There are a few basic skin types: dry, oily, combination, “normal”, and sensitive. They are little more than quick, very rough sketches of ideas about the skin types. Plenty of variation exists within each. Oily skin, for instance, has a spectrum of how oily it is compared to so-called “normal” skin. The same is true of dry skin. Combination skin’s areas depend on the individual person and each patch of difference has the same kind of range of behaviors. Sensitive skin isn’t any different, but there are likely fewer people with perfectly sensitive skin. This kind of skin generally reacts to touch and products in a more noticeable way than any other skin type. It doesn’t take very long to figure out you have sensitive skin. However, we all have experienced different levels of sensitivity depending on the products we’re using. This situational skin sensitivity hints at different products that require consideration before use even if they’re relatively common.

Hydroxy Acids
Alpha hydroxy acids and salicylic acid, the one beta hydroxy acid typically used in skin care, are staples in skin care. They offer chemical exfoliation or cleansing depending on their concentration. Acne-fighting products regularly incorporate them for this cleaning ability as well as the oil control they offer. They are relatively potent ingredients though with salicylic acid being the most powerful. As acids, they eat away at substances based on how concentrated they are. Skin care preparations are only potent enough to deal with grime, oil, and dead skin cells. This does introduce a problem for us if we’re not careful. Products utilizing these ingredients don’t need to be used frequently or they will cause skin irritation. This is also why you should never leave them sitting on your skin for longer than directed. Doing so too often can actually cause your skin to become sensitized for a time.

“Fragrance” And Other Unmarked Ingredients
We’ve all had the experience of looking at a product’s ingredient list and seeing “Fragrance” or a similar term. They are clearly compounds in their own right, but you seldom get a breakdown of the ingredients used in them. This is where the problem for those with typically sensitive skin comes in. Low-quality products with a “fragrance”, “scent”, or similar ingredient don’t always ensure the broad usability of their product. These can have chemicals in them that are prone to irritating anyone’s skin regardless of whether they have sensitive skin or not. Seeing one of these ingredients doesn’t rule out using a product automatically, but you should also consider the source of the product before indulging.

Potent Extracts and Oils
Natural oils are becoming increasing popular in skin care. They offer beautiful scents along with subtle ways to improve the skin’s health depending on the oil. The problem is that they can be potent as assuredly as any lab isolated chemical. Some are particularly capable of causing skin irritation. Astringent oils like witch hazel are the most likely to cause these problems. This is why you generally want to be mindful of its concentration in products. Mint oils and wintergreen are also relatively commonly associated with skin irritation. This is because it is easy to overshoot how much is usable in a product and how much is too much. Consider reviewing your product choice if you’re experiencing redness and irritation when you normally wouldn’t, to see if a new product has one of these ingredients in it.

Situational skin sensitivity is different from sensitive skin in that it represents a class or single product that people may have a slight topical allergy towards or that is too potent in a given product. Sensitive skin always reacts to these products and even to touch in highly visible ways. You can easily isolate products prone to causing irritation in their products by looking at this short list or longer ones. Remember your skin does get more sensitive with age, but sometimes a product just gets the ingredient balance wrong and causes unwelcome irritation.

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