Hypersensitive Skin: What Are the Factors?
Do you think you have hypersensitive skin? Most people know this is their skin type without a diagnosis from a dermatologist because of their experience dealing with various physical skin symptoms throughout their life.
Hypersensitive skin, also called susceptible skin, can be reactant to just about anything, and those who experience allergic-like reactions or irritations need to know how to avoid a multitude of factors.
If you are unsure whether you have hypersensitive skin and want to know how to avoid skin flare-ups, keep reading to know more about this skin type and what can cause it to react.
Do You Have Hypersensitive Skin?
Hypersensitive skin does not necessarily indicate an allergy, but generally, those with a specific skin experience hypersensitive skin. If you aren’t sure which you are experiencing, it’s best to consult a dermatologist.
Hypersensitive skin is common and can also be developed depending on other skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema, or psoriasis. It is a common, reactive skin type ranging from the harshness that is typically tolerated by other skin types.
Typically, around 70% of women and 60% of men experience hypersensitive skin.
Reactions are typically always visible and are accompanied by negative sensations on the skin when it is exposed to internal or external forces. Reactions can be mild to extreme, depending on the individual.
There are three levels that hypersensitive skin types experience when having skin reactions. The first level indicates a damaged skin barrier, the second is reactive sensory fibers in the epidermis, and the third is redness.
A damaged skin barrier makes it difficult for the skin to replenish water and makes it more susceptible to looking red, uncomfortable, and irritated.
After using a new product or being in harsh weather conditions, your skin can develop strong reactions and affect the appearance of the skin. Signs and symptoms could be:
The reactive sensory fibers are more common in hypersensitive skin types and are more susceptible to redness and swelling. They can trigger uncomfortable skin sensations like stinging, burning, and tightness.
If you have this skin condition, eczema, it may be a cause of your hypersensitive skin. This skin condition makes your skin appear inflamed and irritated.
Most people outgrow this skin condition, and only 3% of adults have this condition. Although there is no cure, it can be managed by steering clear of allergens and triggers.
Flare-ups of eczema tend to bounce around areas of the body and typically look different on everyone. One commonality that most people share with this condition is that the skin affected by eczema is itchy.
Other symptoms of this skin condition are red, patchy, leathery, rough, and cracked skin. In adult eczema, the patches form in specific areas such as:
- Back of the knees
Eczema triggers are not the same for every individual but are usually things like rough fabrics, extreme temperatures, certain household products like detergents, animal dander, stress, and sweat.
If you have hypersensitive skin and think you may also have eczema, talk to your dermatologist about treatment methods and possible allergens. Treatment usually involves targeting itching to prevent infection from scratching.
A common indicator of rosacea is the redness of the cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead. Bumps that resemble acne blemishes also are a sign of this skin condition. Some people experience broken blood vessels beneath the skin that thicken and become swollen.
Some of the most common symptoms of rosacea are:
- Stinging and burning skin
- Rough and dry skin patches
- Swollen nose
- Large pores
- Broken blood vessels in the eyes
- Bumps on your eyelids
- Problems with vision
Rosacea symptoms are finicky and can come and go. These symptoms are severe and require the care of a dermatologist for treatment, so symptoms don’t become worse. This skin condition is often genetic but can also be caused by a blood vessel issue in the face, mites, and bacteria.
Common triggers for rosacea are sunlight, extreme temperatures, wind, stress, hot water, certain goods, alcohol, and exercise.
This skin condition is caused by an over-active, deficient immune system that causes redness and swelling in the body.
The visible signs of psoriasis look like scaly, rough patches all over the body. This occurs because the overactive immune system is regenerating skin cell growth that normally sheds within a month.
However, with this skin condition, it only takes about four days, and instead of shedding, the skin cells pile up on top of one another. These patches may burn, sting or itch.
Psoriasis may be genetic and is not contagious. Triggers can often be different from person to person, but stress, weather, injury, food, and possibly environmental factors can cause a flare-up.
This skin condition requires journaling to keep track of possible irritants and triggers for your skin.
What Could Cause Hypersensitive Skin?
A damaged skin barrier is a common denominator in all individuals with this skin type. This means that the skin can be permeated by external irritants more easily than other skin types.
A weaker skin barrier is a common attribute, like the overproduction of oil is a common attribute for oily skin types.
Over-exfoliation is a common reason why skin becomes more sensitive over time and ultimately becomes hypersensitive. This happens when you buff away too close to the new skin cells underneath and leave them unprotected.
Hypersensitive skin usually reacts negatively in harsh weather conditions and other aggregators.
Exposing skin to wind, cold and extreme heat could cause the skin to flare up. Living in a highly polluted area or being exposed to heavy pollution could cause the skin to react.
Other factors include:
- Sun exposure
- Extreme temperature changes
- Cosmetics and beauty products
- Foods and Spices
Having an overactive skin immune system is another reason why those with a hypersensitive skin type have a hard time finding cosmetic or beauty products that work well with their skin.
This attribute of hypersensitive skin keeps the skin’s immune system on alert at all times, perhaps being too alert, and targets any foreign substance on the skin. A good way to remedy this is to opt for products that are labeled “hypoallergenic.”
