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Sensitive vs Sensitized Skin: How to Tell the Difference

Sensitive vs Sensitized Skin: How to Tell the Difference

It turns out, your so called sensitive skin could actually be sensitized skin.

Sure, they both sound the same, but the causes and treatments are different. For that reason, it's important to identify which skin concern you're dealing with so that you can treat it in the most effective way. 

If you've been dealing with dry, flaky skin constantly, and nothing you do seems to work, it might be time to rebuild your skin barrier because you could be dealing with something known as sensitized skin. Believe it or not, many of us have it. We just don't realize it!

Here, we explain the differences between sensitive and sensitized skin, how to identify which one you have, and how to treat each. 



According to skincare expert, Kate Somerville, "Sensitive skin is naturally reactive skin." She adds, "If your skin flares because of certain foods, pollen and ingredients, it's likely to be sensitive."

Sensitized skin, however, is injured skin. It occurs when you've overstimulated it with lasers, peels, and certain skincare ingredients like retinols and hydroxy acids.

Someone with a sensitive skin type will experience skin irritation and flareups all their lives whereas sensitized skin is treatable with the right care, attention, and products.

"The biggest difference is that sensitive skin is a lifelong condition, usually dictated by genetics, and those who are prone usually have underlying conditions such as asthma and seasonal allergies," explains Shereene Idriss, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "Sensitized skin is skin that has become sensitive over time to certain triggers, either external or internal—such as certain cosmetic ingredients, like fragrance or nickel, [or] even digested foods."



People confuse the two because they can display similar symptoms, but they're actually quite different. 

Sensitive skin typically becomes red, itchy, and dry in response to certain skincare products, allergens, and external factors. Sensitized skin, on the other hand, does not have a specific definition. It can best be described as skin that behaves similarly to sensitive skin types with the cause being related to skin behaviors that can cause sensitivity. Some examples of this may include over-exfoliating, use of retinoids, and certain in-office treatment. 

It's important to remember that sensitive skin can also be a sign of skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, and contact dermatitis. Seek out a board-certified dermatologist if you have skin symptoms in order to get the best treatment. 



It's incredibly easy for people to end up with sensitized skin quite simply because multiple factors can contribute to sensitized skin. 

From fragrances in skincare products to the dye in your clothing, environmental factors like weather and temperature, and overdoing it with exfoliation and acids -- all of these are triggers that can lead to dry, irritated skin. 

Even your daily skincare routine plays a huge role! If you're not using the right cleansers or breakout treatments, your skin can easily succumb to sensitization. 

And since more and more of us are dabbling in new lotions and potions, it's easy to see why sensitized skin is becoming a bigger problem.



Whether it's a product or a procedure, make sure you eliminate the culprit that is causing sensitivity in your skin. To make things easier, visit your dermatologist so that they can pinpoint your culprits and help you on your way to recovery with sensitized skin. 

Alternatively, try these tips for treating sensitized skin.


Give Your Skin a Break

One of the best things you can do for sensitized skin is give it time to heal. And the way to do that? Lay off all the products -- or at least the ones causing you trouble. 

Keep your skincare regimen basic. Cut out exfoliation and avoid anything with an acid, including retinols. Instead, incorporate nourishing products that calm, cool, and hydrate. 


Rebuild Your Skin Barrier

The skin barrier is responsible for your skin's overall wellbeing. If that's not performing well, your skin won't either. Strengthen your skin barrier using antioxidant-rich moisturizers and creams formulated with ceramides. Even natural oils like olive oil, coconut oil, and jojoba oil can be helpful in repairing and strengthening your skin barrier function. That's because they're packed with fatty acids and lipids that nourish and heal the skin.

What's more, they can help diminish dryness, itchiness, and other symptoms of sensitized skin. 


Always Choose Fragrance-Free Formulas

As nice as it is to use sweet-scented cleansers and creams, fragrances can be highly irritating to both sensitive and sensitized skin types. Always check the label to rule out products that contain fragrances. Stick to fragrance-free formulas instead to maintain a chill complexion. 


Wear Sunscreen

Daily SPF application is essential for protecting skin from environmental aggressors that can wreak havoc on your skin. Pair it with a vitamin C serum like our Smooth Face + Body Serum to maximize its effects. 


Steer Clear of Lasers and Peels

As great as professional treatments can be for improving your complexion, you can have too much of a good thing. For instance, lasers and peels in particular can be extremely irritating to all skin types when they're performed too regularly. For the sake of your skin, take some time out from in-office treatments until your skin's fully recovered and back to its healthiest form. 


If you still aren't sure whether you have sensitive skin or sensitized skin, consult a professional dermatologist to confirm, so you can find a treatment tailored to you.

When your skin finally recovers, you can gradually re-introduce exfoliation into your routine, but avoid exfoliating more than once a week. Opt for chemical exfoliants like glycolic acid instead of scrubs, which still tend to be far gentler on the skin. 

Whenever you introduce new products into your routine, always start slow and build your way up so you can allow your skin to adjust and ultimately prevent sensitized skin. 



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