Flattered to have been included in Dermascope magazine’s October 2016 issue!
(Article written by? Jaclyn Strausser, L.M.E.)

Fifty percent of the population believes they have sensitive skin.


Yet, the majority of them are really experiencing sensitized skin due the increase of atmospheric pollution, lifestyle, diet, medications, over-exfoliation, incorrect product use, and excess sun exposure.

Sensitized skin tends to look lusterless, blotchy, dry, and visibly irritated.

It also typically suffers from either an overproduction of oil or a lack of oil. This skin also develops an assortment of dermatitis reactions that can be managed once the trigger(s) are determined.

Typically, sensitized skin can be contributed to one or more of the following internal and external factors: internal and external pro-inflammatory aggressors, overuse of chemical and manual exfoliants, changes in medication use, poor diet, poor elimination, inadequate water intake, overexposure to the sun and extreme weather conditions, and use of the improper topical products for the skin.

The easiest way to conclude whether a client has sensitized or sensitive skin?

Ask numerous questions during the consultation! Skin care professionals should also explain the difference between the two and mention that most people do not truly have sensitive skin.

Most people self-diagnose their skin as “sensitive” because it has become sensitized over time.

Sensitive skin and sensitized skin have very similar symptoms, so it is commonplace for the general population to not know the difference. Yet, the truth is that sensitized and sensitive skin are completely different entities and, while they behave very similarly, it is important that the skin is treated accordingly.



Sensitized skin is the wolf in sheep’s clothing in the skin care world; it pretends to be something it is not.

The hard part of distinguishing between the sensitive and sensitized skin is that they have similar symptoms and appearances.

Both conditions can cause the client to experience dehydration, burning, itching, swelling, uneven texture, facial redness, rashes, breakouts, and discomfort.

The problem with assuming that the skin is sensitive without further sleuthing is that the skin will continue to be treated improperly; and the wrong treatments lead to unsuccessful results and unhappy clients.

Knowing that someone is dealing with temporarily sensitized-skin allows the professional to stop, slow down, and repair the broken-down barrier in order to return the client’s skin to its normal, healthy state.


Naomi Fenlin, owner and medical aesthetician at About Face Skin Care in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania says, “Every patient, every single one, tells me that they are sensitive, but the reality is that they are not.”

threeFenlin knows that it is important to properly evaluate, consult, and educate her clients so that they know the difference and so that she can heal and treat their skin.

When Fenlin is treating sensitized skin, she reverts to what is fundamental: “With sensitive skin, you need to take the patient back to basics. Keep it easy. Keep it simple.” She eliminates all acids, scrubs, and aggressive treatment options in order to give the skin a break and allow it to heal.

Cool and hydrating products with no actives or an overabundance of ingredients are key to helping the barrier function restore and repair itself. Fenlin recommends green tea for its calming and anti-inflammatory benefits.

More often than not, the reason for the sensitivity is overusing or misusing homecare products. They are at the point to where they have stripped their skin, consistently taking away from it, but never giving anything back.

Furthermore, sensitized clients are always dehydrated.

“Sensitized skin is incredibly dehydrated,” says Fenlin.

“I advise them to also increase their water intake in order to support cell health from within. I also tell them not to use hot water while washing their face and body and to invest in a good moisturizer. A good moisturizer does no harm and helps to strengthen epidermal health.”

When choosing a moisturizer, Fenlin tells both sensitized and sensitive patients that the fewer the ingredients, the less chance there is of it causing an issue on their impaired skin function. She also advises against the use of oils as they are often too occlusive and will not allow the skin to heal properly.

The hard part for a skin care professional is finding a treatment plan for the sensitized client because options are usually limited. Sensitized clients need time to heal and get back to their normal skin function, so lasers and peels are not ideal.

It is important to take a step back, get them on a proper homecare regimen, and fix some of their lifestyle and skin habits.

Once their skin returns to its normal state, they can safely start a treatment plan for their skin.

Fenlin states, “A calming, cooling, hydrating facial treatment?is the best option while they are in your chair. Let the skin rest, do not manipulate it, and let them be for now.”


Sensitive skin should also follow a lot of the same guidelines as sensitized skin in regard to homecare and lifestyle habits.

Sticking to gentle, hydrating products and sun protectants are important for both parties, but, when it comes to treatment options, there is more flexibility with the sensitive-skin client.

A safe and nice option is a cooling and hydrating facial, but do not be afraid to also treat on a deeper level. This skin type does not favor heat, so steaming and too much manipulation is never suggested, but they can be great candidates for various peels and laser treatments.

fourWhen someone with sensitive skin wishes to step out of the safe zone of calming facials and is eager to get into anti-aging treatment options, the first line of defense usually happens with chemical peels.

Lactic acid is derived from sour or fermented milk and not only improves the texture and tone of the skin, but?also adds hydration which is why it is favored by those with sensitive skin.

Mandelic acid comes from bitter almonds and is suitable for all skin types, particularly for acneic, rosacea-prone, and sensitive skins. This acid has also been found to be the most gentle of the alpha hydroxy acids. Mandelic acid is great for the treatment of acne, which sensitive skins can also experience, because it is oil soluble; it exfoliates at the surface of the skin, but also works deep in the pores.

Much like lactic acid and all other peeling agents, mandelic acid will work to increase cell turnover and also lighten and brighten the complexion of the skin, which is why it is such a favored anti-aging tool for those with sensitive skin.

Treatment for both skin types in the office is equally as important as proper homecare. A daily antioxidant and SPF are crucial for any and all skin types and conditions, with no exception to sensitive and sensitized skin.