Do you have sensitive skin? It's not hard to figure out. Just look at your beauty products, or lack thereof. When people with sensitive skin use everyday beauty products like soap on their faces, their skin itches, burns or erupts in a rash.
"A lot of people tell me, 'I only use water to wash my face because everything else burns,'" says Dr. Kent Aftergut, a dermatologist at the University of Texas Medical Center at Dallas.
About 50 percent of women and 40 percent of men say they have sensitive skin [source: Farage]. Those numbers include people with so-called "sensitive skin syndrome," which involves a stinging, tight, or itchy feeling but no visual signs.
Sometimes sensitive skin can be linked to a more complicated medical condition, like rosacea or atopic dermatitis (eczema). Sometimes it can just mean that you have allergies. "It's not truly sensitive skin in that the ingredients are too strong. There are just one or two ingredients that you're allergic to and need to avoid," says Aftergut.
But why do some makeup removers aggravate sensitive skin? True makeup removers dissolve makeup and dig out dirt, oil and microbes, for easy rinsing off. They can't help but interact with your skin; harsh removers are simply more disruptive.
Harsh removers include those with high pHs (around 10) that damage proteins in the outermost layer of skin, the stratum corneum, making that layer swell [source: Ananthapadmanabhan 2003]. Removers with harsh surfactants (usually wetting agents that lessen a liquid's surface tension) can pull out some of the waterproof fat molecules between epidermal cells, allowing your skin to dry [sources: Ananthapadmanabhan 2004, Tortura]. Gentle makeup removers mostly leave your skin pH, proteins and lipids intact.
Read on to learn how to get rid of that makeup without torturing your sensitive skin.