Is Your Skin Sensitive or Sensitized? Here’s How To Know and How To Deal


I’ve always had skin that can fall into the sensitive category. I’ve tried to be gentle and be mindful of the products I use, but sometimes I have trouble knowing what my skin really needs at any given moment.

To help me figure out how to decipher my skin better, I chatted with Dr. Kavita Mariwalla and Dr. Dendy Engelman about skin sensitivity. Not only did they clear up some common misconceptions about “sensitive skin,” but they also shared tips on how to take care of your skin when it’s sensitized or truly sensitive.

Is Your Skin Sensitive or Sensitized? Here’s How To Know and How To Deal: a blog around skin sensitivity and how you can improve your skin routine.

Is Your Skin Sensitive or Sensitized? Here’s How To Know and How To Deal: a blog around skin sensitivity and how you can improve your skin routine.

Skin sensitivity is something that affects so many of us, but it can be tricky to know what type of skin sensitivity you have and how to treat it. I deal with a form of sensitive skin every now and then when I am stressed out or hormonal. The best way to describe my version of sensitive skin is irritated and red (sometimes hot to the touch). My eyes get puffy, my cheeks get flushed and acne shows up on the worst days. It’s awful, but I’ve learned over the years that there are some things I do that just make it way worse.

Today, we are going to talk about the difference between sensitive skin and sensitized skin and what you can do about each.

If you are confused about the difference between sensitive skin and sensitized skin, you’re not alone. Many people with sensitivities (either on their skin or in their gut) have a hard time deciphering what is going on with their body and often don’t know where to start when it comes to improving the health of their skin.

Here’s what you need to know:

Skin sensitivity is a genetic trait that many of us are born with. If your parent has sensitive skin, there is a good chance that you will too. Your skin may feel tight or itchy after cleansing and may also be prone to redness. Some people with sensitive skin may also experience itching or stinging when using certain products, but this is not always the case. Often, those with sensitive skin can use products without any issues, but they never quite feel quite as good—or look as good—when they do.

Sensitized skin typically comes from the outside environment. The biggest cause of this type of sensitivity is damage from free radicals (these are naturally occurring particles in the air that we are exposed to every day that can cause damage to our body and/or our skin). Other causes include sun damage, overexfoliation, and over

The first thing to know about sensitive skin is that it’s not a permanent skin type. Skin sensitivity can be caused by a number of factors, and it’s more of a state your skin can be in versus a skin type. Sensitive skin, also known as sensitive skin syndrome, is triggered by external factors, like lifestyle choices and environmental aggressors, which make your skin more reactive than usual.

But then there’s sensitized skin—a state that happens when your barrier function (the outermost layer of your skin) is compromised. This means that your skin loses water and has trouble retaining moisture. “It’s important to differentiate between sensitivities — which are temporary — and sensitized skin — which is a long-term condition,” says Dr. Hadley King, dermatologist at Skinney Medspa. “Sensitivities are caused by irritants or allergens, which can include everything from pollution to harsh products or fragrances you may use daily.”

“Sensitized skin is the result of damage to the skin barrier — usually from chronic use of irritating products over time,” she explains. “The best way to determine the difference: Sensitivities cause itching, tingling and redness when triggered

What is sensitive skin and what is sensitized skin?

Sensitive skin: this type of skin reacts to external factors, including the weather, certain products, and even your diet. When the skin barrier isn’t functioning properly, the skin can become more sensitive. The most common signs of sensitive skin are redness and irritation. Skin that is sensitive can be dry or oily, but usually it has a thinner texture.

Sensitized skin: this type of skin is caused by using products that irritate the skin or by being exposed to environmental stressors that affect the top layer of the epidermis. This type of sensitization can also be caused by chemical exfoliants in your skincare routine. Signs of sensitization are redness, irritation, itching, acne flare-ups and stinging.

If you’re in the skin care game, then you’ve likely heard of the terms “sensitive skin” and “sensitized skin.” But do you know the difference?

If not, don’t worry. You aren’t alone. Most people use the terms interchangeably when they should be referring to separate conditions. These seemingly minor distinctions can have a major impact on your skin health and what products will help correct them.

To help set the record straight, we’re sharing our guide to sensitive vs sensitized skin and how to treat each condition below.

Sensitive Skin

Sensitive skin is a specific term for individuals who have an increased sensitivity to perceived triggers such as fragrance, acids, or other common ingredients found in beauty products. People with this condition often experience redness, dryness, and/or irritation when using these products. This is due to either intrinsic factors (like genetics) or extrinsic factors (like environmental stressors). Unfortunately, there is no cure for sensitive skin because it is a pre-existing condition that does not change over time.

But before you get bummed out about this diagnosis, hear us out. While sensitive skin cannot be cured, there are

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of talk about “sensitive skin” but in reality, the term is a bit vague and ambiguous. To be clear, there are two types of skin sensitivity: One that is genetic and one that is triggered by something else.

Your skin can be genetically sensitive to certain ingredients, such as retinol (vitamin A) or salicylic acid. This is usually apparent from the very first use, and your skin will tend to become inflamed, itchy, and irritated no matter how much you dilute the ingredient or how many times you use it. If your skin does this, it is best to avoid the ingredient altogether or only use it in trace amounts.

The second type of sensitivity is called sensitized skin. With this type of sensitivity, your skin may have been able to tolerate an ingredient in the past but now cannot handle it as a result of something that happened to your skin barrier. This can include environmental factors such as wind, sunburn, or cold temperatures; chemical stressors like prolonged use of harsh products; or internal factors like hormones or improper diet. The good news: if you have sensitized skin, there are a few simple steps you can take to repair your


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