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Give Origin to Your Client’s Sensitive Skin

By: Kris Campbell
Posted: December 4, 2013, from the December 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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When skin conditions arise due to hormonal causes, professionals need to treat them with ingredients that are not overly aggressive in order to avoid increasing sensitivities. Hormonal breakouts should be treated with low doses of salicylic acid, enzymes or light alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). There are new benzoyl peroxide-type ingredients available, such as glycyrrhetinic acid, which are very effective for sensitive skin.


Sensitive skin can be affected by extremely aggressive ingredients that may be overused, thereby causing the skin to become reactive and develop cosmetics intolerance syndrome (CIS). This is a skin condition discovered by Howard Maibach, MD, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco Department of Dermatology. His studies include the over-application of aggressive products, as well as over-exfoliating with peels and physical exfoliants. According to Maibach’s research, the skin barrier is then broken down, allowing irritating ingredients to penetrate deeper and faster, causing unwanted skin reactions. (Editor’s note: To purchase Maibach’s book A Dermatological View: From Physiology to Therapy (Alluredbooks, 2011), log on to

A client that immediately shows signs of redness, itching or inflammation after the application of a skin care or cosmetic product may be at the beginning stages of CIS. It is necessary that this client scales back all products until the reactions subside. If left undiagnosed and unchanged, continued product useage could lead to the worst form of CIS—status cosmeticus, a condition that results in a client who has reactions to any skin care or cosmetic product.

Sensitive skin clients should use dermatologically tested, nonaggressive products with natural preservatives and colors, little or no fragrance and no sulfates. These products will be less likely to cause reactions.


Most people forget that the environment they work and live in could be a contributing factor to their sensitivity issues. Photosensitivity, cold/hot or arid/humid climates, and even various occupations may eventually lead to skin conditions, causing it to react in a manner that is hard to manage and control.

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