Sensitive skin is a phenomenon sweeping the skin care industry, reported at 50%–80% of the population depending on what report you read. So, what exactly defines sensitive skin?
Is it fair skin that sunburns easily? Is it skin that gets scaly easily? Is it skin that stays red for a long time after injury? None of these are determining factors for sensitivity.
It is this confusion that leads many to believe they have sensitive skin and purchase products marketed to this population. Sensitive skin from a dermatologist’s perspective. This, too, is controversial, as no medical definition exists. Sensitive skin is not medical term. It’s a marketing term that consumers seem to understand. From a dermatologic standpoint, the three components of sensitive skin, include barrier disruption, immune hyper-reactivity and heightened neurosensory response.
Barrier Disruption, means that something has irritated the skin resulting in redness, flaking and tenderness. Sensitive skin can be a side effect of the overzealous consumer who engages in weekly microdermabrasion, lunchtime face peels and nightly retinoids. All of these procedures and products damage the skin barrier, which produces sensitive skin over time.
Sensitive skin due to eczema (atopic dermatitis) is associated both on a barrier defect and a hyperactive immune system. Rosacea is an example of the third component of sensitive facial skin, which is heightened neurosensory response.