Sensitive vs. Sensitized Skin: What’s the Difference?

Whenever we experience a bout of red, itchy skin, we’re may think we just have sensitive skin. But sometimes, we have to dig a little more to learn more about ourselves and our skin needs.


It’s common for people to think they have sensitive skin, but that’s not always the case.  Even when we see signs that are commonly associated with sensitive skin, sometimes a shift in products and cleansing techniques can be a major help. No biggie. 

Sensitive skin is more of an innate likeliness of irritation, while sensitized skin can be addressed by habitual changes. While they both may look pretty similar, there are a few key differences between the two. 

Interested in learning more? We’ve got you. Read on to learn everything you need to know about sensitive skin and how exactly it differs from sensitized skin.


What's The Difference

Let’s get into it.The difference between sensitive and sensitized skin is nature versus nurture. 

Sensitive skin is more of a predisposition to irritation, whereas sensitized skin on the other hand, is due to external factors. However, people still tend to get confused -- here’s why:

All skin is reactive when it is exposed to irritating ingredients. That is, essentially, one of its key roles. So say “thank you” to your skin for being helpful. 

You see, your skin transforms into a wide range of textures and colors when met with certain substances and experiences (think: swelling from a bee sting, hives from poison oak) as a way to get your attention and alert you to a problem -- which, honestly, is pretty impressive when you really think about it! 

So, experiencing stinging, redness, breakouts, or even a rash after using a particular product doesn’t necessarily point to an issue with your skin -- it points to an issue with the product. But many people don’t realize this, so they chalk it up to having sensitive skin when in reality, it’s sensitized skin. 

Let’s dig a little bit deeper into more about the difference between sensitive skin and sensitized skin. 


How To Soothe Sensitive Skin

While most are under the impression that sensitive skin is just skin that is easily irritated, there’s more to it than that. 

When trying to figure out if you have sensitive skin, think about all the symptoms you commonly experience -- do certain environmental factors cause you to get itchy, red, or occasionally have an acne break out? If so, then you may have a skin type that is considered sensitive.

This specific type of skin is the skin type we are born with, skin that is written in your genes to be sensitive, to respond intensely to even the slightest stimulation. Any type of person can have sensitive skin, but it usually affects those whose skin easily flushes or burns. 

These individuals likely dealt with eczema when younger, and relied on unscented soaps and special body washes throughout their life because even the smallest amount of fragrance ingredients could easily dry out and irritate their vulnerable skin. 

The best way to put it is that sensitive skin is inherited.

<h4> How To Soothe Your Sensitive Skin </h4>

For sensitive skin, it’s best to keep using extremely gentle, fragrance-free, dye-free, non-irritating products to keep your skin happy, healthy, and free from irritation. Not sure where to look? Check out Topicals!

Much more than beauty and much more than skincare, Topicals is the new standard-- medicated botanicals. We use only quality ingredients and herbals that have been scientifically proven to work with your skin -- not against it. 

For sensitive skin, we love our Like Butter Hydrating Mask because it helps to soothe irritated, stressed-out skin while fortifying the moisture barrier. Packed with powerful botanicals, this thick whipped mask will leave your skin so smooth, it’s like butter.


How To Soothe Sensitized Skin

Sensitized skin, on the other hand, could come about suddenly due to environmental aggressors, things like persistent improper cleansing, medication, stress, the use of harsh or damaging products, as well as other lifestyle factors. 

This type of skin is considered to be much more delicate with a thin epidermis, a lower amount of pigment, and blood vessels really close to the skin’s surface. 

You see, sensitive skin is often the result of having a slightly different protective outer skin layer -- the epidermal lipid barrier layer -- which may allow intruders like irritants, allergens, and microbes to penetrate deep into your skin, setting off a pattern of inflammation. An unhappy epidermal lipid barrier is a huge component in many inflammatory skin conditions, like eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and atopic dermatitis -- just to name a few. It’s a common part of life for a lot of us. 

Unlike sensitive skin, sensitized skin is acquired. The difference is that there is very little we can do to ‘prevent’ sensitive skin -- it’s just the skin we were born with. But, there are things  we can do to prevent sensitized skin. 

Keep scrolling to find out what some of those measures are. 

<h4> How To Soothe Sensitized Skin </h4>

Think you might have sensitized skin? Here are the best tips to properly care for it:

Turn down the water temperature. 

We totally get it, hot, steamy showers are the best -- but they are not it for your sensitive skin. Ugh, right?

Hot water can damage your skin and worsen symptoms. After showing or cleaning with heat, your vulnerable skin becomes red and increasingly irritated. The heat also dehydrates your already sensitive skin, removing essential oils and moisture. 

Rinsing your skin with cool water, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect, benefiting your skin by reducing inflammation, calming itching, and moistening dryness. Treat your skin with the gentleness that it deserves. 

Fortify your skins’ moisture barrier. 

Whether you’re struggling with sensitive or sensitized skin, you can never go wrong in supporting your skin’s moisture barrier and, well, piling on moisture! Let’s glow!

You should aim to moisturize your skin almost immediately after taking a cool shower or cleansing so your skin can absorb as much moisture as it can. We love Topicals’ Like Butter Hydrating Mask because it fortifies your skin’s damaged moisture barrier to help keep your skin soft, supple, and hydrated. Perfect for dry, sensitive skin, this ultra-thick, whipped mask is all you need to soothe and revive your tired skin.  

Avoid over-cleansing.

Skin is all about balance -- of water and oil, of bad and good bacteria, you know the drill. But one huge contributor to throwing your skin’s balance out of whack, causing it to become sensitized, is when you over-cleanse or over-exfoliate, removing dirt, makeup, and excess oil in addition to the skin-beneficial sebum that provides moisture. 

The culprit? Usually harsh ingredients, such as benzoyl peroxide and sulfates. 

Over-cleansing and over-exfoliating can strip your skin of its natural moisture, interrupting the delicate pH balance of your skin, making it much more sensitive than it already is. Cleanse your face no more than once or twice a day, and use science-backed products that are fragrance-free and dye-free -- like the ones from Topicals. 

Topicals’ Faded Brightening and Clearing Gel is made with gentle exfoliating acids and soothing shea butter to balance, brighten and revive tired skin. Gentle enough to be used daily or at least 2-3 times per week. 


Bottom Line

So, sensitive skin vs. sensitized skin -- what’s the difference?

While both are pretty similar, sensitive skin is something you are born with. 

Sensitized skin is something that can happen throughout your life when you come in contact with environmental stressors. 

If you’re managing either, your skin is often red, dry, and irritated. Thankfully, with the right products and our tips listed above, you can soothe and nourish your skin in no time. 

Topicals believes in making the world a healthier and happier place by providing real information and top-notch products that actually work. Whether you have sensitive skin or sensitized skin, Topicals can help.