beauty & Style

Basmah Qazi

How to tell the difference between sensitive and sensitised skin

How to tell the difference between sensitive and sensitised skin

Shopping for skincare can be a difficult task to say the least. With so many options available, it can be hard to determine what is right for us. You may have noticed that many skin products claim to be for “sensitive skin”, but did you know that not all sensitive skin is the same? As a matter of fact, there are two types: sensitive skin, and sensitised skin.

To put it simply, sensitive skin is something you’re born with. Sensitised skin on the other hand, is when different environmental factors have contributed to the weakening of your skin.

Speaking to Better Homes and Gardens, Biologi dermal specialist Lucy Kuper says that sensitised skin is becoming more and more common throughout the world.

So, what is sensitised skin?

“Sensitised skin is caused by a damaged barrier function that leads to irritated nerve endings,” says Lucy. “It’s a more intermittent problem that flares up in line with specific lifestyle and environmental factors, or as a reaction to products.”

Factors that contribute to the sensitising of your skin can include different products that you’re using on your face, the environment you live in, lack of sleep, or stress and chemicals. Extreme temperatures such as intense heat or freezing winds can also wreak havoc on your skin, making it more susceptible to damage over time.

What does sensitised skin look like?

“In most cases, you won’t need a professional to tell you if you have sensitised skin, you’ll feel it. It can reveal itself in the form of dryness, itchy patches, redness, bumps, flushed patches, irritation and stinging when you apply products,” says Lucy.

What is sensitive skin?

Sensitive skin is a part of your genetic makeup and is usually something you’re born with. Conditions such as eczema, rosacea and allergic reactions are more commonly associated with sensitive skin.

“Sensitive skin refers to an underlying skin condition that is usually caused by a genetic predisposition, usually inherited,” says Lucy. “It’s often the result of a defect in the skin’s epidermal lipid barrier layer (the protective layer) which then causes irritants, and allergens to penetrate the skin and cause various reactions. A disturbed epidermal lipid barrier is an important component in several inflammatory skin diseases such as rosacea, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and eczema.” 

Can these two types of skin be fixed?

Due to sensitive skin being a genetic trait, there is little that can be done to “fix” it, however, there are ways to keep symptoms at bay. Keeping a close eye on your diet and using gentle skincare can help relieve the uncomfortable sensation that comes with having fragile skin.

“Sensitised and sensitive skin can be both painful and uncomfortable but can be treated. Start by learning about the ingredients you’re using in your skincare products and avoid the ones that can cause irritation, or those containing fragrance. Try to avoid touching your face, as your hands can contain bacteria which can irritate already irritated skin. Exfoliate regularly to keep skin free from bacteria and use a serum daily to hydrate, nourish and protect cells deep within the dermal layer,” Lucy tells Better Homes and Gardens.