What causes sensitive skin?

“Sensitive skin” can describe a host of symptoms that affect the skin on peoples’ faces and bodies. Some may develop sensitive skin after using skin care products that contribute to irritation or make their skin feel uncomfortable, even if there is no outward appearance of change.

According to Francesca Fusco, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, more than 50 percent of women categorize themselves as having sensitive skin.

Although there are many treatments designed to treat sensitive skin, what drives irritation in one person may not produce the same effects in another. Therefore, alleviating sensitivity is not always an easy fix. Getting to the root of the irritation can help people develop a more customized plan for relief.

Indoor and outdoor environment

Changes in the weather as well as the air inside of a home can cause reactions in the skin. For example, cool, dry air and central heating can cause the skin to become dehydrated.

Dirt and pollution also may play a role. Pollution in the air can be absorbed by the skin’s natural barrier, eventually weakening it, say the sensitive skin experts at Simple skin care products.

Age

Skin can lose its elasticity and ability to recover quickly with age, making it prone to greater sensitivity. Couple that with the public’s quest for younger-looking skin that involves cleansing religiously, exfoliating too frequently and relying on a bevy of anti-aging lotions, and it’s understandable why skin may become less resilient over time.

Dry skin

Lack of moisture can contribute to sensitive skin. A cleanser that is too drying is often the culprit behind unnecessary irritation. According to skin care expert Renée Rouleau, harsh detergents in commonly used facial cleansers can break down the natural lipids in skin. Furthermore, invisible cracks may form, enabling moisture to seep out and irritants to get in.

Skin disorders

Common skin disorders or allergic skin reactions may make skin more sensitive. Such conditions include rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, or allergic contact dermatitis. Injured skin may be more reactive to the environment and certain products as well. Allergies to food or environmental components may also make skin more sensitive. Patch testing can identify allergies.

Some trial and error may be necessary to find a skin care regimen that works on sensitive skin. Test new products in an inconspicuous spot prior to use, choosing items that have as few ingredients as possible. Avoid items with alcohol, retinoids and fragrances. Antibacterial or deodorant ingredients also may cause problems, so choose moisturizing products and soap-free cleansers.

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