The number of people who say they have sensitive skin has increased from about 30 percent in the 1980s to 50 to 60 percent of the population today. Considered to play a role in this development besides a greater awareness of one’s health are hereditary factors, workplace and environmental conditions as well as psychosomatic factors.
Personal internal factors, but also external factors like climate and seasonal conditions, influence skin sensitivity. A variety of stimuli like UV exposure, frequent contact with water, alkalis or solvents, as well as skin peels can increase the sensitivity of normal skin.
Internal diseases like diabetes or kidney failure can also cause skin to become more sensitive. In general, the term “sensitive skin” refers to a skin condition that shows a lowered resistance to irritants.
Signs of sensitive skin
Typical visible characteristics of sensitive skin are:
In addition, there are subjective invisible signs of sensitive skin such as:
- Feeling of tightness
Definition of “sensitive skin”
The difficulty in formulating a scientific definition of the term "sensitive skin" arises from the fact that there are few measurable objective criteria for this phenomenon. The condition of the protective acid mantle (i) or hydrolipid film and therefore epidermal barrier function is, however, a very important factor in skin sensitivity. Measurement of the transepidermal water (i) loss (TEWL) provides information on barrier function. Even if there are no visible skin changes, an elevated TEWL value can already indicate damage to the epidermal barrier.
Schematic diagram showing transepidermal water (i) loss (TEWL) and water exiting through a sweat gland.
1 Transepidermal water loss