A: People who have “sensitive skin” are more likely to experience rashes or itching with the use of skin care products, cosmetics and soaps.
Sensitive skin means that the skin’s barrier is compromised, allowing irritating chemicals to more easily penetrate into the skin and cause reactions.
You may have “sensitive” skin if:
1. You have or have ever been told you have atopic dermatitis (AD) (“eczema”). Essentially all sufferers of AD have “sensitive skin”, even when their rash is in remission.
2. You have or have ever had respiratory allergies, like asthma or hay fever (“allergic rhinitis”). Many people with respiratory allergies have sensitive skin, even if they have never had outbreaks of atopic dermatitis.
3. Your hands are very sensitive to soaps and detergents, the skin easily becoming dry, red and even cracked.
4. Your skin is generally very dry and often itchy, especially in the winter.
5. You are 65 years or older. Beginning at age 50, skin becomes less effective in repairing its barrier after routine injuries (like those from over-bathing). As this age-related decline in function progresses, people may notice their skin is drier, more itchy – and more “sensitive”
6. If you have found that many lotions, cosmetics and other skin care products irritate your skin.
7. If you have red hair or are very pale and sun-sensitive. Because melanin pigmentation is protective to the skin barrier, people who have less melanin or the “wrong” kind of melanin (“pheomelanin”) are at greater risk for sensitive skin issues.
8. If you are taking a statin because of high cholesterol in your blood. Statins interfere with the body’s ability to manufacture cholesterol. Skin uses cholesterol to form its barrier. It makes its own cholesterol for this purpose, rather than use the cholesterol in blood. Indeed, we demonstrated many years ago that statins can interfere with the ability of skin to manufacture cholesterol. Although not all statins seem to be a problem for skin when taken by most patients – largely because statins exert their effect on the liver and little of the drug reaches the general circulation – in some people, sufficient quantities may reach the skin to produce dermatitis.