About 40 to 56 percent of Americans and Canadians suffer from sensitive skin. This can include redness, tightness and stinging, flushing or irritation of the skin, peeling, swelling, rashes or acne. These symptoms may be caused by an environmental factor or genetic predisposition. Sensitive skin usually implies an intolerance to certain types of hygiene products or cosmetics. Sensitive skin can begin from birth and can continue throughout the years, even for the elderly. Redness can occur quickly and last minutes, can come and go in cycles, or may become permanent. Repeated stress and inflammatory reactions can cause it to stay a long time.

Sensitive skin can develop from genetic predispositions, allergies or intolerances, stress, thyroid problems, poor digestion or elimination difficulties. Certain individuals are more prone to skin sensitivity such as people with eczema, dermatitis and rosacea. Children and the elderly are more apt to develop skin sensitivity, as are persons with dry skin.

Genetic Predisposition

A genetic predisposition to sensitive skin is a condition that the individual inherits at birth, making her more susceptible to skin irritations and rashes. If there is the tendency to blush or be sensitive to the sun or freckles, there is the possibility of a genetic predisposition. Genetic predispositions of the skin may be skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea, acne and psoriasis.

The Age Factor

Skin allergies are usually found in people with dry skin. The reason for this is that the damaged skin can be penetrated more easily when it is dry and has difficulty blocking allergens. Over 46 percent of women who have sensitive skin also have dry skin. It is no wonder then that as women age, they become even more sensitive to many skin care products and cosmetics.

The most common cause of cosmetic sensitivity are fragrances and preservatives. It is wise to read the labels of cosmetic products to know what is topically and internally going into the skin. Also, some irritation has been noted by certain sunscreens. Always begin a new product by testing only a small area of skin surface at a time, and gradually increase the amount applied as skin seems to tolerate the new preparation without any irritation. 

Sensitive Nerve Endings and Allergies

An example of sensitive nerve endings is when the individual tries on a new cream and almost instantly gets a powerful stinging reaction. On the other hand, if it is an allergy, redness and inflammation and a rash may set in. Allergies to certain types of foods in the diet or some cosmetics may cause allergic reactions and skin sensitivity. Also, certain soaps, fragrances, dyes or household cleansers can also aggravate skin problems.

Poor Digestion and Sensitive Skin

A body that does not digest properly can be a cause for sensitive skin. If the body is not functioning adequately, inflammation can occur, producing unwanted skin reactions. Healthy digestion reflects healthy skin. Improving your diet and digestion may result with an improvement in sensitive skin.