Recent reports reveal that over 50 percent of women in North America feel they have sensitive skin. My book “Simple Skin Beauty,” was written for this reason. My patients were complaining of new rashes on their faces that were extremely distressing. At the same time, cosmeceutical, anti-aging product sales were sky-rocketing.
As we hit winter, when the humidity drops and the winds whip our cheeks, sensitive skin worsens. If you have sensitive skin, see your dermatologist to learn your diagnosis and how to protect and enhance your skin this season.
When patients come to see me with sensitive skin, the first thing I ask is what products do you use in your daily routine. Often they have a sack full of creams for me to analyze.
The second question I ask is how many times a day they wash their face. I’m not a big fan of detergents stripping the healthy oils from the face.
My third question is if any of their products sting. Pain is not a good quality of daily creams.
As we are speaking, I am looking at their skin — are they fair complected, do they have dry or oily skin or both, do they have acne or rosacea, is there a pattern of their rash? So much in dermatology is pattern recognition. For example, eyelid rashes are almost always due to an allergic reaction to something like nail polish. Rashy skin around the nose and the nasolabial folds is likely to also effect the scalp called seborrheic dermatitis. The following is a list of some common causes of rashy skin:
Things that commonly make people sensitive:
• Change in weather: Colder weather wrecks havoc on skin due to lower humidity.
• Travel: Unless you go to the tropics where skin is happiest due to high humidity, the sun damage hits later.
• Stress: Causes rashes — seborrheic dermatitis-eyebrows, scalp, nasolabial folds get red and flakey with dandruff; rosacea flares and acne flares.
• Lack of sleep: Not enough time to repair the skin barrier.
• Poor diet: Drinking too much alcohol dehydrates the body, not enough balanced diet leads to many skin issues.
Questions to consider:
Does your eyelid skin get irritated after you get your nails done? Allergic reaction to a component in nail polish is the No. 1 cause of eyelid dermatitis.
Does your eyelid skin get irritated when you get your hair highlighted or colored — especially dark colors? Black dye is the No. 1 cause of allergic reaction in hair dyes.
Do you notice your skin reacts to your jewelry? Nickel allergy is the No. 1 cause of skin reaction overall. It is mixed as an alloy into metals — so less pure jewelry or backs of earring, clasps on necklaces, backs of watches, belt buckles, snaps on pants or skirts — all cause reactions and then the entire skin, including the face, becomes more sensitive and rashy.
Does your face flush when you wear perfume? Fragrance allergy causes flushing as well as sensitive skin.
My top ingredients I look for in creams for sensitive skin are: glycerin, ceramide, soy or oat, chamomile or cucumber, myristyl nicotinate, dimethicone (silky feeling) or mica (illuminator, makes skin glow).
Products to look for: StriVectin sensitive skin cream (coming in Jan. 2011), Aveeno Positively Radiant, Terralina creamy exfoliator, Nia 24 mineral sunscreen, Chanel SPF 50 lotion (light like a serum), Purpose face wash.
You don’t have to suffer with sensitive skin. Just ask your dermatologist to help you simplify your routine and jump start you on the right ways to protect and enhance your skin this winter and during every season.
For additional information or to schedule an appointment call the Dermatology FPA of the Mount Sinai Medical Center at (212) 241-9728 and ask for Dr. Ellen S. Marmur, Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology; Chief, Division of Dermatologic & Cosmetic Surgery; Fellowship Director, Procedural Dermatology; Fellowship Co-Director, Cosmetic Dermatology.