When a client comes in for a facial I always ask, “So, tell me about your skin? “ And without hesitation the first reply is always the same “I have sensitive skin, so please don’t use anything to irritate it”. My next question is “Tell me what products are you using on your skin?” to have the reply being a long list of products that are filled with known skin irritants.
Even though I will do a thorough skin analysis of your skin, what I look for as a professional and what the client thinks about their skin, are usually very different.
But back to the main question, is your skin sensitive, sensitized or allergic?
Sensitive skin is like your eye color, you are born with it. People with sensitive skin tend to blush
easily, burn easily, and have a fair complexion. They are also people who tend to get red and blotchy for no apparent reason. Most people with sensitive skin are fair haired and fair skin. Think Nicole Kidman or the little red-headed girl that always has a bit of pink on her cheeks.
Sensitized skin is what most people have. Many times this is caused by the environment, (sun, wind,
air-conditioning), over-exfoliation from scrubs and acids in cleansers, medications, aging, wine, or certain foods. Almost every drugstore and department store brand of skincare product has a known skin irritant (fragrances, dyes, preservatives, etc…) in its list of ingredients that causes a reaction. Stop using the product the reaction goes away. Your skin is reacting to something it is near too or has contact with. It is temporary. Think about when you have spicy food or wine and your skin gets flushed. Most people who tell me that they have rosacea actually have sensitized skin. Almost all my clients that tell me that when they used product X the skin did Y. That is sensitized skin.
Allergic skin involves pain and discomfort. Think hives, welts, and rashes. Think of a bee sting, mold, animal dander or pollen. This type of skin triggers the defense system in your body to react usually with pain, itching, swelling or inflammation. This may require an immediate treatment of anti-histamines or a cortisone cream. This also happens fairly immediate. People who have this type of skin tend to suffer from asthma and seasonal allergies, contact dermatitis and just don’t have a strong immune system. I have this type of skin, it is no fun.
All of the above skin types may be oily, combination or dry skin. That only refers to the oil production of the skin, not the “sensitivity” level of the skin.
So next time you go for a facial, let the esthetician know all the products that you use on your skin. Just snap a picture of the product with your cellphone so you have it with you. Most likely if you say that your skin is sensitive, it is really sensitized skin and maybe reacting to an ingredient in your skincare product.
And remember the more information you give to your skin care professional the better she can provide your skin with the treatment it needs.