Think You Have Sensitive Skin? There’s One Way To Know For Sure

According to science, it's generally considered A-okay to blame your parents (aka your gene pool) for acne or rosacea. Now, a major study has found that sensitive skin, in general, could be passed down from generation to generation. To which we say: Thanks a lot, mom and dad!

In June, beauty corporation Procter & Gamble joined forces with 23andMe, the genetic testing service, looked at the sensitive skin condition in 23,426 participants of European ancestry whose genomes are in the 23andMe database. The research, which was published in Cosmetics, found strong associations between certain points in genomes and sensitive skin conditions—making this the first official connection that sensitive skin might be something that's passed down, rather than environmentally conditioned.

Experts In This Article
  • Shirley Chi, MD, board-certified dermatologist specializing in medical and cosmetic dermatology

Sensitive skin has been a huge topic in beauty for a quite some time. Studies estimate that about 70 percent of women believe that their skin is sensitive. According to Google Search data, searches for "sensitive skin" have steadily risen since 2004, and are currently at an all-time high. Knowing that the sensitive skin condition stems from genetics means it's now possible to avoid these triggers by building a lifestyle and skin-care regimen around them before the word go.

Currently, many people have to play a game of Clue every time their complexion experiences an inflammatory flare-up that could result in rosacea, eczema, or psoriasis. Flare-ups could be caused by sensitivities to skin-care ingredients, drinking alcohol or eating spicy foods, the temperature outdoors, or even the water used to wash products off (if it has too much mineral build-up in it).

"Knowing this means we can treat patients from an earlier age based on what their family history is," says Shirley Chi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles. "I do that a lot in my practice, where I see a parent that has a certain skin condition like eczema, psoriasis, or severe, scarring acne, and their child starts with a few symptoms. So we start treating it early and end up getting a better handle on it than if we would let it get full-blown."

Typically, dermatologists recommend that sensitive skin types stick with a simple beauty regimen. "Those with sensitive skin really have to try to limit the amount of products and chemicals that they're exposing to their faces," says Dr. Chi. It's best to steer clear of botanical ingredients, since they can be irritating for many sensitive skin types, and Dr. Chi suggests using products with a limited number of ingredients on the label. "Sensitive skin types do very well with mineral sunscreen. And products that contain silicone are good because they're like a barrier, which protects your skin from being penetrated by chemicals."

Having a leg-up on knowing about your skin is a huge stepping stone in terms of treatment, which should be music to the ears of about 70 percent of women.

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