Sensitive Skin

Merely Me Health Guide
  • Do you ever wish you could tell your skin to buck up and stop being so darn sensitive? I know I have. When you have sensitive skin it seems that anything and everything can cause your skin to react. Just a little sun exposure and my skin turns blotchy and red. My skin is also a mirror to my emotions. A stressful week can cause my face to break out in acne. I have to watch every new product I put on my skin including soaps, lotions, moisturizers, and cosmetics. Most products make my skin tingle, itch, or become so irritated that I can’t think of anything else but washing my face. When I had an eyebrow wax for the first time at the ripe age of 44, I developed a burning irritation hours after the procedure. The technician was both mortified and apologetic but added, “You must have very sensitive skin.” Does any of this sound familiar to you? If so you have been blessed with sensitive skin too. Not to fear, though. There are things you can do to make life a little easier despite your highly reactive skin.

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    Here is a list of tips and suggestions for coping with sensitive skin:


    Write a list of known triggers which cause your skin react in an adverse way.


    Some common triggers for skin reactions are stress, scented products, dyes, lanolin (found in some moisturizers), latex, and neomycin (an ingredient found in antibiotic creams. Also write down the product names of any soaps, lotions, detergents, and topical medications which cause a skin reaction so that you do not forget. When you travel or go visit family it is easy to forget which products are irritating to your skin because you are no longer using them. You may be in for an unpleasant surprise if you use the hotel soap, for example, only to discover it was a brand that made you develop a rash years ago. Writing it all down keeps it in memory and alerts you and your family to help you steer away from these products.



    Be informed about your skin conditions.


    The term “sensitive skin” can mean a lot of different things to different people. My personal definition is skin which is highly reactive to environmental stimuli usually resulting in some sort of inflammation. How our skin reacts differs for each person. Some people get hives. Others develop rashes due to allergies. Some people break out in acne. Still others have eczema or psoriasis. Knowing more about your skin condition can be very helpful in learning how to predict an outbreak and to understand which treatments will be most effective. We have quite an extensive list of articles to read on these skin conditions and more. Here are just a few.

    Eczema Resources


    Get Rid of Your Acne This Year

    Psoriasis Resources


    Seek the guidance of a dermatologist


    Why play guessing games about your skin when you can ask a doctor? A dermatologist is the best person to figure out what is causing your skin to be so sensitive and react the way it does. Just as important, your dermatologist will be able to give you suggestions of how to treat your skin to reduce adverse reactions. The American Academy of Dermatology has a Find a Dermatologist tool
    so that you can find a doctor in your local area.


  • Just because a product is labeled as “natural” or “organic” doesn’t mean it won’t affect your skin.

    There is a myth nowadays that if a manufacturer smacks a label on a product of “all natural” that this will ensure that you will not experience any side effects. This is not true. This goes for supplements and this goes for cosmetic products. For example the natural ingredient, coconut oil, can cause acne for some individuals. A person who is allergic to ragweed may be sensitive to organic ingredients which may be susceptible to cross-contamination such as chamomile. You really do have to be careful of any and all products you use on your skin, organic or not.


    Test any new products on a small area of skin.

    I made the mistake once of using a new self tanning lotion all over my face and neck before testing it first. When I woke up the next day covered in uneven blotches and pimples, I instantly regretted my decision. Don’t trust any new product on your skin until you see what it does first. Use a small amount on a select area of your skin and see if there is any reaction. A common site to test is the inside of your wrist. Leave the product on for 24-48 hours and watch for any signs of inflammation, itching, or other adverse reactions.

    If you have eczema or contact dermatitis you should think about getting an allergy skin test.

    One way to figure out some of your triggers for either eczema or allergy induced contact dermatitis is to get an allergy skin test. One type of skin allergy test is a skin prick test or scratch test. What happens during this test is a small amount of allergen is placed on your skin, usually on your back, and then the skin is pricked so that the allergen enters the skin surface. Multiple allergens can be tested this way. Usually within twenty minutes your doctor can assess any skin reactivity including inflammation and redness. My son had such a test for his eczema symptoms and he was found to have multiple sensitivities especially to certain foods. It was an essential step in figuring out how to control his eczema.

    These are just some of the ways I have managed to cope with my sensitive skin. If you have other tips and suggestions to share we would love to hear them. Please don’t hesitate to participate in discussing your skin care questions and concerns. We are eager to hear from you!

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Published On: March 21, 2011