered to be “trade secrets” in the US, which means companies don’t need to list the ingredients. If a product has a fragrance, you have no way of knowing if it contains something you’re allergic to or something that will inflame your skin.
Test Every Product
Everyone with sensitive skin has felt the pain (literally and emotionally) of trying to cover up inflamed skin. To minimize those breakouts, always do a patch test by trying any new skin products on a discreet area first. For facial products, for example, put the product on a small area under your chin to see if it breaks out. If not, you’re safe to use it on your face.
Develop a Relationship with a Dermatologist
As I mentioned, sensitive skin is sometimes caused by chronic skin conditions or skin allergies. These are things that can only be diagnosed by a dermatologist (or in select cases, an allergist).
If you have sensitive skin, find a dermatologist you can trust and communicate with easily. Start visiting them for consistent appointments to discuss your difficulties. Based on your symptoms and examining your skin, the dermatologist may be able to get to the bottom of your sensitive skin. At a minimum, they’ll have skincare advice for you that’s tailored to your specific skin.
Avoid Common Skin-Drying Culprits
As a general rule, dryness always makes skin more sensitive, so even if your sensitivity is actually coming from another cause, it will be worse when your skin is too dry. No matter why you have sensitive skin, you should avoid the common mistakes that dry out your skin further.
For starters, don’t use water that’s too hot for your showers or to wash your hands. Take shorter showers and baths too (aim for five to ten minutes), and always use sensitive skin-friendly moisturizer as soon as you towel off. If you’re using a dehumidifier, try not to get the humidity too low: aim for 40-50%.
Staying on Top of Your Sensitive Skin
For many people with sensitive skin, it’s an issue that’s always present in their lives to some degree. Ultimately, it’s a matter of getting to know your skin and developing strategies for keeping it under control. Start with the tips above and remember, you’re uniquely you, so find the best way to care for your special skin.