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Sensitive Skin vs. Sensitized Skin: The difference between them and how to deal with both

Do you struggle with sensitive skin or sensitized skin? Here’s how to soothe the symptoms, from skin dryness to skin inflammation.

Is your skin sensitive or sensitized? The two often get confused for each other. First of all, they’re almost the exact same word, so a mix-up is bound to happen. But they also share a lot of the same symptoms, which can make it hard to understand the difference. 

Both sensitive and sensitized skin can cause dryness, itchiness, and redness. They might make your skin easily irritated or prone to inflammation. But the core difference is what causes each. 

 

What is sensitive skin? 

Sensitive skin is a genetic condition or skin type. It’s typically something you’re born with or that develops naturally over time. For many people, sensitive skin can show up as rosacea, psoriasis, or eczema. For others, sensitive skin might just mean that their skin is easily irritated. 

Iremia’s Founder, Elaine, developed sensitive skin in the form of rosacea a little later in life. She shared her story and how she found a solution for her sensitive skin right here

 

What is sensitized skin?

Sensitized skin occurs when your skin has reacted to a product or an environmental factor, like weather, bacteria, or pollution. Unlike sensitive skin, your skin can become sensitized regardless of your genes. It’s typically caused by your skin barrier becoming weaker over time, due to one or more factors. 

 

How do you deal with sensitive and sensitized skin? 

Whether you have naturally sensitive skin or your skin has been sensitizedby something, there are many steps you can take to calm, restore, and rejuvenate. 

All of these steps help you avoid products, ingredients, environmental factors, or routines that could irritate sensitive skin or cause sensitized skin. 

 

Minimize your routine: 

Sensitive skin prefers quality over quantity. Think about scaling down your skincare routine and refining it to include only gentle ingredients and methods. 

It’s important to keep your skin clear of irritants, so cleanse gently with an oil cleanser, slightly cool water, and a very soft cloth. This way you’re removing dirt, makeup, and debris without further disturbing your skin’s barrier. Be sure to leave your skin damp after washing and before applying your next product. Damp skin is able to receive nutrients more effectively. 

After cleansing, immediately apply 4-6 drops of a balancing, nutrient-dense facial oil. Oils have a higher density of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They also help to seal in moisture, allowing your skin barrier to repair itself and prevent further transepidermal water loss.

 

Steer clear of heat and sun: 

We know, we know — there’s nothing like a sunny summer day. But the heat and sun can have a major impact on your skin. They can cause it to flush and become more susceptible to irritation and damage. If your skin is naturally sensitive, heat and sun can even lead to rashes, spots, and blistering. 

If you have to spend time in the hot sun, wear a high-quality SPF, pop on your favourite hat, drink lots of water, and keep your skin extra hydrated with a cooling facial mist

 

Find ways to relieve stress: 

Stress is a massive trigger for sensitive skin. When you’re stressed, your body releases an abundance of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol causes inflammation, which in turn causes transepidermal water loss and skin barrier dysfunction. This leads to dryness, sensitivity, and redness. 

Stress also slows down your body’s natural healing process, which means your skin won’t be able to repair itself as quickly or effectively as it normally does. 

That’s why it’s so important to reduce your cortisol levels by finding ways to manage your “fight or flight” responses. Deep belly breathing, meditation, and yin yoga are all fantastic ways to relieve stress, keep your skin calm, avoid sensitized skin, and improve your overall wellness 

 

Be cautious and intentional about exfoliating: 

Exfoliation is when you remove dead skin cells from the surface of your skin. There are tons of different ways you can exfoliate, from scrubs and brushes to chemicals like beta hydroxyl and salicylic acid. It helps to remove dry skin, boost blood circulation, and brighten the appearance of your skin. In fact, the right amount of exfoliation can actually help ease certain sensitive skin conditions, like eczema. 

Despite the many benefits of exfoliating, it can also be a sensitive skin disaster. Too much exfoliation can irritate sensitive skin and, over time, cause sensitized skin. 

If you’re not sure how much exfoliation is best for your skin, ease slowly into it. Start with just one exfoliation a week to see how your skin reacts. If there’s no reaction after a month, try twice a week. 

If you already struggle with sensitive skin, don’t exfoliate every day or use harsh chemical peels. Avoid scrubbing too hard and rinse off afterwards with cool or lukewarm water to keep your skin calm. 

 

Avoid irritating ingredients:

The world of skincare is saturated, and that means knowing what ingredients you’re putting on your skin is more important than ever. Be sure to read product labels and avoid ingredients that can further irritate your skin, such as: 

 

  • Sulfates 
  • Petroleum
  • Fragrance
  • Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA)
  • Glycolic Acid
  • Lactic Acid
  • Benzoyl Peroxide
  • Alcohol (or Ethanol)

 

These ingredients all serve a specific purpose, but they can be extremely harsh on your skin, especially if you already struggle with a sensitive skin condition 

Aim for more natural (but powerful) skincare ingredients that are designed to target problem areas while soothing the skin at the same time. If you’re unsure which ingredients might cause your skin to react, always do a patch test first. Apply a small amount of product to your forearm or behind your ear. If you feel burning, itching, or irritation within 5 minutes, you know the ingredients aren’t jiving with your skin. 

 

Be kind to yourself:

This might be the most important tip for dealing with stressed out skin. There are countless factors that contribute to sensitive skin, from genetics to harsh products and everything in between. The symptoms can feel painful, frustrating, and uncomfortable. And it’s easy to feel like it’s somehow your fault

Spoiler: it’s not. Sensitive and sensitized skin are extremely common and treatable. Practice patience, be kind to yourself, and stay positive — you will find the lifestyle changes and products that work best for you. 

At Iremia, our sensitive skincare is made small batch in Canada. Every product is crafted with soothing, natural ingredients that are specially formulated to calm sensitive and sensitized skin. Explore our essentials here and reach out anytime if you have questions. We’re here to help on your sensitive skin journey!