What's the difference between sensitive and sensitised skin?

Did you know that there’s a difference between sensitive and sensitised skin? While the symptoms are essentially the same (redness, dehydration, breakouts), sensitive skin and sensitised skin describe two different skin conditions. Put simply, sensitive skin is classed as a skin type whereas sensitised skin is usually caused by your environment or lifestyle. So, when it comes to treating your skin sensitivities, it’s important to know what you’re dealing with first! Let’s get into the nitty gritty. 
What’s sensitive skin? 

Sensitive skin is a skin type that’s passed on as a gift from our parents (thanks, genetics!). For sensitive skin types, sensitivities are caused by a weak protective function of the skin barrier and it’s this weak function that allows irritants, microbes and allergens to pass through which can cause the redness, flushing, stinging, dehydration and breakouts we know all too well. Because sensitive skin can also experience a lower amount of pigment, a thinner epidermis and visible blood vessels, more often than not, sensitive skin presents with a red complexion. 
What’s sensitised skin? 

Sensitised skin is caused by environmental or lifestyle factors, it’s not a predisposed skin type, and this is good news because that means it can be prevented or at minimum - managed! Sensitised skin can be caused by environment or lifestyle factors including pollution, climate, hormones, stress, medication, diet, smoking and even actives in skincare which, much like sensitive skin types, causes the likes of redness, flushing, stinging, dehydration and breakouts. Is your skin feeling tight? This is one quick trick to understand if your skin is sensitised.  
How to assist sensitive skin 

The key to assisting sensitive skin lies in your routine. Set about developing a gentle skincare routine that aims to soothe, nourish and protect your skin, while eliminating known irritants. Known irritants could be ingredients and actives or synthetic fragrances, for example. It’s always a good idea to patch test new products on your skin before diving right in. You can learn all about sensitive skin here, and the right way to introduce a new product into your routine here. 
How to assist sensitised skin 

As we said before, sensitised skin can be prevented or at least managed! Let’s start by taking a look at the most common factors that contribute to sensitised skin and asking ourselves a few questions... 

Lifestyle: To recap, lifestyle factors include hormones, stress, medication, diet, smoking and active skincare ingredients. Have there been any changes you’ve recently undergone in any of these areas? Are you feeling run down of late, are you stressed at work or in general, have you started or changed some medication, are you eating a nourished diet, or, are you using too many actives in your skincare routine? 

Environment: While pollution and climate are a little difficult to eliminate entirely, you can still have a think about ways to manage environmental exposure. Think sunscreen to lessen the impact of UV rays, skincare products that aim to protect your skin from environmental aggressors, etc. 

Once you’ve tackled some of the possible cause factors for sensitised skin, it’s time to help rebuild your sensitised (compromised) skin barrier. You can learn all about fixing a compromised skin barrier here, but in short, it comes down to simplifying your skincare routine by avoiding active skincare ingredients (e.g. AHA, BHA, vitamin C, retinol) for 28 days and focusing on hydrating, nourishing and strengthening ingredients for 28 days instead (because your skin cells take about a month to renew). Keep it simple for a month and once your skin is back to normal, you can add your actives back in. This type of routine could look like: 

1/ Cleanse 

Try a gentle cleanser designed to clean your skin, without drying it out. Cleanse once or twice only, remember not to over-cleanse.  

We recommend: Purified: Purifying Cleanser

2/ Hydrate and strengthen 

With a damaged barrier often the result of dehydration, your first real step back to recovery is to replenish that lost hydration with products powered by humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin (all of our moisturisers contain these essential ingredients). You’ll also want to double up and strengthen the structural integrity of your skin too, so that it can function in a healthy manner – this can include a mix of ingredients like ceramides (vitamin B5), probiotics, rosehip oil and co-enzyme Q10. 

We recommend: 

3/ Lock in moisture 

Assist your skin to retain the moisture you’ve just added back in by creating a nourishing, lipid-like seal with a facial oil rich in plant oils like camellia, macadamia, sea buckthorn, jojoba and rosehip oil 

We recommend: Yester Youth: Regenerating Facial Oil 
Top takeaways 

If you have sensitive skin, it’s a skin type, but it can be managed with a gentle skincare routine that aims to soothe, nourish and protect your skin, while eliminating known irritants. 

If you have sensitised skin, this can be prevented or managed! First things first, explore your current environment and lifestyle and make any changes necessary (aka an ‘elimination’ process). Adapt a skincare routine to repair your compromised skin barrier (a routine that aims to hydrate, nourish and strengthen your skin) for 28 days, while pausing any skincare actives. 


So whether it’s sensitive or sensitised skin, there’s always ways to get your skin back on track and leave you feeling your absolute best!