Good bacteria are necessary for skin health. Those with a hypersensitive skin type lack a healthy skin microbiome. This can be affected by using harsh products, stripping skin, and living in a polluted environment.
Environmental Factors and Hypersensitive Skin
Pollution can affect hypersensitive skin types, especially in urban environments, because pollutants increase every year. Most people don’t recognize that they are being affected by pollutants, so it's best to keep a journal and track when your reactions occur. Chemicals and hormones also exacerbate hypersensitive skin.
Fabrics, dyes, and fragrances that are associated with clothing can trigger skin irritations.
Hypersensitive Skin Versus Sensitive Skin
There isn’t an official definition of this skin type, and it is solely determined by the scale of sensitivity you experience.
Hypersensitive skin requires being more alert and selective with your skincare. Managing hypersensitive skin can be a chore, but figuring out what keeps your skin happy will ultimately make it more enjoyable to experience things like skincare, foods, or your environment.
When living with this skin type, try to cut down on the number of products you use and make sure the products you use have simple ingredients. This will minimize reactions and keep you from suffering from unknown triggers.
Avoid fragrance in products entirely, as they commonly aggravate sensitive skin types.
When looking for products that repair the skin barrier, consider ingredients like ceramides, fatty acids, and squalene. Since hydration starts from the inside, remember to hydrate effectively to keep your skin looking plump and moisturized.
Although this may not be obvious, food can cause hypersensitive flare-ups in the skin as well. If you are experiencing redness and swelling in the skin and can’t find the source, make a list of things that you consume daily and see if you can find a connection.
Hypersensitive labels may be best for hypersensitive skin types, but you always want to be sure then to fight an angry flare-up. Make sure you introduce only one new product at a time and keep a week in between products. This also helps when you’re journaling your skincare triggers.
Keep in mind that some products also don’t mix well with others and may need to be put aside until you determine the new product is okay for your skin type.
A patch test is perfect if you don’t want to risk an allergic reaction all over your face or body. A good place to use a new product is in an unnoticeable part of the body, such as the inside of your arm.
Take a small amount of the product, about the size of the tip of your index finger, and rub it into the region you designated as a test zone. Wait 24 hours to see if you have any redness or discomfort in that area.
Keep in mind that the facial skin is more sensitive than the arm or leg, so before lathering your entire face with the product after the initial patch test, take it a step further and try this tactic again on an unseen region of your face like the top of your scalp.
If your skin does not react, then your skin welcomes this new product!
How To Treat a Reaction
There are no treatments or cures for hypersensitive skin. The best way you can treat a reaction is to avoid what caused the reaction in the first place.
Discovering all the factors that could result in skin redness and swelling is the first action plan to get back to calm, balanced skin. Having a skin journal can help you keep track of your skin’s reaction to a product or environmental factor.
Luckily, many products are formulated with hypersensitive skin in mind. If you are suffering from reactions, try products that are labeled “hypoallergenic,” “pH balanced,” and “gentle.”
There is a lot of trial and error associated with finding your skin’s proper balance and the ingredients and conditions it does well in. If reactions worsen, see a dermatologist for guidance.
Quick Tips To Maintain Skin Health
A few tips could be the difference between angry, inflamed, uncomfortable skin and healthy, balanced, happy skin. Try these methods for this skin type:
- Wash your skin sparingly, once or twice a day, depending on how tolerant your skin is
- Stay hydrated and apply moisturizer twice a day to keep skin looking supple
- Don’t smoke or drink as it could lead to flare-ups
- Keep a food diary and avoid foods that trigger skin reactions
- Learn stress management techniques
- Use sunscreen, hats, and other layers to protect skin from extreme weather conditions
- Choose cosmetics and skin care products carefully.
Your Skin Thanks You
There is no universal definition of hypersensitive skin, and if you’ve ever thought to yourself, my skin is irritated by everything, you may have this skin type.
With a few routine and lifestyle changes, you can start your journey towards more calm, comfortable, and happy skin. Paying attention to possible triggers is half the battle.
Journaling is an excellent way to keep track of things that make your skin angry or feel alright. Things you can journal about can range from the products you use to the environment you’re in and food.
Skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea all coincide with hypersensitive skin.
Look for products made especially for your skin type because they are formulated to work with a hyperactive skin immune system and to restore your skin barrier.
Ceramides also aid in repairing your skin barrier. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if a product has simple, few ingredients, your skin is most likely to be okay with it.
Usually, hypersensitive skin can be treated at home, but always go to a professional if your at-home treatments exacerbate your skin.
Consult your dermatologist for treatment options if you think that you may have these in conjunction with this skin type. Your skin thanks you for paying special attention to its wants and needs.
For more skin care tips for beautiful and healthy skin, check out our blog for more tips and guides.
Anti-inflammatory Diets | NCBI
What Is Sensitive Skin? A Systematic Literature Review of Objective Measurements | Karger
Introduction to Hypersensitivity and Inflammatory Skin Disorders - Skin Disorders | Merck Manual
Psoriasis: Causes, Triggers and Treatments | PSORIASISThe Prevalence of Sensitive Skin | NCBI