Many of us do our own skin diagnosis based on what we read off the Internet and magazines. If our skin is red, dry or itchy, we assume that we must have sensitive skin. But we could actually just be having an allergy because the symptoms of both are actually pretty similar. Now, how do we exactly tell the difference between the two?

Sensitive Skin


Sensitive skin is a condition where the skin becomes red, tight and even experiences a stinging sensation no matter what skincare products are applied, some of which cause more pronounced effects than others. It could also react when the weather changes. This is common among people who are stressed or who have dry and thin skin that flushes easily, and especially those who have rosacea and eczema.

Symptom: Your skin feels tight within a minute after cleansing.
The remedy: Your cleanser is drying your skin out. Stay far away from harsh ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate and ammonium laureth sulfates. Instead, go for gentle and soap-free ones from brands like Cetaphil or Eucerin, which is formulated for sensitive skin.

Symptom: Your skin has gone tomato-red and has a stinging sensation.
The remedy: One of your skincare products is way too harsh or you’re overloading on your skincare products. Ingredients like alpha and beta hydroxyl acids work great at exfoliation but your skin might not be able to take it. Do it just once a week or once every fortnight, and try not to use a scrub in-between which can further irritate you skin. A few spritz of some thermal spring water (Try Avène or La Roche-Posay!) might provide some immediate comfort.

Also, you could be layering on too many skincare products at the same time. This can increase the sensitivity of your skin. Just stick to one or two serums and remember to let your skin rest when switching products.

Symptom: Your skin is peeling and feels rough and scaly.
The remedy: Your skin’s barrier has been compromised and your skin is losing water. Strengthen the barrier with a moisturiser formulated for sensitive skin, such as Curél and Simple. Apply it right after a shower, when your skin is still moist, so that the moisture is locked in. (Click here to find out more about moisturizers!)

Having an allergy

Having an allergy, on the other hand, is very specific. Our skin is actually reacting to a particular ingredient, or otherwise known as an allergen, in this case. It turns red and itchy on the exact area where the application was at. If we don’t stop using products that contain that ingredient, the symptoms will spread. Common allergens include fragrances and preservatives.

Symptom: Your skin has red bumps and it is itchy.
The remedy: An allergy is a direct reaction from an allergen. When you stop using it, the allergy goes away. Play detective and try and find out what new things you did to your skincare regimen and stop using them immediately. In the meantime, refrigerate some aloe vera and apply it to your skin to cool it down. If the allergy persists, consult a doctor or dermatologist as soon as possible.

DV Tip: Always only introduce one new product into your skincare regimen at a time. If any allergy occur, you will be able to pinpoint the source easily. Also, remember to do a patch test on your jaw line or neck first, before trying a new product.

It is very easy to confuse sensitive skin and having an allergy. If your skin is acting up, make sure you consult a dermatologist the minute you can!