When you look in the mirror, do any of these terms spring to mind: blotchy, patchy, irritated, and red-faced? If so, you're probably one of the millions of women who suffer from sensitive skin, a term used to describe heightened reactions to irritants, often ingredients commonly used in skin-care products. The results can vary from hives to extreme swelling in a word splotchy seemingly at will.
Unfortunately, there's no simple treatment to make it go away, but Dr. Jeannie Leddon, dermatologist at Colorados Boulder Valley Center for Dermatology, suggests "trial and error" to pinpoint which products make your complexion red and irritated.
"For example, some women who've simply accepted that they were born with reddish skin a so-called ruddy complexion don't know that their nightly cleanser might be the problem," she says.
Leddon recommends choosing hypoallergenic products that are designed specifically for sensitive and allergy-prone skin, but just because they're hypoallergenic, doesn't mean those products don't contain things that you might react to.
Common irritants contained in many skin cleansers include parabens, also known as para-hydroxybenzoic acids, and solvents such as propylene glycol and ethanol. If your skin is sensitive, stay away from products that contain fragrances, artificial coloring, and harsh antibacterial chemicals. By the same token, watch out for products labeled "unscented."
"In many cases, 'unscented' doesn't mean it has no scent it means it contains an ingredient that masks the product's scent. It can still cause irritation for sensitive skin," says Leddon.
Things to Remember
Any outbreaks of eczema rough, scaly patches should be seen by a dermatologist because it could be an indicator of a more serious reaction, and you'll need a prescription-strength lotion to make it go away.
Also, it's possible to develop sensitivity to products over time. Something you used in your teens may suddenly start to irritate you in your 30s. Particularly as we age, our bodys ability to tolerate different chemicals can shift and change.
Dermatologists can also do patch tests to see if you've developed intolerance for particular ingredients, says Dr. Leddon. Once an irritant has been identified, doctors can pull up a national database and get a list of all products on the market that contain that element, making it easy for you to eliminate cleansers and moisturizers you should not buy.
Everyone's skin is different, acknowledges Dr. Leddon, but that doesn't mean the red-faced are doomed to a Technicolor life.
"There's help out there for everybody," she stresses.