Caring for Sensitive (Reactive) Skin
The phenomenon of sensitive or reactive skin is characterized by an individual’s unpleasant sensory response to stimuli that wouldn’t usually cause such sensations. Some indicators of the condition are not always present in individuals with sensitive skin; however, subjective sensory effects, from itching to burning, stinging, and dryness, are often reported consistently.
Considering the subjective nature of sensitive skin, researchers have frequently utilized surveys to gauge the prevalence of this condition in the general public. According to these surveys, nearly 71% of the U.S. population report having sensitive skin, highlighting a 55% increase over the past two decades.
Aside from some expected effects, very little is known about the condition and how to care for it. As such, we look into this condition in detail, reviewing the symptoms, causes, and how to care for sensitive skin.
What Is Sensitive Skin
Sensitive skin is a condition where an individual’s skin is easily irritated by various stimuli that wouldn’t usually cause discomfort to others. Most people with sensitive skin notice occasional or frequent itching, burning, stinging, tightness, and dryness, especially in the face.
While it’s a prevalent condition, sensitive skin is not a disease and, as such, does not necessarily warrant a formal medical diagnosis. You may not even know you have sensitive skin, as the underlying reason behind the inflammation can be unique for each person.
In some cases, sensitive skin may be a symptom of an underlying condition. Hence, identifying possible triggers to this condition and finding ways to soothe irritated skin is critical in helping people with sensitive skin find relief and improve their quality of life.
Dry Skin vs. Sensitive Skin
Dryness is a common side effect of sensitive skin; however, there is a big difference between dry and sensitive skin.
Dry skin, commonly called xerosis, occurs when the outermost layer of the skin loses its natural moisture content, resulting in dehydrated skin. A person can develop dry skin for several reasons, including genetics, environmental conditions such as extreme cold or heat, and harsh skin care products capable of stripping the skin of its moisture.
Dry skin can be extremely uncomfortable, with symptoms such as flaking, itching, tightness, and in some cases, cracking, peeling, and bleeding. However, it is rarely a serious medical condition and can be alleviated by skincare routines incorporating gentle cleansing products, moisturizers, and skin-protecting products. These products help to hydrate the skin, restore its natural moisture balance and protect it from further damage. Under infrequent circumstances, dry skin can also be a sign of an underlying condition, such as hypothyroidism, where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones.
On the other hand, sensitive skin is often characterized by dryness, which can result from limited oil production, impair the skin’s ability to maintain a healthy and functional barrier, or cause skin irritation so severe, it becomes inflamed. Like dry skin, environmental factors, harsh skincare products, and other irritants can also cause the skin to become sensitive, sometimes resulting in a severe case of chronic contact dermatitis – skin inflammation that results from repeated exposure to a particular irritant.
Symptoms Of Sensitive Skin
As we said earlier, most people do not know they have sensitive skin until they notice a bad reaction to cosmetic products. And while the symptoms associated with sensitive skin can be kept under control, it’s essential to identify these signs and take prompt actions. Here are some common symptoms of sensitive skin.
Swollen and Itchy Skin
People with sensitive skin often experience itching and swelling, particularly after using harsh skincare products or exposure to hot water. This symptom can also become noticeable in cold and dry weather conditions. Itching the skin can only worsen the irritation and potentially lead to further skin problems, such as infection.
Skin redness is a prevalent symptom of sensitive skin. People with this condition experience varying degrees of redness, manifesting as a red rash, elevated red bumps, blushing, or red, dilated blood vessels. In most cases, skin redness subsides with minimal treatment; however, more serious treatment options, such as laser treatments, can be explored when the symptom persists.
Stinging and Burns
People with sensitive skin tend to have a thinner skin barrier. Hence, it is common to experience stinging and burning sensations, especially when using skincare products that are too harsh for the skin. This reaction is prevalent with the use of products that contain alcohol, as well as acne and anti-aging products. Stinging and burning can be highly discomforting, and it’s imperative to remove the product immediately and rinse the skin with cool water.
Rashes or Hives
Recurrent rashes and bumps are often indicative of sensitive skin when exposed to a trigger, such as creams. We advise people to conduct a patch test on a discreet area of the skin before applying it on a large scale to avoid introducing a product that will cause irritation. With this strategy, you can observe your reaction to a new product before using it extensively.
Dry skin is a common symptom of sensitive skin, with a lack of moisture exposing the skin’s nerve endings to different triggers. In certain weather conditions, individuals with dry skin may experience several symptoms, from cracks to blisters, peeling, and bleeding. For this symptom, mild moisturizers can hydrate the skin and help protect it from harsh environmental elements.
In some cases, patches and skin discoloration can be a symptom of sensitive skin. Typically, people with sensitive skin are more prone to developing skin reactions and irritations, and patches can result from these reactions. It is also possible for these patches to result from other underlying skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea.
What Causes Sensitive Skin?
With sensitive skin, the body’s immune system is overreacting to an irritant, which could be skin products or environmental factors. Several factors can be cited as causes of sensitive skin, and while some are born with this condition, others develop sensitive skin due to underlying skin conditions.
