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Do I have sensitive skin or a contact allergy?

Itching, redness, tightness - if you notice such reactions in your skin, the conclusion is usually: sensitive skin. But is there something completely different behind it? Contact allergies often manifest themselves in a very similar way. However, the problem behind it is fundamentally different. In this article, you will learn how sensitive skin differs from an allergic skin reaction and why both require completely different approaches.

Sensitive reaction of the skin on the face and décolleté - Five Skincare

Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

Sensitive reaction of the skin on the face and décolleté

Sensitive facial skin is sensitive. It reacts to many care products and is particularly sensitive to cold and heat. The reactions range from skin tightness and a feeling of dryness to red spots and a slight burning sensation. You can tell immediately if you have sensitive skin if you are stressed. It mainly affects dry skin, but oily skin can also show the same symptoms. The good news: you can do something against sensitive skin .
While sensitive skin can have a variety of causes, the reason is always the same: your skin's natural protective barrier, the skin barrier, is not intact . In a healthy state, it regulates the moisture balance almost by itself, repels bacteria and impurities and fights free radicals that lead to cell damage.
Unfortunately, sensitive skin is often genetic, but over-care increases the effect . So just when you mean well, things only get worse. Luckily, with the right care, you can soothe your sensitive skin again. Here are the most important dos and don'ts:

Dos – The right care for sensitive skin

  • A drastic cure: Help your skin to close its perforated barrier by leaving it alone for a while. You can find out how to do this under « The drastic cure – the emergency plan for your stressed skin. »
  • Use products with few ingredients because everything you put on your skin means work for it in the first place.
  • Don't just minimize the number of ingredients per product, but the total number of products used.

Don'ts - Not a good idea for sensitive skin

  • (Heavy) foaming washing gels – what foams a lot also dries out a lot.
  • Soap – Attention: some cleaning products especially for the face also contain soap! Pay attention to the INCI designation "Sulfate".
  • Mechanical peels and fruit acid peels because they further irritate your skin.
  • Toiletries with alcohol that dry out and irritate your skin. Pay attention to the INCI designation "Alcohol", "Alcohol denat." or «Weingeist», usually in second or third place on the INCI list. Further back is less bad.
  • Care products with emulsifiers that further break down the protective barrier. Unfortunately, practically all creams have emulsifiers in them. Instead, you can switch to a natural cosmetic facial oil or our Shea Cream , which contains no emulsifiers.
  • Excessive care: Too much cream makes the skin lazy and it forgets how to help itself.

Are you interested in detailed recommendations for sensitive skin?
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Contact Allergy: What's the Difference to Sensitive Skin?

Allergic contact dermatitis, or contact allergy, is a different shoe altogether. Your immune system develops antibodies against a certain substance. It sees any contact with it as an attack and ramps up defense mechanisms. Therefore, the allergy does not necessarily occur at the site where you applied the product.
The treacherous thing: You don't feel an allergy the first time you come into contact with the substance. The body becomes sensitized to it at this moment and begins to form antibodies. The allergic reaction only occurs the next time you come into contact with the substance.

The symptoms of a contact allergy are similar to sensitive skin

The reaction usually shows up within a few hours or days. The intensity is also very different. Typical symptoms are itching, swelling, redness or eczema. Wait a minute, we've had that before... This is where the problem lies: Although contact allergies and sensitive skin show some similar symptoms , the causes are fundamentally different .
Allergy sufferers react to one (or more) certain ingredients, while sensitive skin is an expression of overload. Therefore, the handling of both states is fundamentally different. If you suspect an allergic reaction , this is a clear case for your dermatologist and allergist. Only a doctor can clarify with certainty whether and which allergy you have.
What many people don't realize is that an allergy can get worse and the reaction can become more and more severe. It can even lead to shortness of breath and an allergic shock. A contact allergy is therefore not something to be trifled with. There is no point in simply reducing ingredients indiscriminately. You must know your allergens and avoid them completely .

Myths and uncertainty when dealing with allergies

Experience has shown that people with a diagnosed contact allergy are often unsure which cosmetic products are good for them. Remember, when you have an allergy, the only thing that matters is avoiding the right substance, the allergen you are reacting to. So let's dispel two big myths so that you get more clarity.

Misconception 1: With natural cosmetics you are safe from allergies

This myth stems from the fact that natural cosmetics are generally considered to be better tolerated. As long as there is no allergy, that can also be the case. But if you do, you will react just as allergic to the concentrated plant power of natural cosmetics as you would to conventional products. If you are allergic to strawberries, for example, it makes no difference whether you enjoy the fruit on the cake or smear it on your skin. The reaction is inevitable.

Misconception 2: With fewer ingredients, the allergic reaction is less severe

Unfortunately, what is true for simply sensitive skin does not work for a contact allergy. Even if there was only one ingredient in your care product: If that is your allergen, there will of course be a reaction.

What can trigger a contact allergy?

The best-known contact allergens include nickel and latex. But components of essential oils can also trigger contact allergies . Essential oils are highly complex and contain the concentrated power of plants. They are made up of up to 200 individual substances. No wonder that it is almost impossible to recognize for yourself which substances you are reacting to exactly.
In order to clearly label allergens, the EU has defined 26 fragrances for which an allergenic potential is known. You may know this information about allergens that you have encountered on the menu in the restaurant for some time - it is similar with cosmetics. Scent allergens are always listed separately in the INCI list , usually at the very end because they occur in low concentrations.
In almost every natural cosmetic product you will find potential allergens with such unpronounceable names as "Linalool", "Limonene", "Farnesol" or "Geraniol". By the way, these are exactly what our Shea Cream contains and come from the essential neroli oil that we use for it.

Conclusion: Sensitive skin or contact allergy? Know it!

The FIVE products are specially designed for sensitive skin that is just a little too quick-tempered and sometimes has little freaks. The reduction of the ingredients helps your skin to calm down. This gives her a chance to regenerate her protective barrier and freak out less in the future.

However, our products can only be recommended to a limited extent for people with allergies, as they contain essential oils. They are 100% natural, but, as already mentioned, that makes no difference if you have an allergy. It is therefore all the more important to differentiate between merely sensitive skin and allergic ones. If you suffer from a diagnosed contact allergy - or suspect you have one - I recommend that you consult your doctor. He may advise you to use cosmetics that are specially designed for allergy sufferers.

Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept The Sensitive Skin Syndrome Sensitive skin: an epidemiological study

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