If you have red, tingly, itchy, or flaky skin, your complexion could be either sensitive or sensitised, says Dr Alvin Wong, medical director of SKN Mediaesthetics. What’s the difference, you ask? The former tends to be genetic and long-lasting, while the latter may be a reaction to new ingredients or environmental changes which may normalise after some time, explains dermatologist Dr Eileen Tan.
According to skin care brand Curel, nearly 38 per cent of Singaporean women think they have sensitive skin. Yet, nearly half of these ladies do nothing about it. It can be hard to tell one from the other, so it’s best to consult a specialist – and when dealing with troubled skin, keep your routine simple. Here, some tips to suss out whether you have sensitive or sensitised skin:
#1: Less is more
Switching products frequently may irritate and sensitise skin. “An allergic reaction to new products may be immediate, or it could show only after a week of constant application,” says Dr Wong. As soon as you break out, minimise product use. The fewer creams you pile on, the easier it is to isolate the one that’s causing the flare-up.
#2: Test on patches
If your skin tends to redden easily, Dr Tan advises applying the product on your inner arm or behind the ears (these areas have thinner skin and reactions will manifest quickly) for three to four days before using it on your face.
#3: Cut out culprits
Avoid trouble by steering clear of common allergens like balsam of Peru (used to give products a citrus scent); lanolin, a common moisturising agent; and preservatives like paragons and formaldehyde, says Dr Wong.
Wonder why your skin is flaky? According to Koichi Ishida, global R&D manager at Curel, both sensitive and sensitised skin lack ceramides, fat molecules that retain moisture. “When skin is dry, it becomes chapped, itchy and rough, and irritants can penetrate easily to make things worse,” he says. Stop the vicious cycle by protecting skin’s moisture barrier with hydrating products (like these hydrating sheet masks and makeup removers).
An adapted version first appeared in shape.com.sg.