What Causes Sensitive Skin?

Source: flickr.com user SeanDreilinger

If you think you have sensitive skin, you’re not alone. Sensitive skin is one of the top skin care complaints these days, especially for women. But the truth is, sensitive skin is often incorrectly self-diagnosed. Many of the sensitivities people experience are not qualities of the skin, but rather reactions to harsh skin care products, weather, food allergy, or hormonal factors.

So, how do you determine whether your skin’s discomfort is caused by a reaction versus natural factors? One way is to simply visit your dermatologist. He or she will be able to go over your skin care regimen and conduct some testing to find out if you have truly sensitive skin or if something else is causing reactions.

Another way to test your skin is to renovate your sensitive skin care routine. Completely stop using all of your skin care products and let your skin detox for a week or so. Then, start adding your products back in one by one, allowing each product to work alone for a day or two. If a reaction suddenly crops up after adding a product back in, you probably have your culprit.

If you or your dermatologist discover that your skin is genuinely sensitive, it will probably raise the question of why. What causes sensitive skin is unfortunately not an easy one to answer, simply because there are so many potential irritants out there. Here’s a look at some of the most common:

  • Skin disorders, including eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea
  • Extremely dry skin
  • Damaged skin
  • Prolonged exposure to harsh weather, making skin unable to protect nerve endings
  • Genetic factors, age, and hormones also play a role; however, more information is needed to discover what puts people at risk for sensitive skin

If a skin condition is the cause of sensitive skin, your dermatologist will be able to diagnose it and recommend a course of treatment. If your sensitive skin is caused by something else, though, your dermatologist may not be able to determine the exact issue. He or she can patch test for allergies, but if an allergy is not the cause, you may never know what exactly causes your sensitive skin.

When it comes to treating sensitive skin, there are a few very easy guidelines to follow. Your regimen should consist of a handful of products, all formulated with sensitive skin in mind. The fewer the ingredients, the better, and do your best to stay away from harsh ingredients like fragrances, dyes, parabens, alpha hydroxy acids, retinoids, alcohol, and benzoyl peroxide. Cosmetics should be as natural as possible, and rotated regularly to avoid risk of bacterial-related irritation.

Finally, when testing a new sensitive skin care product to determine whether or not it’s safe for you to use, start slowly and pay close attention. To begin, apply a small amount before bed to a discreet area behind your ear. Repeat every night for a week and note any changes or discomfort. If all seems well, do the same thing to an area alongside the eye. If no sensitivity is detected, it is safe to use it as directed as long as your skin remains calm and comfortable.

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