Is your skin sensitive, or just a little dry? Can sensitive skin be inherited? Dr Ginny answers some of the most frequently asked questions about skin sensitivity.
What defines ‘sensitive skin’?
Dr Ginny: Sensitive skin is usually red, dry or itchy with a burning sensation and may be easily irritated by products.
Are women born with sensitive skin, or is it caused by external factors?
Dr Ginny: A bit of both.
Can sensitive skin be inherited?
Dr Ginny: There are some skin conditions (including eczema, psoriasis, acne and rosacea) that cause sensitive skin. These conditions may be more common in some families. However, in most cases, skin sensitivity is not related to a skin disease and is not inherited.
How can a woman test if she has sensitive skin? Can it be self-diagnosed or should women see a dermatologist to be sure?
Dr Ginny: In many cases, skin sensitivity can be self-diagnosed. Typical signs of redness, stinging, burning or dryness after using some cosmetic products usually signifies sensitivity. If there are lumps, bumps, pus-filled spots, hives or breaks in the skin, then a visit to a dermatologist is recommended, as these may signify an underlying skin disease causing sensitivity. If skin sensitivity seems to be getting worse with time, then see a dermatologist.
Once diagnosed with sensitive skin, can a woman ever not have sensitive skin?
Dr Ginny: Yes, this can happen. Some patients with a skin disease, such as eczema, find that the skin disease gets better with age. Others, with sensitive skin but no skin disease usually find that sensitivity is a long-term issue. Some women find skin more sensitive at different times, e.g. around the menopause. However sensitivity can be controlled to a degree by using products that can protect the skin barrier, such as emollients.
Which ingredients should women with sensitive skin seek out?
Dr Ginny: Ingredients found in products that are usually kind to sensitive skin include petrolatum, glycerin and ceramides. When considering anti-aging ingredients, look out for Niacinamide, which is gentle and effective and has been shown to improve the barrier function of the skin.
Anti-ageing products that include hydroxyl-acids or retinol may be more likely to cause irritation to some sensitive skins and are best avoided.
Are natural and organic products safer for sensitive skin?
Dr Ginny: No, so-called natural and organic products can also cause sensitivity.
Can skin become more sensitive as a woman ages?
Dr Ginny: Yes, this can happen. As we get older, the skin gets thinner and may be more susceptible to irritation and feeling sensitive. Hormone changes, such as around the menopause, can make skin more sensitive, with dry patches and redness or stinging.
Can skin become more sensitive in the winter? If so, what are the main causes?
Dr Ginny: Yes it can. This is mainly as a result of the temperature changes that we put our skin through. For instance, going from cold windy conditions to a warm, centrally heated home or office.
Finally – if in doubt about whether there is a skin disease, such as acne, rosacea, skin allergy or eczema, visit a dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment.
If you found this information useful and would like to make an appointment to see Dr Ginny, simply complete this contact form.
London Bridge Hospital City Clinic, 120 Old Broad Street, London, EC2N 1AR
Nuffield Health Ipswich Hospital, Foxhall Road, Ipswich, IP4 5SW