Skin sensitivity is one of the main concerns I see at the Integrative Health Institute. Studies have shown that approximately 50% of women suffer from sensitive skin. What I have actually found is that many of these women are actually suffering from sensitized skin and some very simple changes in their skincare regimes, products and lifestyle can soothe the skin and improve it’s overall health. Below are the distinguishing differences between sensitive skin and sensitized skin.

Sensitive Skin

This is the genetic predisposition to having sensitive skin. Those with sensitive skin have a thinner epidermal layer and nerve endings closer to the surface. They also tend to have less melanin (skin pigment) so their skin tone tends to be lighter, though people with darker skin tones may also experience sensitive skin.

In those with sensitive skin, the dermal barrier is weaker and has more trouble blocking allergens, irritants and bacteria from penetrating the skin and activating the immune system response. Those with sensitive skin are prone to atopy and may also struggle with asthma and allergies.

Common symptoms & characteristics of sensitive skin:

  • Itching and burning sensation
  • Rashes
  • Hives
  • Excessive dryness
  • Visible broken capillaries (telengectasia)
  • Redness and blushing
  • Tendency towards eczema and/or rosacea

Sensitized Skin

Unlike sensitive skin, sensitized skin is a created condition; it is not a genetic predisposition. It is often triggered by over exfoliation, improper product use, diet, lifestyle, or environmental irritation from the climate, pollution and excessive sun exposure. Unfortunately, the symptoms and characteristics of sensitized skin closely resemble those of sensitive skin because they are also caused by a compromised skin barrier. However, sensitized skin can improve quickly through avoidance of triggers and proper repair of the dermal barrier. Click here to learn more about repairing the dermal barrier.

10 Steps to Calm Sensitized Skin:

  1. Discontinue aggressive cleansers that contain sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate and traditional soaps like castile and African black soap.
  2. Avoid abrasive scrubs and exfoliants.
  3. Temporarily discontinue vitamin C, glycolic acid, AHAs, retinols and other vitamin A derivatives.
  4. Cleanse your skin with a gentle cream or milk cleanser like Fitglow Beauty Calm Cleansing Milk or Pai Skincare Camellia & Rose Gentle Hydrating Cleanser.
  5. Mist your skin with a humectant rich, hydrating facial mist containing vegan hyaluronic acid such as Fitglow Beauty Sea Toning Mist or Herbivore Botanicals Rose Hibiscus Hydrating Face Mist.
  6. Moisturize your skin with skin nourishing ingredients like cermaides, plant sterols and Omega 3 rich oils.
  7. Apply a mineral-based physical sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher daily. I particularly love the sunscreens from Coola, Suntegrity and Cyberderm.
  8. Drink at least 2 L of fresh, filtered water daily to keep the skin hydrated.
  9. Take a high quality Omega 3 supplement to restore a healthy skin barrier. Brands I love include Bend Skincare, Designs for Health OmegAvail and NutraSea.
  10. Use a humidifier at home or the office to add moisture to the air during the dry winter months.

As mentioned, a true sensitive skin type is genetic and needs to be carefully managed. Even though you may use the most gentle skincare and take every lifestyle precaution your symptoms may persist or escalate. Don’t let sensitive skin control or disrupt your life, if you can’t get your symptoms under control find a qualified skincare practitioner or Naturopathic Doctor who can help you!

Have a beautiful day!