Sensitive skin is a genetic characteristic in some people, and it’s believed to pass down through families. People born with sensitive skin tend to be more prone to allergies, asthma, and quick skin flushing. This skin type is most prominent among individuals with Northern European ancestry.
In this case, the high skin sensitivity is primarily due to its delicate nature, including having less pigment, a thinner outer layer, and blood vessels close to the skin’s surface. The tinner epidermis, in particular, provides a less protective barrier against allergens, irritants, and microbes, making it easier for them to penetrate the skin and cause irritations.
Aside from people with Northern European ancestry, other groups are also prone to having sensitive skin. Individuals with lighter skin, hair, and eyes are also prone to high skin sensitivity. Also, people with African ancestry can be born with sensitive skin; however, this is quite rare.
Irritant Contact Dermatitis
The most frequently observed form of sensitive skin is characterized by developing a nonallergic rash following exposure to an irritant that affects the skin’s protective outer layer. As the name suggests, this condition occurs when the skin directly interacts with an irritant substance, causing irritation and redness.
The skin reaction results from chemical damage to the epidermis and can range from mild to severe. Treatment typically involves avoiding further exposure to irritants; hence, it’s best to be mindful of the skin’s reaction to various products and environmental factors. Professional advice is also required to care for sensitive skin and minimize the risk of skin reactions.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis
In this case, the skin reacts to an allergen, chemical, or other substances, causing inflammation and redness; however, this reaction results from an allergic or immune condition. Allergic contact dermatitis is a type of delayed hypersensitivity reaction, meaning it could manifest itself several hours or even days after exposure to the allergen, which could be preservatives, fragrances, nickel, or rubber.
The symptoms of this condition include itching, redness, swelling, and blisters, with the affected area having a painful and tender feel. Similar to irritant contact dermatitis, the severity of this condition varies, and avoiding further exposure also helps to stop the reaction. Additionally, topical creams and oral antihistamines can help relieve the symptoms.
Eczema is a skin condition that results in dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. It’s also known as atopic dermatitis and causes the skin to become red and irritated, and sometimes, it can lead to blisters and crusting. The exact cause of eczema remains unknown; however, it is thought to be related to genetic and environmental factors and an underlying condition for sensitive skin.
The symptoms of eczema can be managed with several treatments, from moisturizers to topical corticosteroids and antihistamines. In severe cases, people also use inhibitors and immunosuppressants.
How to Care for Sensitive Skin
If you have sensitive skin, it is essential to take proactive measures to prevent exacerbating the condition. The first step towards better managing sensitive skin is to adopt daily skin care practices that minimize the risks of triggering flare-ups and irritations. The following skin care tips can help to achieve this:
- Avoid hot and cold water. Slightly warm to cool is best.
- Choose sensitive skin body wash, face wash, moisturizer, and sunscreen formulated for sensitive skin.
- Use fragrance-free products
- Avoid scented beauty products and laundry detergents.
- Avoid exfoliation except with more gentle enzymes, if needed.
- Use facial products with limited ingredients. Using products with an extensive list of ingredients increases the risks of flare-ups or allergic reactions.
- Use your fingertips or a very soft baby washcloth to cleanse the face, and avoid facial cleansing wipes. Don’t scrub or rub your face; gently pat till it’s dry.
- Use soothing serums to help restore and replenish skin barrier moisture. Look for ingredients like ceramides and glycerine. You can explore Bee Natural’s Restore I, II, and III skin care system or our Bee Gentle Essential Skin Care.
- Seal moisture into the skin with a moisturizer that contains simple ingredients as often as needed.
While skin care products can effectively cause irritations, people can also address the symptoms of their sensitive skin with beauty products specifically formulated for this condition. As such, if you wish to get safe skin care products for your sensitive skin, it’s best to explore Bee Natural’s Gentle Essential Skincare System.
This product provides a 360-degree skincare approach for sensitive, dehydrated, and reactive skin, as well as those dealing with other underlying skin conditions, such as rosacea. Bee Gentle Essential Skincare System is fragrance-free and non-comedogenic, providing four specially selected products for your sensitive skin.
- Rejuvenating Gel Cleanser
Cleans, soothes, and hydrates the skin and features a perfect pH balance, ensuring the skin stays soft and moist
- Queen Bee Facial Cleansing Milk
Our second cleanse product quickly dissolves makeup and impurities without drying your skin.
- CC (Calm and Clear) Serum
Features several safe ingredients that work synergistically to calm redness, soothe inflammation, hydrate, and help to gently even skin tone.
- Clean and Gentle Facial Moisturizer
The facial moisturizer product is formulated to thoroughly moisturize sensitive and reactive skin types.
Bee Natural also offers a Restore Skin Care System, which helps to restore, protect and renew your skin’s moisture barrier. This three-step product helps keep your skin looking soft, hydrated, and younger. Please take advantage of our sensitive skin products and explore healthier and more beautiful skin.
People with sensitive skin may experience a heightened reactivity to almost anything they encounter. Over time, this can lead to chronic sensitivity, causing various unpleasant symptoms, as we have seen earlier. In this state, the skin can react negatively to a wide range of products, making it difficult to find products compatible with the skin. For this reason, it’s vital to identify the underlying cause of your sensitive skin and take the necessary steps to care for the skin and avoid it degenerating into something more severe.
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