Dry and sensitive skin: are they the same thing, or different? Can you have both?
This is a question some of our customers have asked us, so we wanted to answer it here.
About Dry and Sensitive Skin
Dry skin and sensitive skin are two different things, but it is common for them to occur at the same time. Let’s look at the simple definitions:
- Dry skin means that your skin lacks moisture.
- Sensitive skin means that your skin is more prone to reactions like redness and itching.
As we look more closely at these two skin conditions, we can see some overlapping symptoms too. But with more information, you can determine whether one or both is causing your skin problems right now.
Dry skin—also called xerosis or xeroderma—may be caused by cold or dry weather, sun damage, harsh soaps and cleansers, retinoids, certain medications, overbathing, and some illnesses like thyroid disease and diabetes.
The dryness may come and go depending on the season, or it may be more permanent if your skin is dry in general or you have damaged, aging skin with a compromised skin barrier.
Signs and symptoms of dry skin include:
- Skin feels tight
- Skin looks and feels rough (rather than smooth)
- Dullness, lackluster looking skin
- More visible wrinkles
- Flaking skin
- An ashy look
- Scaling or peeling
- Fine lines or cracks
- Potential for bleeding
It’s common for dry skin to develop because of damage to the skin barrier. The outer layer loses its integrity and thus its ability to hold moisture in. Moisture escapes more easily, causing dry skin and leaving you susceptible to environmental harm and accelerated aging.
Sensitive skin is a term used to describe skin with reduced tolerance to cosmetics, personal care products, allergens, and sometimes fabrics and other products. It’s more likely to react with stinging, itching, and burning or with visible changes like redness, dryness, peeling, and hives. Sensitive skin is more likely to develop inflammation and rashes.
There are many causes of sensitive skin, including allergies, skin conditions like dermatitis and psoriasis, dryness, and a damaged skin barrier. Skin may also experience short-term sensitivity caused by cosmetic treatments, over-exfoliation, some medications, or medical treatments like radiation and chemotherapy.
Common signs and symptoms of sensitive skin include:
- Skin reactions like skin bumps, inflammation, or rashes
- Very dry skin
- Skin that stings and burns
- A tendency toward skin flushing
- Allergic skin conditions like eczema and contact dermatitis
- Redness reactions
- Itching and irritation
Most people with sensitive skin have “triggers” that cause reactions. Common triggers include allergens, soaps and other harsh beauty products, laundry detergents, preservatives, fragrances, metals like nickel, chemicals in clothing, materials like rubber and latex, cold weather, and even heat and hot water.
Can I Have Both Dry and Sensitive Skin?
It is possible to have both dry and sensitive skin. If you notice that you have more than one of the symptoms listed above for each condition, you are likely suffering from dry sensitive skin.
You may, for instance, have dry skin in general, and then notice later in life that your skin seems to be acting more sensitive. Or you may have sensitive skin, to begin with, then notice more dryness as you age.
There are many scenarios where both of these conditions can exist at the same time. Indeed, dry skin is particularly prone to sensitivity, and sensitive skin is often dry. This can make it difficult to determine what is causing your skin to suffer—and what you should do to fix it.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does my skin appear dull and lifeless and lack that youthful glow? Is it also likely to sting and burn, or get red in certain circumstances?
- Does my skin feel tight while also looking red and inflamed?
- Have my efforts to hydrate my skin resulted in breakouts and rashes?
- Do I struggle with a condition like rosacea or eczema and my moisturizers don’t seem to be helping enough?
- Do I get rashes when wearing certain clothing materials and have dry, itchy skin on my arms and legs?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you likely have dry, sensitive skin. The key is to look for signs of dryness and sensitivity occurring together.
Solutions for Dry Sensitive Skin
To help your skin recover and look its best, try these tips.
1. Use CV Skinlabs Products
CV Skinlabs’ nourishing and soothing skincare products were specifically created for dry and sensitive skin. They are 100 percent free of ingredients linked to toxic and allergic effects. Plus, they’re filled with nourishing and anti-inflammatory ingredients that can help calm sensitive skin and are clinically proven to increase hydration while reducing redness and irritation.
2. Protect Your Skin Every Day
Use a safe sunscreen like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide every day. This will help reduce your risk of skin cancer, as well as hyperpigmentation, rashes, and redness.
Remember too to protect your skin from pollution. Toxins in polluted air can assault your skin, potentially causing inflammation and premature aging. Avoid going out during the most polluted times of the day, and avoid exercising near high-traffic areas. Then be sure to use a moisturizer that helps fortify your skin barrier. (We recommend our Calming Moisture or Restorative Skin Balm.)
3. Avoid Harsh Cleansers
Those with alcohols, sulfates, fragrances, and harsh preservatives may trigger your sensitivities while also stripping your skin of its natural moisturizing oils. Use a gentle, creamy cleanser that will leave your skin feeling soft and supple.
4. Exfoliate Gently
Exfoliation helps slough off dead skin cells and reveal newer, younger-looking skin underneath. It’s critical for treating dry skin, but it can trigger sensitive skin.
You can still exfoliate regularly, but you must do it gently. Good exfoliating products have natural fruit acids like salicylic and glycolic to break up the dead skin layer on the surface of your skin. Other gentle options include lactic, azelaic, and mandelic acid. These can help improve sensitive skin’s resilience while strengthening the barrier.
5. Watch What You Eat
Skin survives on the nutrients it gets from the blood, and the blood gets those nutrients from the foods you eat. You can help improve dry, sensitive skin by eating a healthy diet that includes omega-3 fatty acids, protective antioxidants, and water-rich choices.
Some foods to include:
- Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and herring
- Olive oil
- Dark leafy greens
Do you have dry sensitive skin?