Skin irritation can come in many forms. Finding the most effective treatment plan starts with recognizing the type of sensitive skin that you have.

The irritation that can come with sensitive skin is a common complaint for millions of people. At my practice, up to 50 percent of my patients have reported some form of sensitive skin.

Despite its frequency, the various forms of sensitive skin can be difficult to diagnose and present a constant treatment challenge to the dermatologist. In order to properly treat patients with this condition, it is important to first identify which of the categories of sensitive skin they exhibit. There are four distinct types of sensitive skin:

Acne

affects millions of Americans, with 11 to 25-year-olds accounting for 70 to 80 percent of acne patients. Many adult women also suffer from acne, due to hormonal fluctuations and imbalances.

Rosacea

touches considerably fewer people than does acne, but it still affects millions of Americans and is no less disruptive. A condition with several subtypes, rosacea is typically seen in individuals over 25 years of age, particularly in fair-skinned people prone to blushing and flushing.

Burning and stinging

(neurosensory) is based on characteristic symptoms rather than an underlying condition. Stinging, itching, burning and related skin discomfort are a class of neurosensory symptoms experienced as a result of triggers affecting sensitive nerve endings.

Contact dermatitis

(allergies and irritants) is more common among people with dry, sensitive skin that is affected by topical skin allergies. Such a state leaves the skin more vulnerable to penetration of outside substances into deeper skin layers such as allergens, chemicals and other irritants that invade the inner skin tissue, enter the bloodstream and provoke an inflammatory reaction.

The one thing that all these types of skin irritation have in common is inflammation. Understanding what is causing this inflammation is the first step to treatment. Some of the most common culprits that cause allergic reactions in people with sensitive skin include fragrances, preservatives, colors or formaldehyde. Even many organic products are made up of essential oils and fragrances that can lead to contact dermatitis. An example would be organic products containing chamomile, calendula (marigold extract) and feverfew, all of which are reactive allergens that will affect people with ragweed allergies. Skin allergy management can be an ongoing lifelong process, which is why patients with sensitive skin need to avoid product experimentation and adhere to products and regimens that do not bring about sensitivity symptoms. Your sensitive skin will thank you.

MANAGING INFLAMMATION

Acne

can be worsened by excess sugar and dairy in your diet. Stress management can be a key component of acne management. Try removing essential oils and coconut oils from your beauty regimen to see if it helps. You may also want to try reducing the amount of hair product or changing the product that you use, as hair product ingredients are also common contributors to acne.

Rosacea

management efforts include avoiding exfoliation and instead using scrubs or microdermabrasion. Reduce spicy food and alcohol consumption because they can flush the face. Also avoid heat like facial steaming or drinking hot coffee. Retinoid creams can be used in moderation, and intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy is also an effective option.

Neurosensory

skin disorders are caused by a wide variety of triggers including eucalyptus oil, fragrances, lactic acid, menthol, peppermint, witch hazel and even vitamin C among other potential causes.

Contact dermatitis

is most frequently caused by parabens and other natural preservatives, fragrances, formaldehyde (found in mascaras, nail polish and hair strengthening treatments) and dyes.

Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D., FAAD, is an internationally renowned, board-certified dermatologist, New York Times best-selling author, media personality and lecturer. CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute and founder of the University of Miamis Cosmetic Medicine & Research Institute, she authored the best-selling Cosmetic Dermatology: Principles and Practice and The Skin Type Solution, and has appeared on “Good Morning America,” “The Today Show” and “The Discovery Channel.”