dermalogica

Dermalogica Soothing Protection Spray calms both sensitive and sensitized skin. Photo courtesy of Dermalogica

Ask 100 women if they have sensitive skin and there's a good chance 90 of them will say yes.

But c'mon -- can that many people really have sensitive skin?

I posed that question to skin guru and myth-buster Annet King, the Director of Global Education for the International Dermal Institute (a skincare education center and research facility for Dermalogica skincare).

In short, the answer is no -- that many women do not have sensitive skin, but a whole slew of us has sensitized skin. Here's the difference:

Sensitive skin is hereditary and usually found in people of Celtic or Northern European descent, so they're usually pale with light eyes. These people have higher levels of histamine in their body so they are more prone to reactions like hay fever and eczema.

"A true sensitive skin person is always in an allergic state," explains King. "It's a natural, genetic sensitivity. They easily become itchy, red, and sometimes have chronic dark circles. And the sensitivity is all over the person's body."

Sensitive skin is a tough nut to crack because certain ingredients will cause reactions in some people, but not others. King says it's not even enough to look for hypoallergenic products because there could be other ingredients in there that cause reactions.

It requires a lot of trial and error to find the magic combination, but it helps to start with products that are fragrance-free, mineral oil-free and don't have chemical exfoliators like alpha hydroxy acids or glycolic acid.

Sensitized skin happens from an external factor -- weather (think dry, cold winters), stress, traveling, overuse of potent skincare products or treatments (like glycolic peels followed by Retin-A) and sun exposure can all cause skin to become irritated, red and itchy.

A surprising culprit? Low fat diets. "I think they're very harmful," says King because they lower the natural moisture content in your skin.

Any ethnicity or skin type can become sensitized, and it's usually localized to the face. The good news is, this is way easier to fix -- you just have to chill on the daily face scrubs (try once a week, add more if you can handle it), add more moisture to your winter skincare routine, add some good fats to your diet (olive oil, nuts) and hit the yoga mat.

Once you get your skin's act in gear you can start introducing gentle anti-agers. Start with an anti-wrinkle makeup primer!