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9 Signs of Sensitive Skin


Is it sensitive skin or something else?

Most people think of sensitive skin as skin that is easily irritated. You may find that certain products or environmental factors cause you to get red, itchy, or even break out. However, there are a few medical conditions that can cause similar symptoms. Rosacea, eczema, and allergic contact dermatitis are commonly mistaken for sensitive skin. Your dermatologist is your best resource to determine the cause of your problem and develop a treatment plan to get and keep your skin clear–no matter the cause. To determine if it’s sensitive skin, he or she will probably ask you if you experience some common symptoms. 

washing hands

1. Your skin is reactive.

If you have sensitive skin, you probably notice you develop symptoms in response to certain triggers. Common triggers include soaps, detergents, fragrances, perfumes, skincare products, and household products. In addition, exposure to cold, sun, and wind can trigger flares. Your dermatologist can help you find out what you may need to avoid and choose products that are best suited for your skin.


2. You notice some redness.

Most people with sensitive skin deal with some amount of redness. This can take the form of a red rash, red bumps, blushing and flushing, or even red dilated blood vessels called telangiectasias. Usually, the redness will go away after removing the irritant or with minor treatment. But, sometimes the redness can persist, especially telangiectasias. Laser treatments can often be very helpful for people with stubborn redness.


3. Your skin is itchy.

Your sensitive skin may often feel itchy and tight, especially after cleansing with products that are too harsh. Using hot water can make it worse. You may especially notice itching when the air is cold and dry. Giving in to the itch by scratching can lead to more irritation and even infection. Talk to your doctor about better ways to stop the itch.


4. You feel stinging and burning.

Your skin may sting and burn when you cleanse with or apply products that are too strong for you. This is especially common with gels, products with alcohol, and many acne or anti-aging products. While this is usually temporary, it can be very uncomfortable and even painful. If something causes stinging or burning of your skin, remove it as quickly as possible and rinse with cool water. 

Woman applying lip balm to boyfriends lips

5. Your skin is dry.

While people with sensitive skin may have problems with breakouts, they often have underlying dryness instead of oiliness. Having very dry skin can also be a cause of the sensitivity, as very dry skin doesn’t protect the nerve endings in the skin very well. You will likely have more problems with dry skin in cold, dry weather and when exposed to wind. Using a gentle moisturizer and protecting your skin from the elements can help fight it.


6. You often develop rashes.

Sensitive skin may react with a red, dry, flaky, or bumpy rash when exposed to a trigger. This is especially true for products that are left on your skin, such as facial creams. You may develop a rash very quickly after contact. Rashes can be uncomfortable, unsightly, and stubborn. If you’re allergic to something, however, it’s more serious than sensitive skin. You may need prescription treatment to get rid of rashes caused by both irritation or allergy.


7. You’re prone to breakouts.

If you have sensitive skin, you may develop breakouts that look like acne with red bumps and pustules. You might try an acne wash or cream to treat the breakouts only to find it makes things worse. Fortunately, your doctor can help sort it out and get you on the right track. If you have sensitive skin and acne, you may also need your doctor’s help to find the right products to keep your skin clear without causing irritation.


8. Your skin flakes and peels.

Especially if you have dry skin, you may deal with a lot of flaking and even peeling. This can be embarrassing and can sometimes look like dandruff. If the peeling is deep, or if you pick at it, it can leave raw, painful skin that is at risk for infection and even scarring.

Relaxed women sitting on beach

9. You sunburn easily.

Your sensitive skin is more susceptible to the harmful effects of the sun. If your skin is already irritated or peeling, you are at an even higher risk. You should always wear sunscreen when you’re outside, especially on your face. Since some ingredients in sunscreens can cause allergic reactions, look for ones with the ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. You’ll also want to choose a sunscreen that is broad-spectrum and has SPF 30 or higher.



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