Sensitive skin has become one of those “catch all” phrases that describes a variety of things but does not carry a clear definition. Millions of people have sensitive skin but what does that mean exactly? Do they react badly to skin care protects? Are they especially affected by exposure to the sun? Do certain types of fabrics cause problems?

It’s easy to understand why the term “sensitive skin” may carry different meanings for different people. For example: if someone is complaining about sensitive skin to their esthetician, do they mean they are allergic to certain products or perhaps their skin simply reacts to certain ingredients more intensely than most people do. With so much variation in how a person may define their “sensitive” skin, it is important to understand how they are defining the term, sensitive.

Acne or Rosacea: Skin that is especially sensitive to products may react by producing acne or inflaming an existing rosacea condition. Excessive oils in products can easily clog the pores for people with this type of sensitivity. Instead of using products specially designed for “sensitive skin”, search for the underlying problem such as oily skin or inflamed skin.

Burning and Stinging: Some people apply a skin care product and immediately (or even after a few minutes) begin to experience a “burning or stinging” sensation on the face. This is not necessarily the same as an allergic reaction. Usually the cause of this sensation cannot be pinned down and remains unknown. Some ingredients have been known to cause this reaction more frequently including: lactic acid, azaelic acid, benzoic acid, glycolic acid, vitamin c and AHA’s.
A dermatologist may perform a test (once again, not an allergy test) to determine which ingredient the skin in reacting to so a patient can avoid products that will invoke a reaction. Currently there is no substantive research to determine why the skin will responds this way or a treatment that will work for everyone when it occurs. Usually removal of the product will reduce the sensation and it will go away on its own after a few minutes to several hours (depending on the original application amount).

Contact Dermatitis (Allergies): Finally, the issue most people refer to when they talk about sensitive skin. This refers to a specific allergy to a product, material or ingredient that causes an adverse reaction. An allergen is a reaction to a specific ingredient which your body is producing anti-bodies to combat the reaction. This is not the same as an irritant which will cause a reaction when applied to the skin (such as bleach on skin) but your body is not actively fighting as an allergy.

Trying to Determine the Cause: When a dermatologist is searching for the cause of an allergic reaction, they will need to rely heavily on a patient’s history to narrow down possible suspects. Remember, doctors need complete disclosure of any product usage to obtain accurate results. When you withhold critical information for one reason or another, it prolongs the process and could lead to misdiagnosis and unnecessary additional tests to find an unknown cause.

Avoiding the Problem: If you are shopping for new products or want to undergo any skin care treatment, make sure to inform your esthetician of any adverse reactions you’ve had prior to your appointment. This will prevent complications when specialized products are used. Remember that many spa products use higher concentrations of ingredients to obtain more dramatic results so telling your esthetician in advance can prevent a severe reaction.

Conclusion: Searching for products geared towards “sensitive skin” can be a waste of time and money if you don’t know to root of your problem. Determining a true allergy versus and irritation can help resolve a lot of mystery and ensure you have proper treatment should an allergic reaction occur. Remember that not all skin reactions require medical attention but if you have any concerns or contact with potentially dangerous materials, contact your primary care physician immediately. A referral to a skin care specialist may be necessary for especially sensitive care cases or concerns.

Learn more great skin care tips online at http://www.bellaninainstitute.com.

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