August 15, 2022

    Sensitive Skin Syndrome

    Sensitive Skin Syndrome

    Sensitive skin syndrome is a skin disorder that impacts approximately 30-55% of the world population. It is characterized by the manifestation of unpleasant feelings such as burning, itching, stinging, pain or prickling in the skin in response to exposure to a variety of stimuli that typically should not incite those responses. 

    These stimuli can include a variety of everyday factors such as heat, cold, water or sunlight, but of specific and significant concern to our industry is that sensitive skin syndrome can be activated by exposure to topically applied products, such as cosmetics or personal health care materials which are not carefully pH balanced for the skin.

    Indeed, sensitive skin syndrome (as it is known today) was first described in the mid-1980s as cosmetic intolerance syndrome due to the observed onset of symptoms in patients after the application of cosmetic products. As the skin ages, it becomes thinner and more easily damaged by the elements, as well as cosmetic products which are too high a pH for the skin.

    The underlying cause of sensitive skin disorder has been difficult to determine for many years. While the perceived sensory symptoms can be associated with redness or inflammation in the affected region of the skin, in most cases, the individual impacted by symptoms does not display any sort of visible dermatitis or other types of observable and quantifiable symptoms. Rather, the diagnosis of sensitive skin depends on the individual subjectively relaying their perceived sensory information and describing the type of skin discomfort they are feeling. Who would have guessed that our soap or other preparations could have been the culprit all along?

    Without a firm and definite endpoint to observe, it is little wonder that it has taken a while to pinpoint the underlying mechanism for sensitive skin disorder. Over the years, various population factors have been examined, such as age, gender, hormonal status, psychological status, ethnicity and environment. In addition, many structures and components of the skin itself have been examined, including barrier function—i.e., stratum corneum thickness, water permeability and lipid content—sweat gland anatomy and epidermal innervation.

    Throughout the research, many of the examined factors were not shown to consistently contribute to sensitive skin syndrome, and slowly the list was reduced to a couple main potential causative factors. The first is the barrier function of the skin, which most likely plays a role in the sensitive skin associated with some skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis or acne.  Impaired barrier function is directly keyed to the acid mantel, which when disrupted by washing with harsh soaps and cleansers as well as run off shampoos and conditioners. This disruption and removal of the Acid Mantel takes 24 hours to return to normal, which is assaulted again before it can return to normal, so unless you have very thick skin, there is almost no chance for you not to get sensitive skin after years of such treatment.

    The Skin as a Sensory Organ

    As noted, the main symptoms of sensitive skin syndrome are pain (stinging, burning, tingling or prickling sensations) and itch. These types of sensations are detected by intraepi­dermal nerve fibers, which include C-fibers and Aδ-fibers. These nerve fibers are unmyelinated in the epidermis—C-fibers are unmyelinated, while Aδ-fibers lose their myelination when they enter the epidermis—allowing them to come into direct contact with all epidermal cells, especially keratino­cytes. 

    In order for these nerve cells to perform their job of gathering sensory information, they need a means to interact with the environment. This means is provided by a class of sensory receptors belonging to the family of Transient Receptor Protein (TRP) ion gates, specifically TRPV1 and TRPV4. It is of interest to note that these receptors are designed to specifically react directly or indirectly to stimuli that can cause pain (i.e., low pH, capsaicin, heat and UVB) or itch (i.e., histamine and endothelin-1). As the sensations of pain and itch are the same sensations associated with sensitive skin syndrome, then the involvement of intraepi­dermal nerve fibers, whose job it is to relay those same sensations as part of the underlying pathology… makes sense.

    But there is a catch…

    It has been observed that in individuals with sensitive skin syndrome, there is a hyperactivity in the intraepi­dermal nerve fibers associated with a lower threshold needed to activate the TRP receptors. However, there is also an observed decrease in the density of the intraepi­dermal nerves within the epidermis. Basically, sensory nerves are more easily stimulated in sensitive skin, but there are fewer nerves present per area of the skin.

    It is imperative that a proper pH balance (4.5-5.5) in products used on the skin be the guiding factor in using and buying products for the skin.  When the Acid Mantel of the skin is removed with high PH soaps and other High pH products, the skin will not have a chance to heal itself before the next assault.  (It takes 24 hours for the acid mantel to return the skin to normal pH.  Yes, I repeated this message, you are right!  If I could fill a page with this message and it would not be too much if anyone paid attention to it! 

    Here at Private Label Skincare Florida, all our skin and hair care products are perfectly pH balanced for skin and hair.  As your shampoo and conditioner are applied on to your skin in the shower and bath (and your scalp is also skin) it is imperative that all products used on your hair and skin are of the same pH range.  Please let us know how we can help you help your customers to have the best possible hair and skin by using our lab to make your pH balanced hair and skincare.

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