Sensitive vs Sensitised Skin

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Sensitised skin is the wolf in sheep’s clothing in the skin care world; it pretends to be something it is not. The hard part of distinguishing between sensitive and sensitised skin is that they have similar symptoms and appearances.

Both conditions can cause the client to experience dehydration, burning, itching, swelling, uneven texture, facial redness, rashes, breakouts, and discomfort. Knowing that a client is merely temporarily sensitised allows you as the consultant to stop, slow down, and repair the broken-down barrier in order to return the client’s skin to its normal, functioning state.

Once this reversal occurs and this condition resolves, the professional can determine their client’s true skin type and create a customised treatment plan.

Sensitive skin goes much deeper than skin that simply reacts to products and treatments. This skin type has a true genetic makeup and those who have sensitive skin tend to come from a long line of family members that also have sensitive skin.

Clients with this skin type also tend to suffer from non-related skin sensitivities such as allergies, asthma, and flushing or blushing of the skin. They are typically also accustomed to experiencing other forms of skin rashes on the body such as eczema, rosacea, and other forms of dermatitis.

Sensitive skin types tend to have less pigment in their skin and a thinner epidermis, thus causing them to have less of a protective barrier for the skin, which opens it up to factors that lead to impaired barrier function.

Sensitive skin is not something that can ever truly be fixed as it is genetic. Fortunately, it can be helped.

Sensitised skin, on the other hand, has a weakened barrier because of internal and external factors from one’s immediate environment and habits that have caused the barrier to become temporarily impaired over time.

Sensitised skin tends to look lustreless, blotchy, dry, and visibly irritated. It also typically suffers from either an overproduction of oil or a lack of thereof. The skin also develops an assortment of dermatitis reactions that can be managed once the trigger(s) are determined.

Typically, sensitised skin can be contributed to one or more of the following internal and external factors: internal and external pro-inflammatory aggressors, overuse of chemical and manual exfoliants, changes in medication use, alcohol consumption, dehydration, poor diet, inadequate water intake, overexposure to the sun and extreme weather conditions, stress and use of the improper products for the skin.

It is the consultant’s responsibility to ask both lifestyle- and beauty-related questions to determine what might be causing changes in the client’s skin that is leading to sensitisation.

Fifty percent of the population believe they have sensitive skin, yet the majority of them are really experiencing sensitised skin due the increase of pollution, lifestyle, diet, medications, over-exfoliation, incorrect product use, and excess sun exposure.

The easiest way to conclude whether a client has sensitised or sensitive skin is to ask numerous questions during the consultation.

How do I know if I have sensitive or sensitised skin?

Symptoms of sensitive skin:

  • Red and/ or dry patches, a dry skin type or chapped skin
  • Certain foods make you flush – alcohol, coffee or spicy foods
  • Tight, itchy or burning skin
  • Tendency to sunburn easily
  • Easily irritated by soaps, laundry detergent, perfume etc.

Symptoms of sensitised skin:

  • Dehydration
  • Acne
  • Rashy appearance to skin, small bumps that aren’t quite acne
  • Redness and broken capillaries
  • A “sunburn” sensation
  • Tightness after washing face
  • Weather or traveling can trigger sensitised skin