The Acne Whisperer: Sensitive Skin? Maybe Not!

By the yearly sales of moisturizers in this country alone, you would never know that only 10% of the world’s entire population actually has genetically dry skin. The rest of us with dryness issues all have **dehydrated** skin.  The problem is, the skincare industry often doesn’t seem to understand this concept.  The result?  Genetically oily skin that’s leaching water all day long gets lubricated with heavy, often pore-clogging, moisturizers instead of hydrated, and truly dry skin still doesn’t get the replenishment of lipids, cholesterol or water that it loses all day long, either.  How does this relate to the possibility that your skin isn’t actually sensitive?  If you have Adult Acne, or even just raw, irritated skin, it’s actually not a safe assumption that breaking out from products means your skin is sensitive!

Dehydrated skin can get “torn apart” just by being dried out, leading to a sensitivity that has nothing to do with anything systemic or allergenic.  In addition, skin that’s
prone to Adult Acne gets broken out very easily from all this, leading many people to believe they have sensitivity that they simply must resign themselves to.

Considering how many acne products are not well made, and how some “sensitive skin” products are not even great for sensitivity, it is important to distinguish skin that is “sensitive” from skin that may be “sensitized.” 

The following terms might help you to decide what type of skin or skin-related reactions you might be having.

Sensitive:  This typically thin type of skin gets red, burns and/or itches at the drop of a hat.  I sometimes call someone’s skin “touch-sensitive” when it gets red just by pressing on it.  I can do minor extractions and the skin will be red for days.  Adverse reactions include welts and rashes within an day or two of an offensive product. I have found that people with this skin type sometimes have allergies, but very often they don’t.  Skin sensitivity is also typical of conditions such as Rosacea, thyroid problems, and Lupus, but most of the time, the skin is truly sensitive simply because it’s thin and delicate.   

Apricot scrubs scratch the skin so much, it literally rips it apart!

Sensitized:  Skin can become sensitized when it has been bothered over time by a substance to which just about anybody’s skin might react badly, or gets excessively dried out.  This can result in what looks like an acne breakout, and can be angry and painful.  Other times the skin just looks irritated and raw, and always feels dry and tight, often with oiliness on top.  Causes include over-exfoliating, rough texture in pillow cases and clothes, dehydrating meds like oral antibiotics (for any kind of infection, not just acne) or topicals for acne, or constant scratching due to itching from Contact Dermatitis.

Reactive: I’ve seen instances where every time the face is rubbed or pressed on, a small breakout occurs.  
Indeed, this is a type of sensitivity, but not necessarily with burning, itching, or rashes.  I’ve often found that it begins or gets worse with drastic hormonal changes, and usually the person has allergies of some kind, like seasonal or food.  It’s like the entire body is over-reacting inside and out.

Acnegenic reaction: An acnegenic reaction occurs if an ingredient slightly irritates the lining of a pore, resulting in redness and swelling within about a week.   This is not technically sensitivity, but pores can react to things they just don’t like.  This reaction is distinguished from the more common term comedogenic, which means pore-clogging and which takes much, much longer to result in a breakout (like, 3-6 months).  An acnegenic reaction to a product is most often experienced by acne-prone skin with tendency toward more inflamed breakouts.

The oil and water mix

When skin loses too much oil, fats, waxes and cholesterol, it ends up losing water, too, leaving skin dry and sensitive.

At the bottom of almost every pore is a special oil-making factory called a sebaceous gland. Below this gland is a receptor that is triggered by testosterone passing by, telling the gland to gush out oil. This oil then spills onto the skin’s surface as part of its mechanism of protecting your body from bacterial invasion, and from letting too much water escape from within your skin to the air.

Now, since the majority of the world’s population (80%!) do produce enough oil within their pores compared to those who actually do have genetically dry skin which loses water by nature, most people who experience dryness have dehydrated skin, i.e. dried-out skin, not dry skin.  In this case, the skin has lost so much water (usually due to improper skin care), skin cells start acting more like deflated balloons than plump, healthy cells. The biggest indicator of dehydrated skin rather than dry?  Genetically dry skin NEVER gets shiny.

Dried-out skin loses so much water, skin cells start acting like deflated balloons.

In addition, the top layer of the skin, known as the Epidermis, is its own little factory of fatty acids, cholesterol, and substances that bind water to the surface of the skin, which comes up from collagen fibers located in the Dermis, which is beneath this surface layer, and where nerve endings and blood vessels also live.

If anything causes damage to this top layer, we get something called a “compromised barrier” meaning the mix of substances described above gets depleted as the surface layer of the Epidermis gets thinned out and uneven in its texture.  The skin gets “broken” in places.  This leads to a loss of a greater amount of water to the air than before.  In addition, those areas that are more “broken up” than before the damage occurred are now closer to blood vessels and nerve endings.  This is where greater sensitivity comes into the picture. 

A compromised skin barrier is like a broken brick wall.

So what to do?  

Using a skin repairing moisturizer and a lipid replacement serum that replenish what’s been lost in addition to attracting water to the skin are very important steps in a corrective daily skincare routine.  Avoiding anything that scratches the skin, making sure cleansers are appropriate for your skin type, and getting second opinions before using medications meant for more severe acne conditions than yours, are truly crucial in preventing skin sensitizing.

If you feel like your skin is dry with oil on top but your skin is not pore-less like a marble statue, you don’t have dry skin, you have dehydrated skin.  

If you believe you have sensitive skin because dryness makes your skin feel raw, your skin is broken and needs repair.  

If you feel like every skincare product makes you break out at the drop of a hat and believe your skin is too sensitive for a comprehensive skincare routine, you may not have the sensitive skin you think you do.

Your current skincare routine might be the culprit! 

It’s time to get analyzed. 

Your acne problem has a source, and clearing your skin requires finding that source and either eliminating it or healing it.  You can start right now by filling out my Eval by Email® Online Skincare Consultation Form created specially for ages Gen-X to Baby Boom!

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