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A true sensitive skin condition is caused by a genetic predisposition. This is found in those who have very fair skin and are usually of Northern European decent. Someone with truly sensitive skin is highly prone to blushing and may experience bad hay fever, allergies or asthma.
Sensitised skin can effect any person of any racial background or skin colour. Symptoms for sensitive and sensitised skin do have a lot in common (itching, burning, redness, flushing and stinging), but in many cases sensitised skin cannot been seen with the naked eye as it resides much deeper.
Factors which cause sensitised skin
Exposure to the sun causes water to evaporate from the skin , making it more prone to sensitivity. Summer activities, such as swimming, can also contribute to dryness, as chlorine in pools and salt in ocean water causes skin irritation.
On average our skin is exposed to an estimated 6 million different chemicals and roughly 2800 of these have sensitising properties.
Cold Weather and Low Humidity
Cold winds and low temperatures can try out skin, depriving it of balanced levels of sebum (oil) that keep skin lubricated . Without these oils, skin becomes dry, and is more prone to sensitivity because of a lack or protective oils .
This includes forced air heating as well. Warm, dry air acts like a giant sponge, soaking up moisture from everything it touches.
Scientists agree that there is a sharp decline in the Stratum corneum lipids as we age. Meaning by the time we reach age 40, our skin will almost certainly be dry and/or dehydrated. Without these protective lipids, skin is left exposed and defenceless against external aggressors, and the chances for reactions to the environment increase.
Certain ingredients in cosmetics can cause irritation and exacerbate skin sensitivity. More importantly, these ingredients can be found in skin care ingredients that claim to help treat sensitised skin. Some ingredients that can sensitise skin include fragrances, D and C colours, preservatives and Lanolin.
Nutritionists say that those surviving on a litany of diet sodas and fat free fad items are missing out on vital, skin friendly essential fatty acids (EFA) and fat soluble vitamins. (Don't forget that fat-free food items often substitute sugar with artificial sweeteners that can cause skin sensitivity.)
An EFA deficiency can result in skin problems such as chronic itching, dryness, scaling and thinning.
Smoking can also have a drying effect on skin, as smoking inhibits the body's ability to provide oxygen and nutrients to the skin. Excess intake of alcoholic beverages and certain medication (such as nasal decongestants) can also contribute to dry skin.
The loss of existing sebum is commonly caused by excessive bathing or showering, scrubbing, or the harsh use of soaps that dissolve the protective layer of sebum. In addition, shaving without a protective medium or using dull razors can also weaken the skin's barrier function, leaving it exposed to environmental assaults.
An effective sensitised skin treatment will include gentle cleansing, soothing and anti-inflammatory-based products. The less is more rule should be followed during any at home regimen.