Take an informal poll amongst your friends, coworkers, and even strangers on the subway, and you'll likely find that many consider their skin to be "sensitive." Of course, this probably doesn't surprise you: As we've pointed out before, this is an all-too-common issue — as many as 70% of people believe that they have sensitive skin. That leaves the vast majority of them tip-toeing around their complexions like a chronically pissed-off roommate. Not fun.
It makes sense: Even doctors and research scientists are confused about what, exactly, constitutes sensitive skin. A 2006 paper noted that “there is no internationally accepted consensus regarding the criteria which define sensitive skin” and called out 15 years of research for expressing widely differing views on what constitutes sensitive skin. The label of "sensitive skin" has been used to cover reactions caused by everything from environmental factors to topical products, “including breakouts, redness, scaling, etc., a panoply of adverse reactions which is virtually meaningless.”
Translation: “Sensitive skin” is an annoyingly large umbrella. In fact, think of it as an oversized golf umbrella that no one should use on a crowded city street. Yet, in self-describing their skin as "sensitive," more than half of the population is out there wielding one of those huge umbrellas.
Want even more proof that sensitive skin is a bit of a farce? Studies have shown that more women have sensitive skin than men; and in Europe, sensitive skin is most common in Italy and France. How is it possible that a clinical term can be so biased? Because the studies have all relied on self-assessment. But the truth is, those people aren’t always wrong. They just might be seeing a temporary condition as permanent.
The solution? While there's no black-and-white answer, we tapped the experts for three common issues that you may be facing which are leading you to believe your skin is sensitive, while it is, in fact, not.
Three foolproof ways to determine if your skin has been mislabelled all this time...