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How To Know If You Have Sensitive Skin

Clueless about the skin issues you've been facing? Help is on the way!

Living through a pandemic has turned us into very observant people, most especially when it comes to how we look. Staring at yourself during virtual calls or spending extra long sessions for skincare has gotten us to somehow memorize what's wrong with our skin, and sometimes, it isn't entirely healthy. But while being informed is good, we're also encouraged to be educated about our skin, so we know how to treat it right. 


Among the many things we notice in our faces, a common issue is skin sensitivity. Do you often wonder if your skin issues can actually be classified as sensitivity? Is acne under this category too? Does your skin act up after using a certain type of skincare ingredient? The dilemma goes on and on, but thankfully, we got in touch with Dr. Sheila Chua, MD, FPDS, a professional dermatologist and Head of Medical Affairs for Japan & Asia Pacific Region at Galderma, to enlighten us on the topic of skin sensitivity. Just like you, we've been eager to find answers. Keep scrolling to learn more!


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Metro.Style: What constitutes sensitive skin? What are the telltale signs/symptoms?

Dr. Sheila Chua: Sensitive skin is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is defined by the occurrence of unpleasant skin sensations in response to stimuli that normally should not provoke such sensations. It is sometimes refer to as having a reactive or irritable skin and affect not only the skin on our face but may occur on other areas of our body. Sensitive skin is said to be associated with a multitude of other skin conditions such as eczema, acne, rosacea, contact dermatitis or can occur just on its own.


Individuals with sensitive skin commonly complain of skin dryness, roughness, tightness, itching, erythema or skin redness and experiences tingling, burning and/or pricking skin sensations. Sensitive skin is caused by multiple factors such as environment, lifestyle related or endogenous. Individual with sensitive skin is said to have impaired skin barrier function that causes skin to ineffectively maintain moisture and causes the skin to be more susceptible to irritation.

MS:  Is acne-prone skin considered sensitive skin?

DSC: Acne and sensitive skin are often closely associated due to the involvement of an impaired skin barrier in both conditions. This can be further aggravated by certain skin care practices like intensive or excessive washing and acne treatments. Commonly prescribed and over-the-counter acne medications may contain substances that can make the skin more sensitive and easily irritated. Therefore, careful selection of skin care regimen tailored fit and is well tolerated by acne patients with sensitive skin is highly recommended.

MS: What are the common irritants found in beauty products?

DSC: Cosmetics products such as soaps, cleansers, moisturizers, hair products, makeups are identified as one of the causes of sensitive skin, especially among women, due to overuse and sometime inappropriate use. Sensitive skin symptoms may occur minutes to hours after contact with cosmetics or even after several episodes of use triggering the conduction by cumulative effect.


Many cosmetic formulations that contain alcohol, propylene/butylene glycol, trichloroacetic acid, alpha hydroxy acids, fragrances, benzoic acid, cinnamic acid, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which, depending on their concentration, have a greater or lesser irritant effect and can aggravate sensitive skin. Therefore, it is best to use products with simple formulas containing very few ingredients to avoid irritation as much as possible and select products that help maintain balance skin pH, restore skin barrier function, provide adequate skin hydration and reduce skin reactivity.


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MS: Does weather play a role in skin sensitivity?

DSC: Sensitive skin has also been reported to result from environmental conditions due to its influence on our skin barrier function and hydration. These include changes in climate, humidity, exposure to dry air, hot and cold weather, wind, UV exposure, and even use of air conditioning. It is known that the decrease in temperature and humidity levels that typically occur in cold environments reduce the water content of the skin and favor the expression of sensitive skin symptoms.


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MS: How can one's diet and lifestyle play a role in improving these symptoms?

DSC: Diet and lifestyle undoubtedly have an impact on the perception of having sensitive skin. Consumption of food rich in spices, alcohol, coffee and smoking have been found to be related to having sensitive skin.


Good skin care practices and healthy lifestyle choices that promote skin health can help delay aging and prevent various skin problem including sensitive skin. These include protecting your skin from sun using sunscreen, seeking shade, and wearing protective clothing. Treating your skin gently by choosing the right products that are tailor fit for sensitive skin and keeping your skin hydrated by regular use of moisturizers. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and taking steps to manage your stress such as setting reasonable limits and making time to do the things you enjoy. 


Special thanks to Cetaphil Philippines