A Singapore Dermatologist Talks

– What To Do With Sensitive Skin?

By Dr. Teo Wan Lin, Consultant Dermatologist at TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre, Singapore

A significant proportion of people have consistently experienced the effects of sensitive skin—in fact, according to a British report released in 2001, self-reported skin sensitivity was reported by 51% of women and 38% of men. In a hot and humid country like Singapore, the discomfort caused by sensitive skin can only be exaggerated, given that body fluids like sweat can contribute to the condition.

However, sensitive skin conditions are not made equal. It can present itself in different ways, from just observable changes to the colour and the surface of your skin, to more uncomfortable symptoms such as a stinging, itching or burning sensation. If you have any one of the above conditions, you may have sensitive skin.

What exactly is sensitive skin? 

Patients with sensitive skin are likely to have atopic dermatitis, a genetically determined condition where the skin is deficient in fatty lipids- the very substances that act as a barrier between your skin and the environment.

If you experience an acute episode of “sensitivity”, you may actually have a form of allergic contact dermatitis to a topically applied substance. As mentioned before, it may also be the result of body fluids like sweat, environmental factors such as heat, cold, humidity, as well as exposure to ultraviolet light. Since weakened skin can deteriorate further if continually exposed to allergans or irritants, even a suspected sensitive skin condition should be reviewed by a dermatologist to eradicate the problem at its root.

I have sensitive skin- what should I do right now?

If you think that you are experiencing sensitive skin, you should halt the usage of all skincare cosmeceuticals (ie. antioxidant, hydrating, anti aging products) and immediately seek the advice of a dermatologist.

After a careful review of environmental factors and all the ingredients in the products, the dermatologist will will advise you on the likely cause of the reaction and treat your condition accordingly. A patch test may sometimes be conducted after the inflammation has subsided to test for an allergy to the suspected product.

In the meantime, however, here are a few ways to properly care for your sensitive skin:

  1. Look for the labels “dermatologically tested and formulated” when it comes to choosing cleansers, moisturisers and cosmeceutical products
  2. Avoid testing many different cosmetic products which have no scientific evidence proving effectiveness.
  3. Avoid dust, extremes of temperature and humidity, as well as prolonged contact with sweat

Can I still use anti-aging serums and go for laser treatments?

While anti-aging cosmeceuticals and laser treatments can still be used, it is best to switch all your skincare cosmeceuticals and cosmetics permanently to a dermatologist tested and formulated line (if you haven’t already!). This ensures that the topicals that you apply on your skin are stable formulations and suitable for your skin.

Similarly, skin rejuvenation treatments should only be performed by a dermatologist, who will choose the correct treatment and settings to ensure the best results without irritating the skin.

Dr. Teo Wan Lin, founder and medical director of TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre, is an accredited dermatologist specialising in medical and aesthetic dermatology. She integrates her artistic sensibility with her research background and specialist dermatologist training, by means of customised, evidence-based aesthetic treatments using state-of the-art machines, injectables (fillers and toxins) which work synergistically with her proprietary line of specialist dermatologist-grade cosmeceuticals Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals