Before You Say Your Skin Is ‘Sensitive,’ You Might Want to Check With an Allergist

Photo: Stocksy / Liliya Rodnikova
Not to be dramatic, but if you have sensitive skin your entire life may have been a lie up until this point. You've been hustled, scammed, bamboozled, hoodwinked, led astray! According to Dr. Purvi Parikh, allergist with the Allergy & Asthma Network, sometimes sensitive skin isn't really sensitive skin—it could actually be a skin allergy. In addition to people being like woah about finding that out, "often people are also surprised that something you have been using for a while you can become allergic to," Parikh says. It be like that sometimes.

The best way to tell if you're having an allergic reaction is to go see an allergist or dermatologist and get patch testing done. "Short of that, it is hard to know unless you have a pattern of reactions, like you only react to hair dye versus fragrances versus a variety of products," Parikh says. "If there is a similar pattern to your reactions, it likely is an allergy rather than reacting to multiple things which may be more of sensitivity—or what we call an irritant reaction." (There's some allergist lingo for ya.)

The most common allergens in skin care products, according to Parikh, are fragrance mix, formaldehyde,  quaternarium 15,  isothiazolinones, balsam of Peru, nickel, paraphenylenediamene, and antibacterial ointments. If you think you're having an allergic reaction but can't make it to an allergist, your best bet is to choose products that are fragrance-, dye-, and paraben-free, she says. A few brands she recommends: Free & Clear, Almay, Clinique, and Vanicream, which "have been developed to be free of many allergens."

"If you cannot figure out what is bothering you or your skin keeps breaking out please see a board certified dermatologist or allergist to be tested," says Parikh. That can be especially important, given that she says an allergic reaction from irritants in your skin-care products is a delayed type of allergic reaction. This means that "something you wear on Tuesday may irritate your skin Thursday, so it can be difficult to navigate on your own." Because, again, cannot stress this enough, it be like that sometimes.

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