Sensitive About Your Skin? NEW YORK – Does the thought of trying new cosmetic products lead to anxiety about whether or not you’ll have a reaction to the product? Do you scrupulously read ingredient lists trying to determine what it is that continually makes your face red and irritated? Then you may be one of the more than 40 percent of people who consider themselves to have sensitive skin. But what exactly is sensitive skin and how can you determine what it is that makes your skin sensitive? Speaking at Academy, the American Academy of Dermatology’s summer scientific meeting in New York, dermatologist Zoe Diana Draelos, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, spoke about sensitive skin and how to select cosmetic products for this skin type. "There are many unknown factors in the diagnosis of sensitive skin, including, inherited factors, gender, age and race differences in skin sensitivity, but testing can be performed to diagnose and treat sensitive skin," said Dr. Draelos. "What is known is that individuals with sensitive skin seem to have several unique skin attributes that affect their immune system and the skin barriers, making them more susceptible to skin irritation." Dermatologists define sensitive skin as reactions where patients may experience redness, pustules, small or large bumps, and sometimes erosions. These severe reactions are usually one-time occurrences that are related to cosmetic product application that can be avoided. Occasionally a dermatologist may find sensitive skin associated with dermatologic diseases, such as acne, psoriasis, contact dermatitis, or rosacea. More chronic reactions may require the continued medical attention of a dermatologist. However, many individuals consider themselves to have sensitive skin because they experience stinging, burning, redness or tightness immediately following product application or up to several hours or days later. Furthermore, these symptoms may only appear after several applications or after a combination of products have been applied one after another. Approximately 50 percent of patients with sensitive skin demonstrate these uncomfortable symptoms without accompanying visible signs of inflammation. "A visit to a dermatologist is the best way to determine if sensitive skin is related to the use of skin care or cosmetic products, which can be a simple irritation, or if the patient has a true allergy or other condition," said Dr. Draelos. Factors Behind Sensitive Skin Reactions to skin care products depend on the condition of the skin and the immune system. Uninjured skin is an excellent barrier to most substances found in cosmetics and skin care products. If the skin is overly dry or injured, it cannot adequately protect nerve endings and can lead to skin reactions. Some individuals are more prone to sensitive skin, especially those who experience allergic contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis and contact urticaria. Vice versa, they are also prone to sensitive skin because they may have one of the above conditions. Individuals who have altered nerve endings or more neurotransmitters under their skin are more susceptible to minor skin irritants in cosmetics and skin care products. This may explain some of the causes of sensitive skin. "If a patient suspects they have sensitive skin, they should test products prior to using them over the entire face," recommended Dr. Draelos. "New products should first be applied behind the ear for five nights. If no problems arise, the product should then be applied alongside the eye for five nights. Again, if no problems occur, the product may be suitable for total face application." Product Ingredients and Specifications for Sensitive Skin While there are no definite guidelines, sensitive skin products usually contain very few ingredients and little, if any, fragrance. Dr. Draelos also recommends the following guidelines when buying products for sensitive skin: · People with sensitive skin should be careful when examining the preservatives in skin care products. The best preservatives for sensitive skin are those containing parabens, such as methyl paraben and butyl paraben. · Consumers should avoid products that contain botanical or antibacterial ingredients. · Avoid solvents that penetrate the skin including, propylene glycol and ethanol. Instead look for ingredients, such as polyethylene glycol, that does not penetrate the skin. "People with sensitive skin should realize that their skin may react to the sun, wind, heat, or cold, in addition to skin care products. Anything that damages the skin barrier in the environment can predispose them to developing red, itchy skin," stated Dr. Draelos. "The best advice is to visit a dermatologist to get the correct diagnosis and recommendations for healthy living with sensitive skin." The American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of over 13,000 dermatologists worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical, and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin.