If there is anything on earth I am thankful for is that I was not born with sensitive skin. Sensitive skin is incredibly temperamental, difficult to manage, and just a general pain in the butt.
Sensitive skin is generally an umbrella term to include those who suffer from skin conditions like rosacea, eczema, and have an allergic sensitivity to common skincare ingredients. Unless you have a skin condition or are allergic to common skincare ingredients (rashes and hives are common) you most likely have dry skin.
There really isn’t a quiz that someone can give themselves if they have sensitive skin. If you can afford it, visiting a dermatologist to get a recommendation for the type of product you can use, ingredients to avoid (the list can be long), and confirm that yes you have sensitive skin. For those who don’t have a skin conditions but think they might have sensitive skin, during the winter months it is common for people with dry skin to experience temporary skin sensitivity due to excessively dry skin, increasing the amount and frequency of moisturizer or switching to a thicker/richer moisturize will help. Also those who over exfoliate can experience skin sensitivity simply because they’ve removed too much skin and the moisture barrier is just shot. There are more products available over the counter than ever that those with skin sensitivity can use.
One ingredient to avoid is propylene glycol and glycerin which may irritate those with sensitive skin. Glycol and glycerin may cause a burning sensation and increase redness. So using a product like Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil may help increase moisture without irritating the skin. Clinque’s Moisture Surge line claims to be approved for sensitive skin types as well; however, the 5th ingredient on their 72 hour Moisture Surge gel is glycerin. So depending on how sensitive your skin is that may be a viable option as well. CeraVe’s Moisturizing Cream is also widely suggested by dermatologists for those with sensitive skin. A problem with CeraVe’s formulation is that it’s heavy, very heavy. They use lots of emollients and the second ingredient is glycerin. Perhaps its the types and concentration of these emollients (like ceramides which are awesome) that allows it to be used by those with sensitive skin. All the published journals I’ve read about sensitive skin types suggest glycerin and propylene glycol can dry the skin causing more irritation. On that note, my dermatologist does NOT like CeraVe at all. I’m not a huge fan either, but then again I don’t have sensitive skin therefore I don’t understand the troubles.
Other ingredients to avoid include: phthalates, parabens, perfumes/fragrance/perfum, sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, bismuth oxychloride, and essential oils. BareMinerals has a newish cleansing oil I can’t use because of the source of their oils which includes essential oils. I actually had an asthma attack in my bathroom over a sink. This isn’t even a complete list of ingredients to avoid, not even close. Unfortunately something that’s approved for sensitive skin and works well for one group of people won’t work for another one. People with sensitive skin have had to find out what works and doesn’t work for them using trial and error and that’s a frustrating process because skincare can change between batches. Sources of ingredients can change drastically (different continents even) as suppliers change looking to maximize profits.
If you’re an exfoliator: and believe you have skin sensitivity its very likely you’ve over exfoliated your skin and need to back off the exfoliation. Individuals with sensitive skin find it very painful and difficult to exfoliate. Even using a Clarisonic brush is too much for some and that thing is pretty gentle with the gentlest brush head.