Sensitive skin affects just about everyone at one point or another. But many more folks have to live with sensitive skin day in and day out. While sensitive skin seems ubiquitous, many people wonder what causes sensitive skin and whether there are ways to tackle the issue.
Today, let’s break down sensitive skin, look at the causes, and find some ways to treat sensitive skin no matter why you happen to have it.
What Is Sensitive Skin? How Do You Know If You Have It?
First of all, sensitive skin isn’t just skin that feels painful all the time. It actually means any skin type that is overly sensitive to a wide variety of stimuli. Symptoms can include pain, inflammation, temperature sensitivity, dryness, and more. You can still have sensitive skin even if you aren't too bothered by your skin on a day-to-day basis.
Ultimately, if you notice your skin and feel frequently uncomfortable, you can probably classify your skin as "sensitive".
It’s all a matter of subjective opinion. Although dermatologists would classify anyone with skin that needs some kind of assistance, be it with moisturization, irritation, inflammation, or actual pain, as a person with sensitive skin.
However, you can also be pretty sure that you have sensitive skin if you have a related skin condition that causes unsightly allergic reactions. In fact, sensitive skin is usually caused by a separate condition instead of being a condition itself.
Four Types of Sensitive Skin
Sensitive skin can differ dramatically based on the person and the actual cause. There are four broad categories of sensitive skin. Use these descriptions to narrow down what kind of skin you think you might have.
Reactive sensitive skin is very easy to irritate or inflame. This is especially true if you try to use skincare products that have synthetic ingredients or very harsh elements (like exfoliators with physical beads). As the name suggests, this skin reacts pretty harshly to any kind of irritant. It usually turns red, warm, and sometimes becomes overly itchy.
In some cases, reactive sensitive skin can sprout papules, pustules, or other wart-like blemishes as a response against whatever the irritant is. Technically speaking, acne is a form of reactive skin – your skin’s pores are reacting against being clogged and an excess of bacteria digging deep into your epidermis.
Environmentally sensitive skin normally only becomes sensitive whenever it’s exposed to a particular environmental condition or element. For instance, your skin might be environmentally sensitive to cigarette smoke or other types of air pollution. Or you might be excessively sensitive to the sun, so you need to wear sunscreen all the time.
In some ways, environmentally sensitive skin is the hardest to deal with since it can limit where you can go and what you can do.
If you have naturally sensitive skin, you drew the genetic short stick. It’s often linked with other inflammatory skin conditions like rosacea and eczema, but not always.
Regardless, naturally sensitive skin seems to become irritated or inflamed no matter what you rub on it and no matter where you go. You’ll probably need to use some soothing skincare products (and probably stuff made with natural ingredients to reduce inflammation or irritation).
This last type of sensitive skin might be something you have already or something you grow into. It’s skin that becomes sensitive over time and can turn irritated if it's rubbed too much or exfoliated too frequently. Additionally, many people experience skin thinning as they become older, which makes their skin easier to irritate over time.
Can Men and Women Both Suffer from Sensitive Skin?
Absolutely. Though the vast majority of skincare products are advertised to women, men can be just as susceptible to sensitive skin of all four types. Thus, they should be aware of different skincare products and solutions to help them with their skin sensitivity. Women do experience excessively sensitive skin at a higher rate on average, however.
What Can Cause Sensitive Skin?
Sensitive skin can come about from all manner of things in addition to the broad causes mentioned above. Aside from plain genetics, here are some of the most common causes of sensitive skin.
Dryness is possibly the number one cause of sensitive skin. This is partially because people don’t always take care of their skin in terms of moisturization and because everyone experiences the dry season of winter. Either way, you might experience dry skin throughout the course of the day or over the long-term. Both types of skin can be treated in the same way, however.
Thankfully, dry skin can usually be helped at least somewhat by using a great moisturizing product or moving away from the source of the dry air in the first place. This should clear your sensitivity right up.
Lots of people also experience skin sensitivity as a result of overexposure to the sun. This most often happens on cloudy days because people don’t think they need to wear sunscreen. However, ultraviolet radiation can easily penetrate clouds and still cause sunburn and blisters, even if it doesn’t appear to be very bright or sunny out.
This makes sun protection from harmful UV rays a top priority if you have sensitive skin already regardless of the weather outside. Sun exposure can make your skin dry, cracked, itchy, or cause peeling. Of course, too much sun exposure is also a leading cause of skin cancer so make sure that you always apply a broad spectrum SPF sunscreen, we recommend SPF 30.
As mentioned, winter is usually the driest season of the year, but any cold weather carries with it the possibility of dryness. Too much exposure to overly dry air can sap away the moisture contained within your skin and leave it dry and scratchy.
Many people in cities or other more polluted environments may experience skin reactions as a result of these environmental factors. Exhaust fumes, chemicals, or manufacturing plants and other ambient compounds in the air can all combine to create a harmful environment for your skin (and your lungs!).
Bad Skincare Products
If you use products with synthetic ingredients for your skincare routine, you might be irritating your skin every morning and evening. Try to switch to a hypoallergenic product to see if something changes if this seems to be the case.
Very Hot Water
It’s tempting to turn your shower all the way to the right to get a steaming, scorching flow right off the bat. But forcing your skin underwater that’s too hot can cause skin sensitivity. Be careful when taking a hot shower or taking a dip into a hot tub. It might be smarter to try the water with your hand before putting your entire body into the bath or shower.
Chlorine in Swimming Pools
If you like to swim, you might experience skin sensitivity from the chlorine typically found in swimming pools. There’s no real way around this since chlorine keeps the pools clean and open to the public. So you may need to limit your swimming in these pools.
What’s the Best Way to Handle Sensitive Skin?
Although sensitive skin can come from a variety of causes, there are ways you can handle the matter. Suki Skincare and other skin care product manufacturers use natural ingredients and prioritize making products that can be used for any type of skin, including sensitive skin.
Use Great Skincare Products
One of the best ways to handle sensitive skin is to use gentle and natural ingredient-based skincare products like cleansers that are fragrance-free. We also mean this for exfoliating products – go for chemical exfoliators instead of physical ones so you have a gentler exfoliating experience.
You should also use moisturizer religiously, especially if you suffer from regularly dry skin. Lotion can help your skin trap more moisture in the air and retain moisture that it already has. Staying hydrated, in fact, might be the best way to avoid sensitive skin in general.
But you should also investigate various types of serums, which may be able to help your skin recover from damage and show less skin symptoms over time. This is doubly true if your skin sensitivity is something that recently came about and isn’t likely to be because of a genetic factor. Make sure to always patch test new products before using them.
Avoid Bad Products
At the same time, you should avoid several products that might make your skin sensitivity problems worse. For instance, regular bar soap has a terrible tendency to strip away healthy oils that make your skin comfortable and protect it from dryness and damage.
There are plenty of alternatives designed for sensitive skin, instead. Take the Suki Skincare Sensitive Cleansing Bar. This is designed to soothe and calm irritated skin while still doing a great job of cleaning your body of dirt, debris, and sweat.
In the end, sensitive skin can come about in lots of ways. Don’t worry if your skin seems to be too sensitive for comfort, though – there’s almost always a solution! Know your beauty and be sure to check out Suki Skincare’s extensive collection of products specifically for sensitive skin. Those products can help you maintain a quality skincare routine without having to suffer incessantly sensitive skin all the time.