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Being a sensitive person is generally considered a good thing. But if your skin is sensitive? Not so much.

It turns out, however, that the label sensitive skin” is a complicated one — and there are ways that your body is being triggered that you might not even realize. 

First things first: sensitive skin” is not an official medical term or diagnosis, according to Alan Dattner, MD, a New York-based holistic dermatologist and author of the book Radiant Skin from the Inside Out. Since it’s not a scientific term, it means different things to different people. It’s like saying, I have a problem’ — it doesn’t tell you much,” he says. “[Dermatologists] have much more specific designations, because [the term] sensitive skin’ doesn’t tell you what’s causing it.” 

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Photo courtesy tonl.co

What, then, is behind someone’s dermis drama? There are many different factors,” Dr. Dattner explains. It could be related to the tendency of their immune system to react — what their immune system has been exposed to before. They may have a lack of ability to break down and detox various irritants and chemical sensitizers or allergens. They could have physically thin skin, [where] it doesn’t take much to aggravate or even rip their skin.”

And then of course, it could be caused by what’s in the personal care products a person’s using, from body lotion to laundry detergent. Some of these different things that could be sensitizers are chemicals that could accumulate to a point where it becomes trouble,” the dermatologist notes. Think fragrances or preservatives. And yes, even natural ingredients can cause sensitivities in some people (be it baking soda or essential oils). 

There are certain signs that indicate something’s up, from redness, dryness, or mild breakouts to a rash that’s itchy or painful (or both). If you’re dealing with a flare-up that’s particularly aggravating or one that appears regularly, Dr. Dattner advises consulting with a medical professional to relieve the acute symptoms and determine the root cause. My work as an integrative holistic physician pushes me to find out why [my patient’s] having that sensitivity and what we can do about it,” says Dr. Dattner. We’re always trying to go deeper in helping the individual not have the problem — and not have it again and again.” 

What’s key is being aware of your body and understanding what your normal baseline is, so that you notice when something’s off. It’s also important to become a regular product label reader, so you know what ingredients you’re putting onto your body — and aren’t afraid to find products that work for you, whether or not they’re designated for sensitive skin”. 

Think of it as the you do you” mentality, only instead of treating yourself to something luxurious or dyeing your hair pastel blue, you’re doing what it takes to look and feel your best — no labels necessary. 

Articles from The Natural should not be considered medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please consult a medical professional.