Skin Sensitivities: Allergies vs. Irritants

Be Smart About Sensitive Skin


Your skin makes up about 15 percent of your body weight, so having sensitive skin is no small matter. The exact definition of sensitive skin can be elusive, as a number of factors can often be the cause of skin irritation or fluctuation, including weather, genetics and beauty and household products. If you are one of the millions of Americans who claim to suffer from sensitive skin, know the facts and appropriate products to keep your skin comfortable, healthy and glowing.


Start with the Basics: Allergy vs. Irritant

Just because your skin reacts to something, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re allergic to that substance. It’s important to know the difference between an allergen and an irritant:


·         If you’re allergic to something, your immune system makes antibodies to fight what you’re allergic to, and that is what causes the allergic reaction. In order to be certain of an allergy, speak to your doctor and try a patch test first to gauge your skin’s reaction.


·         Irritants are typically ingredients that cause a reaction on your skin after contact, but do not cause your immune system to react. Skin responses include stinging, burning, itching, redness or tightness.


Skin-Friendly Solutions

Because skin sensitivities vary so much, there aren’t any specific guidelines to follow, but you can look for cosmetics, soaps, cleaning and laundry products that are gentle on your skin. Try to find options that contain few ingredients and have a skin-friendly scent or no fragrance at all. Additionally, look for products that are hypoallergenic as they may be less likely to cause a skin reaction.


Two of the biggest culprits that can bother sensitive skin are makeup and clothing, since they are in such close contact to skin on a daily basis. With your makeup routine, try using blushes, bronzers and foundations that are liquid-based. Ingredients found in makeup that is brushed on, in addition to the act of rough brushing, can often irritate skin. Before applying makeup, remember the importance of using a daily SPF moisturizer – there are several options formulated specifically for sensitive skin.  


Since clothing is constantly touching your skin, choose fabrics and laundry products carefully. Soft and natural fabrics, such as fine cotton and silk, feel best on sensitive skin. Cotton and silk both are absorbent, drawing body moisture away from the skin.

When selecting laundry detergents, many people who claim to have sensitive skin choose a fragrance free version, but that doesn’t have to be the only option. Products to consider include Planet Ultra since there is no frangrance, dyes, enzymes or brighteners; or Arm & Hammer's Sensitive Skin Plus Skin-Friendly Fresh Scent Laundry Detergent, which is hypoallergenic and has been clinically tested.

Taking care of the skin you’re in is important, since our skin helps protect the rest of our body and its functions. Choose products wisely, and when in doubt, be sure to see a dermatologist for successful diagnosis of skin conditions.


(courtesy Family Features)