When consulting with clients, I am overwhelmed by the number of people who think their skin is sensitive. We all experience some sensitivity at some point in our lives on a short or long-term basis. There are many factors that can contribute to sensitivity such as exposure to certain environmental conditions, hormones, medications, health issues, product ingredients and skin care treatments performed incorrectly.
As we age, the skin becomes thinner, dry and loses elasticity. Skin cells also lose their ability to hold water as we age no matter how much water we drink and the skin becomes vulnerable and sensitive to products. Hydration is a key factor in de-sensitizing the skin. Avoid harsh skin care treatments and aggressive peels. Enzymes are most effective because they add hydration and do not disturb the skin’s pH.
Individuals who suffer with diabetes and lupus are more prone to having sensitive skin due to rashes, nerve damage and lesions. Those who have cancer and undergo chemo and radiation suffer with extreme dry skin, rashes, radiation burns, hair loss and sensitivity to products and fragrances.
Hormonal changes affect men as well as women, but women are more aware of the changes due to the decrease in estrogen and progesterone. Women may also experience adult acne or it may return after a long absence from puberty. With men the change is gradual because they already have testosterone.
Skin can become sensitive due to ingredients that are aggressively overused causing the skin to be reactive and develop into cosmetic intolerance syndrome (CIS). CIS can be caused from the overuse of exfoliants chemical peels and some enzymes. This causes the skin barrier to break down and allow irritating ingredients to penetrate deeper and faster into the skin causing the reaction and sensitivity.
Climate, whether hot, arid or cold can lead to skin sensitivity. For hot and arid clients, clients may be more prone to photosensitivity and sunburn. Medications can also make the skin more sensitive to light (antihistamines, anti-psychotics, antidepressants, antibiotics and cardiovascular medications). Cold weather tends to make the skin red, irritated, dry and cracked due to a lack of moisture in the air. Individuals who work in certain industries may also suffer more with sensitive skin (manufacturing, food preparation, automotive, and forestry).
Campbell, K. (2013). Dermascope, “Give original to your client’s sensitive skin”, p. 40-48.