#AskADerm: Q&A with Dr. Burcu Kim on Sensitive Skin

Updated: Dec 13, 2020

Skin Consultation with Dr. Burcu Kim on Sensitive Skin | Dermatologist in Sydney

If you’ve ever been faced with red, scaly, itchy skin, or a combination of all three—we feel you! Most of us would have encountered forms of eczema at some point in our lives. While it commonly appears on parts of the body, it can be extra uncomfortable when it happens to be on your face as the skin is a lot more delicate, resulting in heightened sensitivity.

To better understand the common condition, we spoke to Dr. Burcu Kim, a Specialist Dermatologist based in Sydney, and fellow at the Australasian College of Dermatologists. With an extensive background in medical and surgical dermatology, including published work and participation in clinical trials, and a keen interest in inflammatory skin diseases, Dr. Kim shared deeper insights on the common skin condition.

Q1: How many types of eczema are there?

There are many different types of eczema, including atopic dermatitis, eczema caused by contact with allergens or irritants (allergic and irritant contact dermatitis), nummular eczema (presents with coin-shaped lesions that can persist for a few months), seborrheic eczema (due to Malassezia yeast) amongst many other types. — Dr. Kim

Q2: Does eczema go away on its own?

It depends on the cause of eczema. With regards to the most common form (atopic dermatitis), some children will outgrow atopic dermatitis, but sometimes it persists into adulthood. If you have atopic dermatitis as an adult, it most often is a chronic condition that is not possible to 'cure' but that most people can learn to manage. Allergic or irritant dermatitis can go away if the triggering factor is removed (for example the product that someone is allergic to, or irritated by). Most commonly, the tendency to have dry, inflamed, and sensitive skin will persist with most types of eczema.

Q3: Any suggestions on healing atopic dermatitis without steroids/cream with steroids?

It is important to maintain a healthy skin barrier to minimise the severity and frequency of flares that may necessitate treatment with, for example, steroid creams. Avoid irritants such as soaps and fragrances on the skin as these dry out the skin. Use a soap-free wash where possible. Keep your showers short and use lukewarm water only. Apply moisturizer frequently and liberally.

Ointments tend to work better than lotions and creams if the skin is particularly dry or in the cooler months.

Make sure you avoid fabrics that can irritate your skin (such as wool) and preferentially opt for cotton. Know your triggers and avoid these where possible. Be knowledgeable of signs of infection and treat this early.

Q4: What triggers atopic dermatitis?

We can't change our genes, but some environmental factors can trigger flares in predisposed individuals. Some common triggers include house dust mite, pollen, pet dander, cigarette smoke, stress, infection, and of course, anything that dries skin out (extremes of temperature, poor diet, soaps, and detergents, not applying moisturizer, etc).

Q5: What causes psoriasis?

It is a multifactorial disease but genetic factors appear to play a very important role.

Q6: Can psoriasis be cured?

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition whereby people may experience flares and remissions during their lifetime. Although it is not currently curable, we are able to get relief from the skin symptoms with various treatment options.

Q7: Can sensitive skin use retinol and AHA?

Generally, it’s best to avoid retinol and AHA if the skin is very sensitive. If you decide to incorporate these into your skincare routine for whatever reason, start at a lower concentration and use it less frequently until your skin is able to tolerate it. Generally, though, best to avoid anything that will irritate your skin if you have sensitive skin.

Q8: Which moisturizer is best for sensitive skin?

Choose a moisturizer that is fragrance-free. Ointments work better than creams/lotions as they tend to be greasier so they are better for the cooler months or if the skin is really dry. Sensitive skin is especially vulnerable to irritating ingredients, so avoid things like harsh exfoliants with high concentrations of AHA/BHA, retinol, botanical extracts, and essential oils, sulfates, and preservatives such as parabens and methylisothiazolinone which can cause allergies in some people.

It is important to know that sometimes what you consider to be sensitive skin could be irritation due to products you are currently applying or may herald an underlying skin condition like eczema or psoriasis, allergies to certain contactants, rosacea, etc, so see a dermatologist to get assessed if you can't get on top of your skincare issues.

If you are experiencing eczema, be sure to heed Dr. Burcu’s advice in avoiding vitamins like retinol and acids like AHA or BHA—and opt for products with gentler formulations instead. If you have sensitive skin, take time to do your research, consult a dermatologist, and do a patch test on your skin before committing to a product. To get you started, we’ve curated a list of products with ingredients suitable for your skin type here. Take two minutes to complete our Smart Skin Analysis and receive tailored recommendations that will be just right for you.

About us: We are Skintelligence, a team focused on a 'skin-first' approach to beauty through artificial intelligence. We match products to you based on your unique skin type and needs. Results are highly accurate and personalized with AI and machine learning. It's fun, convenient, and it works. Try it here.

As featured in Her World, CLEO, FEMALE, Shape, Nuyou, Singapore Women’s Weekly, Daily Vanity, Layers of Skins.

Skintelligence Smart Skin Analysis | Smart Skin Consultation

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