Do I have sensitive skin?

Why do I have “sensitive skin”? This is a very common question in our dermatology practices. The patient comes to us upset and worried because in the last few months they notice that their skin has changed. Often the skin becomes red, there are welts or pimples and above all they feel a very uncomfortable sensation of dryness or tightness. This situation may be continuous or appear occasionally with certain frequency associated or not with different circumstances such as stress, pollution, climate change or the use of certain cosmetics.

Based on daily dermatological consultations, we could say that sensitive skin is a problem that has increased in recent years. But what is sensitive skin? and why does it happen?

Sensitive skin is not a skin disease per se but a symptom of different skin problems. Therefore, its causes are diverse.

There are four types of sensitive skin:

1. Sensitive skin prone to couperosis: this is skin prone to vascular dilatation (“little red veins”), episodes of Flushing (sudden transient reddening) and red papules (swollen red bumps). In these cases, sensitive skin is aggravated by sun exposure, high temperatures, alcohol consumption or spicy foods.

2. Sensitive skin associated with Seborrheic Dermatitis: there is an almost imperceptible desquamation and redness with a predilection for the perioral region, eyebrow area and hairline. Sometimes similar alterations are also observed in the scalp, producing “dandruff” or in the external auditory canal, favoring the appearance of “ear plugs”.

3. Sensitive skin on dry skin or atopic dermatitis: a peeling different from the previous one appears. To the touch the skin is “scratchy” and often red, especially on the lips, cheeks and forehead. In these cases, any moisturizer applied seems insufficient.

4. Sensitive skin related to the use of cosmetics: this is called irritant or allergic contact dermatitis. The cause of the problem is the use of cosmetics that cause irritation or allergy to certain people.

Facial atopic dermatitis
Facial atopic dermatitis

How do you care for sensitive skin?

This depends on the type of sensitive skin we are talking about. In order to recognize it, it is necessary to visit a dermatologist for an individualized analysis of our skin based on the clinical history and physical examination. In this way, the dermatologist will be able to advise on the specific care and treatment needed.

If in doubt, prior to the visit to the dermatologist, it is recommended to use cosmetics that do not contain active ingredients for treatment, fragrances, preservatives or colorants. Fortunately, today we can find them without much difficulty.

Dr. Virginia Sánchez García