Some patients tell me they have sensitive skin. How do you determine if your skin is sensitive and if it is, what should you look out for?
A lot of people have the misconception that they have sensitive skin if their face turns red under hot weather. It is a natural response for the skin to react to temperature changes as our blood vessels in our skin dilate and constrict when the external environment changes. If you are not wearing sunscreen, the skin may also turn red after a sun burn. Your skin is not sensitive when that happens.
However if your skin turns itchy or starts to develop rashes or starts to peel easily, that would be unusual. You may suspect a certain new product or a new environment has triggered off this "sensitive skin" phenomena. Something unknown to you may have irritated your skin.
Irritants in skin care products may cause this reaction in the many ways. Some ingredients, if present in different concentrations may give the skin different results. For example, glycolic acid at 10% may give you glowing skin and works wonders for you. But glycolic 20% might be too harsh for you so much so that you find yourself scratching your skin.
The other situation occurs when they leave on the product for longer than otherwise stipulated; this happens most often when they apply a facial sheet mask and they fall asleep in it. As a result, the sheet dries up and prolonged contact causes the irritation. Where possible, it is always advisable to follow the instructions on the usage of products.
In a similar vein, the same product which has worked for you 3 years back may not work for you now because our skin has changed. Ageing, hormones and the environment plays different roles in altering our skin. Our skincare needs has to "move with the times".
So what should you do if you suspect you have sensitive skin?
Here are some simple tips.
1. Ask for samples before you commit to a full size product.
2. Do not apply the new product to the whole face at once. Test a small area such as behind your ear or along the jawline as per instructions.
3. Have some medications (such as anti-histamine) on standby. You can get some immediate itch relief if you do break out in rashes.
4. Try not to test new products on weekends when most clinics are closed. However, if your reaction is really bad, you should visit a doctor at the emergency department.
5. Try one new product at a time. That way you will most likely be able to pinpoint which is the culprit for your rashes.
6. When you see the doctor, bring the products with ingredients label on it. Or snap a photo of it on your handphone.
Last but not least, do not throw away that product if you suspect is causing your rashes. The same product that irritates your face may cause no problem to other areas such as your hands and feet; however you should still test out a small area on the skin to make sure it works alright for you. Hope that helps.
Image credits: © Olga Ekaterincheva | Dreamstime.com