Sensitive skin? We have the solution
1. I have sensitive skin — a lot of redness and itching. How do I take care of it?
When people come to see me with a sensitive skin condition, they may be referring to breakouts, itching or full-blown dermatitis. It’s a problem we can all relate to that can range from a minor blemish to a debilitating allergy.
Sensitive skin is caused by a number of different issues that can be put into three broad categories: allergic and irritant dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), acne and rosacea. All these conditions are often associated with itching and burning:
Allergic dermatitis is caused by something touching and sensitizing the skin. Poison ivy is an obvious example, but it could be something more obscure, like a piece of jewelry, latex gloves, your favorite soap or aftershave.
The first line of defense is to avoid contact with the allergen — and if a known allergen does touch your skin, wash it off immediately. If you’re at all concerned, see your doctor. Otherwise, non-prescription treatments include oral antihistamines like Benadryl and hydrocortisone creams, which can be applied to smaller affected areas.
Irritant dermatitis is a compound problem that may have many contributing sources.
Good treatment starts by removing or minimizing those things you know might be causing the irritation. Beyond that, look out for cleaning solutions, detergents and household or workplace chemicals you use. Day to day, reduce long, hot showers, switch to milder forms of soap and shampoo, and finish your grooming routine by using a gentle moisturizer. Everything you do to reduce layers of irritation will help. If all else fails, try a mild hydrocortisone cream, and if that doesn’t work, you may need to step up to a prescription medication.
Acne is primarily a result of oily skin — the buildup of bacteria and inflammation of hair follicles.
Over-the-counter lotions that contain ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide that often help with mild occurrences. Prescription topical treatments and/or antibiotics may be needed to treat more severe cases.
Rosacea, in which enlarged blood vessels give the face and nose a flushed appearance, has no known cause. But common triggers include drinking alcohol, eating spicy foods and even sunshine.
If you suffer from rosacea, always use a good sunblock. Treatments are similar to those for acne and include antibiotics and laser therapy.
Sensitive skin can be painful and embarrassing. Always look carefully at the soaps, perfumes and moisturizes you buy. The products we use play an important role in the health of our skin, so selecting items with pure, natural ingredients will likely be a large part of the solution.
By David E. Sawcer, M.D., Ph.D. For Men’s Life Today