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Do you often notice your skin becoming easily irritated, red, itchy, or dry when using certain skincare products or coming into contact with environmental factors like harsh weather or allergens?

If so, you may have sensitive skin. It’s important to pay attention to these reactions before determining if you need to adopt a sensitive skin care routine.

What is sensitive skin?

“A majority of women would say they have it,” says Elizabeth Hale, MD, clinical associate professor of dermatology at NYU’s School of Medicine. However, she says, “only a small part of the population truly has sensitive skin.”

What does it truly mean to have sensitive skin, and how can you tell if you have sensitive skin? Dermatologists look for a few key factors when diagnosing sensitive skin, including:

  • Skin reactions such as flaking, skin bumps, roughness, or skin erosion
  • Very dry skin that cannot provide adequate protection for nerve endings in the skin
  • Skin flushing tendencies or rashes in response to environmental factors or food
  • existing skin disorders such as acne, psoriasis, contact dermatitis, rosacea, or eczema

The best way to determine if you have sensitive skin is to get a diagnosis from a dermatologist.

What should I do if I have sensitive skin?

If you suspect that you have sensitive skin, you can do a few things and change up habits to minimise irritation to your skin, and prevent skin trouble issues.

1. Play it safe with skincare products

Some skincare products are fine for most people, but tend to lead to skin trouble for those with sensitive skin. These tend to include fragrances, alcohol, beta hydroxy acids, and retinoids; dermatologists recommend avoiding skincare products with these components as they may trigger allergic reactions.

In addition, Lanolin, commonly found in moisturisers, can also cause allergic reactions; the same can be said for parabens, a common preservative used to extend a product’s shelf life. Opt for products with minimal number of ingredients, they tend to be a safer option for sensitive skin.

It may be a pain to scan through ingredient lists each time you purchase a beauty product, but do your research carefully and your skin will thank you for it.

2. Take note of environmental factors

Apart from being careful with what you put on your skin, make sure the environment you work and live in is sensitive skin-friendly. Don’t expose your skin to extreme conditions. In sunny Singapore, it is a must to slap on some sunscreen with SPF 30 or more before you head out. If the weather is particularly dry or you tend to stay in air-conditioned areas, ensure that your face is always hydrated.

DV Tip: Keep a bottle of facial mist in your bag– they are a quick and fuss-free way to rehydrate your skin. Plus, they serve as a great perk-me-up if you’re in a post-lunch slump.

3. Take care of your skin from the inside

Internal factors including your hormonal levels will also affect the condition of your skin. Fluctuating hormonal levels can lead to break-outs, dryness and splotches in your complexion. A dermatologist will be able to detect this issue and prescribe you with appropriate creams or pills to regulate your hormones.

Additionally, make sure you eat your share of fruits and vegetables and stay hydrated. They will help to repair and rebuild your skin cells.