This post is going to bring us back to the question: “What is your skin type?” (See post: How To Identify Your Skin Type) When I ask this extremely important question, particularly over the phone where I can not see anything and have to rely on only my customer’s communication skills, and the response I get is “sensitive,” I start to get a little frustrated when it is not followed immediately with a more detailed explanation.
Sensitive skin. What does this mean to me? What does this mean to you? Well first of all for you it can mean you will be using all the wrong skin care products if you didn’t follow up with an explanation of the details of your so-called “sensitive skin”. Let’s see if we can really determine if this is a true statement for you or not.
What does Dictionary.com say? I like definition #2: readily or excessively affected by external agencies or influences. Having read that, do you think that because you get a pimple during your monthly cycle, that you have sensitive skin? No, it just means you are a normal human being and during this wonderful time of the month your oil glands are affected by the hormonal changes in the body and you get a zit. Do you think that because your skin is all red, raw and dried up from using every product in out acne line all at once that you have sensitive skin? I think not. Did it ever occur to you, using all of the top strength products in your skin care regimen that this may not be good for your skin nor helping to clear you up? Skin is sometimes delicate and doesn’t respond nicely to isopropyl alcohol, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, alpha hydroxy acid, granular scrubs and clay masks all on the same day. It does not always mean you have sensitive skin. It may just mean you have normal skin and you are treating it badly.
When you tell a skin care salesperson “I have sensitive skin” with no follow up info, assume they are thinking (and I am thinking) you are highly allergic to many things, easily irritated and product reactive-see definition above. If this is not the case, then you better have some more details immediately or you will get a bag full of mild, soothing, potentially too weak products for what may be going on with your skin and then you will not get the results you paid for. Having acne doesn’t necessarily mean sensitive either. Just like getting a pimple every now and again doesn’t mean you have “acne.” Having a doctor tell you that you have rosacea usually does mean you are sensitive and should use caution with what you put on your face, although not in every single case. See what I’m getting at? There is no one-size-fits-all skin care and the more information you can provide, the better. Now where have I heard that statement before? I’m just trying to make sure you get your money’s worth when you walk away with your skin care regimen whether it comes from Mario Badescu or anywhere else.
Some sensitive skin guidelines. (GUIDELINES, not rules: everyone’s skin is different.)
- If you have very fair, easily sunburned, thin skin that may appear ruddy and the capillaries show through, chances are you’re sensitive. Think Nicole Kidman, Howdy Doody or Danny Partridge.
- Red-haired, blue eyed people of Celtic, British or Scottish decent often have thinner skin. Blood vessels and nerve endings are closer to the skin’s surface in this case, causing easily irritated or sensitive skin.
- If products containing heavy fragrance or artificial color cause you to feel irritated or get blotchy, chances are you’re sensitive.
- If being out in the cold, blustery weather, even briefly, causes you to get very red and blotchy, chances are you’re sensitive (and need to get a protective cream instead of a moisturizer). Does the same happen indoors when the heat is kicking full force? Yep, same thing.
- Does your skin get uncomfortable and irritated from using a drugstore brand exfoliating scrub? This could mean you are sensitive or just massaging the scrub too long or using it too often. Never use your scrub daily unless the label says it is specifically a daily use product.
- Does an alcohol-based astringent feel like it’s burning your skin slightly? Maybe you have dry skin and it’s too strong and shouldn’t be using it anyway or maybe you are truly sensitive. If you have oily/acne skin and also sensitive, there are other effective options.
- Sensitive skin generally has an impaired barrier function so products are more permeable. In English: The protective, moisturizing part of the skin is not as strong so potential irritants can get through to the nerve endings and blood vessels causing inflammation. Water loss in the epidermis (top layer of skin) is common in sensitive skin so dehydration can also be an issue. Be careful about using soapy, foamy cleansers to often or at all. They can make this condition worse.
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Hopefully this has shed some light on whether or not you really have sensitive skin and helps you in the future choosing the correct skin care products.