Everything You Need to Know About Sensitive Skin

November is National Healthy Skin Month, which is a good reminder to pay close attention to how your skin is functioning as well as how you are treating your skin. As the largest organ of the body, your skin has many important functions including temperature regulation, protection from harmful environmental toxins and bacteria, and sensation.

“In order for your skin to function optimally, it needs a lot of support from us—keeping it strong, moist, and healthy! We take care of our skin by eating healthy so that it gets the nutrients it needs from our blood stream as well as moisturizing to keep its barrier function working effectively,” our resident dermatologist Dr. Nava Greenfield says.

If you’ve ever struggled with a skin condition, you know that it can affect your total body health. But what about “sensitive skin”?

The term sensitive skin is universal in the skincare world. Whether you’ve seen it on a product label, magazine headlines, or used it in conversation while talking about complexion troubles, it seems that the phrase is pretty self-explanatory.

But what if we told you that most people have a misconception of what it really means to have sensitive skin?

In this post, we will discuss the real definition of sensitive skin, how to know if you have it, and the best way manage it.

What is sensitive skin?

According to Dr. Delwyn Dyall-Smith, Dermatologist at DermNet, “Sensitive skin is a lay term rather than a medical diagnosis. It is generally used to describe skin with reduced tolerance to the application of cosmetics and personal care products. In surveys, approximately 50% of women and 40% of men may report having sensitive skin.”

He says, “Sensitive skin presents in a wide variety of ways, like with subjective symptoms such as stinging, itching, burning, and/or visible skin changes such as redness, dryness, scaling, peeling, bumps, hives.”

While talking to Allure Magazine, Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, codirector of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, D.C, said that "It's an overused phrase. People may be overusing their products, leading to irritation. Skin is also more prone to irritation in the cooler months, so don't take a reaction to the frigid temperatures as a red flag for skin sensitivity.”

So, while sensitive skin can be a serious issue resulting in redness, dryness, flaking, and rashes on the skin, those same symptoms can also be misconstrued as side effects of sensitive skin rather that the results of using products with ingredients that are irritating the skin.

It’s important to keep in mind that anyone’s skin can react to certain irritants, however if you frequently have issues with redness, flaking, itching or eczema on the skin, it could be a sign of an underlying condition—sensitive skin.

How do I know if I have sensitive skin?

Now we know that sometimes skin irritation from ingredients within skincare or makeup can mislead people into thinking they have sensitive skin. But you might be wondering, how do we tell if you actually have sensitive skin?

Here are a few at home tests you can try! First, brush your fingers across the side of your face with medium pressure, if the skin turns leaves a red like a trail after your finger, you have sensitive skin. If you have a darker complexion, and that test isn’t as clear, you know you have sensitive skin if most of the products you use on your skin causes consistent stinging or redness.

Our resident dermatologist, Dr. Greenfield, says:

  • Knowing your individual skin type can be tricky, because skin types can be very different on the same person on different parts of their body! Sensitive skin means that your skin has the ability react poorly to products and ingredients that typically do not cause a skin irritation—like aloe, for example.
  • The skins response depends on the duration and nature of the exposure and differs from person to person ranging from eczema, rash, acne, or skin turning light or dark in the exposed area.
  • 80% of sensitive skin is due to exposure to harsh or irritating chemicals and the other 20% comes from an allergic reaction the skin develops after exposure to a product, or allergen.
  • If skin is continuously exposed to irritants or allergens it may become thick and chronically itchy and it may be hard to treat.

How to treat sensitive skin

“Proper skin care requires a thoughtful and well-designed routine that is geared towards your individual skin type and needs. Skin care also changes seasonally and heading into winter months means more moisturizing, and usually a little less exfoliating, Dr. Greenfield explains.

She goes on to say “if you do have sensitive skin, the next step would be to determine exactly what products or ingredients are causing reactions. Common irritants and allergens are fragrances, preservatives, detergents, plants, metals, and textiles. When looking for basic skin care products, it is important to avoid ones that are made with common irritants and allergens such as parabens, formaldehydes, flowers, fragrances, and detergents. Look out for ingredients such as polyethylene glycol, paraffin, benzophenone, balsum of peru, and sodium laurel sulfate which are common irritants but also ones that are easy to avoid.”

If it seems like you’re checking all the boxes for sensitive skin, your first step is to consult a dermatologist, who can help identify the best treatment plan and medications. They also may recommend tips like these for keeping your sensitive skin happy!

C’est Moi products are thoughtfully formulated specifically for sensitive skin types. We test our products on over 250 humans that have sensitive skin to ensure that our formulations are safe for everyone to use. Who doesn’t love life without any reactions, irritation or breakouts? 

Check out our Gentle line as well, guaranteed safe for sensitive skin of all ages!

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