How do you know if you have sensitive skin? Even without a diagnosis from your doctor, you probably have a good idea if yours is the sensitive type. Chances are, you have tight, itchy, flaky or stinging skin that feels worse in the winter months (when it encounters dry, cold air) as well as when it's exposed to potential irritants and allergens such as wool, fragrance and chemical preservatives. Ingredients in certain soaps and other skin-care products can cause flare-ups in some people. And when your skin is sensitive, the last thing you want to do is tempt fate with cleansers that might ignite or further irritate dry, tight skin.
Sensitive skin is very common, and if you're a sufferer, you're not alone. About 40 percent of men and women report sensitive skin symptoms, and about 50 percent of adults report sensitive skin symptoms on their faces [sources: Pauly; Stander]. While it may make you feel like hiding, there are skin-care products that can ease, if not clear up, those symptoms.
According to The American Academy of Dermatology, there's more than one type of sensitive skin, including the following:
While the causes behind some types of sensitive skin remain unknown, what researchers do know is that these sensitivities seem to arise from the body's exaggerated reaction to potential irritants causing inflammation. We see that reaction on our outermost layer of skin.
The outermost layer of our skin is called the stratum corneum, and it's this layer that protects us from harmful microorganisms, radiation, xenobiotics (foreign and potentially toxic synthetic chemicals) and everything else our environment throws at us. But our defense is only as good as our skin barrier's function, or how healthy our stratum corneum is. Not only does it protect us from environmental dangers, but it's also the skin's natural moisture barrier, responsible for preventing water loss and dry skin. There are cleansers for every skin type on the market, and the trick is to find the one that works best for your skin's needs. We'll explore how to choose the right one for your skin on the next page.