Sensitive skin refers to the condition of having one’s skin adversely react to outside stimuli. Allergic reactions or other signs of extreme irritations are often the result. The stimuli can be things like certain foods or plants, commercial products (such as detergents or lotions) or sometimes even the touch of someone else. Sensitive skin can be debilitating–the reaction is often one of swelling, painful irritation, and uncomfortable rashes and reddening. Caring for sensitive skin is a process that therefore needs to be done as carefully as possible.
Sensitive skin care is a careful balancing between the causes of reactions and the fact that the skin, though tender, still needs to be worked with in order to maintain its overall health and appearance.
Causes and Effects
Sensitive skin is often a hereditary condition passed down from members of one generation to the next.
Sensitive skin tends to be thinner (and/or more finely-textured than normal skin) and therefore much more susceptible to sunburn, windburn and to the cold. Allergic reactions can cause the skin to react in various ways including turning red and/or inflamed, breaking out in hives or other skin surface reactions or becoming unbearably tender to touch. One form of extreme skin sensitivity is a result of skin cells releasing histamines (natural substances in the body charged with regulating specific functions) at even the slightest touch, resulting in almost instantaneous reddening and swelling of the area.
Care and Relief
Sensitive skin care begins with careful choices when it comes to cleansers and moisturizers used. Oil-based products should be avoided, as should harsh soaps and detergents and most products with excessive amounts of chemicals. Makeup should be water-based and designed not to clog the pores.
Hypoallergenic (and fragrance-free) is usually the way to go when choosing soaps, cleansers, moisturizers, sunscreens and other substances that will be placed directly on the skin (and, as even sensitive skin still needs the protection and cleansing properties of these types of products, their use is unavoidable). It is best to avoid products with excessive amounts of ingredients and fragrances–simpler is almost always better when it comes to anything that will come into contact with sensitive skin. Keep the number of products used to a minimum while still making sure the skin is getting the moisture and nutrients it needs. And avoid excessive washing of the skin as that leads to a continuing cycle of irritation and searches for relief from irritation.