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Sensitive Skin Advice
Sensitive skin is usually the result of contact dermatitis - where a substance causes an allergic reaction or irritates the skin.
Sensitive skin is often red, itchy and dry, and may cause pain and discomfort.
Irritants - such as detergents or perfumes - are responsible for around 80% of contact dermatitis cases.
Sensitive skin isn't quite the same as eczema, but it does share a lot of common symptoms. Allergic and irritant contact dermatitis can make skin sore, red, swollen, itchy, dry, blistered or cracked.
Hands are most commonly affected by contact dermatitis, along with the face.
Allergic dermatitis will usually make the skin itchy and is usually localised to the area that came into contact with the allergen. For instance, an allergy to a hand cream would cause symptoms to appear on the hands. In some cases, the allergic reaction can spread elsewhere - even if the affected skin hasn't come into contact with the allergen.
Irritant dermatitis stings, burns and is sore. However, it can take up to 48 hours for symptoms to appear. Stronger irritants will cause a more immediate reaction. Irritant dermatitis is always specific to the affected area.
Recomended Products & Treatments
In most cases, avoiding the cause of sensitive skin can help to limit the symptoms. This may not always be possible, though, especially if you are allergic to soap, washing powder or other everyday essentials.
Using an emollient, skin lotion or moisturiser may help to keep the skin surface healthy and stop skin drying out and becoming cracked.
Different emollients are available - some can replace soap, some are specific for the hands, face or body, whilst others come as an ointment, lotion or cream. These contain different amounts of oil and offer different levels of moisture.
Emollients can be used very regularly and should be smoothed into the skin in large amounts. Emollients work by smoothing the skin surface and keeping it soft. They lock moisture into skin so it stays supple and soft.
It's important to ensure you won't have an allergic reaction to any of the ingredients, though - sometimes lanolin can cause a reaction, so be sure to check.
For severely sensitive skin, topical corticosteroids are available, whilst infected skin can be treated with antibiotics.