Do you have sensitive skin? Or is it sensitised?

Do you know the difference?

Well, the symptoms are actually the same.  Redness, dehydration, itching and burning.  So, what is the difference?

What is Sensitised Skin?

First of all sensitised skin IS sensitive skin, however it is caused by your environment.  Do not get me wrong, anyone can have sensitised skin.  But, it is not something you are born with.

Let me explain more.  It is usually triggered by things we are doing or exposing ourselves to.  Think of it as a reflection of our environment.  Now, some things that can cause our skin to become sensitised are hard to avoid.  What like? I hear you ask.  Well, it can be anything such as alcohol, poor lifestyle choices or even cleaning products we use.  These can all cause our skin to be irritated.

Believe it or not some things can be can be found in skincare. For example lanolin, fragrance and artificial colours.

This is why I would always advise you to check what products you are using and what is in them.  No end of times people tell me they have sensitive skin and yet they tell me they are using this product or that.  Some of these products are known to be quite harsh.  This leaves me thinking it is unlikely they have sensitive skin, but they are making their skin sensitised.

However, some triggers cannot be avoided.  For example; pollution, environment and temperature sensitivity.  This means symptoms of sensitised skin can be managed through skin care and lifestyle changes.

Confused still? Sensitive or sensitised?

If you are still confused.  Let me try and explain the triggers of sensitised skin in a little more detail…

  • lifestyle – stress, diet, smoking, dehydration, alcohol, and cosmetic ingredients
  • environment – pollution, airborne allergens, weather, and temperature changes
  • physiology – physical effects of stress or hormonal fluctuations
  • disease – rosacea, eczema, psoriasis

Sensitive skin is what you are born with

Sensitive skin is a weak protective function of the skin that can be caused by genetics.  For example, when skin is sensitive it means the protective outer layer lets irritants, microbes and allergens pass through.

This can cause adverse reactions like stinging, pain, redness or flushing.

Genetically sensitive skin is considered more delicate because it has a lower amount of pigment.  It has a thin epidermis and blood vessels close to the skin surface; hence the appearance of redness.

What are the signs of sensitive skin?

Let’s have a look at the signs of sensitive skin.  Firstly, I cannot tell you how many people tell me they have sensitive skin.  Often, they do not and it is caused by other factors.  Many people are unaware of these and that is because we are not taught.  We just do what we think is best or what our friend does or what the media tells us to.

I would rather educate people on their skin.  So, let’s have a look at some examples of what can happen if you have sensitive skin.

  • Thin skin texture with a translucent appearance.
  • A feeling of tightness, which can indicate dehydration and lead to skin reactions from products.
  • Redness or blotchiness. This signals over-reactive capillaries or a tendency toward rosacea.
  • Flaking, peeling or cracking on the cheeks and forehead. This indicates dehydrated skin and impaired barrier function.
  • Flushing and itching, or burning sensations, which can also be a sign of over-reactive capillaries.
  • Small, rash-like bumps or breakouts (not to be confused with acne breakouts).

Quick reminder

Sensitive skin is something we are born with and we can only try and not irritate it.

Sensitised skin is caused by the environment.  Often this is something we have done or exposed ourselves to.  We need to learn to avoid these triggers.  But, of course, firstly we need to work out what they are.

Sensitive or sensitised

Another common trait of sensitive and sensitised skin is a compromised lipid barrier.

I know you are wondering, what the heck is a lipid barrier?  Firstly, picture your skin cells as tiny bricks. Obviously bricks need cement to hold them together.  Similarly to the cement holding the bricks together, your lipid barrier holds your skin together.  For example, if we start to cause damage to this barrier our skin can start to become damaged too.

Your lipid barrier holds water in and keeping environmental pollutants and microbes out.  Similarly to weather wearing away a wall, that is what pollutants do to our skin.  When your skin is exposed to triggers that compromise the barrier, the result is redness, dryness, irritation and discomfort.  Of course known as sensitive skin.

You can struggle daily with irritated skin based on your genetics; sensitive skin.  Or you can get sensitive skin flare ups caused by outside factors in your environment; sensitised skin.

When you understand your skin, you can recognise signs.  You can understand what causes your skin to react, which will help you determine if it is sensitive or sensitised.  By understanding your skin, you can make attempts to keep your skin strong and healthy.

How to calm sensitive and sensitised skin

Believe it or not, heat can also lead to skin sensitivities such as heat rash.  Heat rash is something that happens when your sweat ducts get closed off.  This means moisture gets trapped under the skin, which leads to a rash made up of blisters or bumps!

The good news is that the skin, when healthy,  knows what is good and what’s bad on its own.  You can not always avoid harsh environmental factors.  However, we can use products to help and we can avoid triggers.  Especially once we know what they are.

Here are a couple of products I recommend:

Plump me up Gel moisturiser – Weightless water, gel moisturiser penetrates skin to lock in moisture.

Whipped cream – Lightweight moisturiser with sunscreen


I would also try and alleviate some stress factors that could be triggers.  This can be done as easily as adding aromatherapy into your life.

You can do this in so many ways. Have a look here.

Lots of love

This is all said with love, I know many people have different opinions and that is absolutely fine.  The biggest piece of advice I always say is:

‘Listen to your skin!!’

If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.  Skincare should not cause any damage to your skin, if used correctly for YOUR skin!

Any questions, just ask…

Much love.

Louisa Ashforth Signature