How can I tell if I have sensitive or intolerant skin?
Sensitive and intolerant skin reacts more than normal skin; it is hyper-reactive. It is subject to prickling, heating, stinging and itching (more rarely), often in an intermittent way.
Sometimes combined with redness, these feelings of discomfort are exaggerated in reaction to various kinds of stimuli that normally do not trigger irritation.
These triggering factors can be:
. Physical: UV radiation, hot or cold weather, wind, temperature variations, friction, etc.
. Chemical: cosmetics, soap, water, shaving for men, etc.
. Psychological: stress, emotions, etc.
. Hormonal: menstrual cycle, etc. Internal factors: spicy food, etc.
Sensitive and intolerant skin therefore reacts to stimuli that have no effect on other skin types. This hyper-sensitivity of the skin is the result of a lowered tolerance threshold. The more sensitive the skin, the lower its tolerance threshold. For sensitive skin, reactivity manifests itself temporarily, at certain times. Intolerant skin is constantly or nearly constantly reacting and always has nearly zero tolerance.
What causes skin sensitivity?
Two main factors are responsible for this decrease in the tolerance threshold and therefore this heightened sensitivity.
First of all, the barrier function of the epidermis in sensitive and intolerant skin is impaired. This phenomenon promotes skin dehydration and the penetration of potential irritants.
It also seems that sensitive skin secretes too many pro-inflammatory cytokines (substances secreted by skin cells) and certain neuromediators through its superficial nerve endings. These abnormal secretions then cause the unpleasant sensations felt by affected subjects. Sensitive and intolerant skin also produces too many free radicals.
Who is affected?
This sensitive skin phenomenon is frequent as it is said to affect a third of the adult population. Women (60%) are more often affected than males (40%). Due to family and genetics, some people’s skin is more sensitive than others, especially fair skin. But skin colour does not determine sensitivity. The frequency of this condition generally decreases with age.
Sensitive skin may or may not be combined with clinical signs of a facial condition such as rosacea, eczema or seborrhoeic dermatitis.
Not taking precautions against traditional triggering factors can cause the phenomenon to appear and worsen.
Having sensitive skin is not without psychological repercussions, because it means that simple things in life can be disrupted by these reactions. It is also more complicated to treat dermatological problems because local treatments are generally poorly tolerated.