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Contact Dermatitis. 2010 Mar;62(3):137-49. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0536.2009.01697.x.

Sensitive skin: closing in on a physiological cause.

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1
The Procter & Gamble Company, Winton Hill Business Center, Cincinnati, OH 45224, USA. farage.m@pg.com

Abstract

The phenomenon of 'sensitive skin' is a relatively recent complaint in which certain individuals report more intense and frequent adverse sensory effects than the normal population upon use of cosmetic (personal-care) products. Originally defined as a minority complaint, sensitive skin is now claimed by a majority of women in industrialized countries and nearly half of men. Sensitive skin is self-diagnosed and typically unaccompanied by any obvious physical signs of irritation, and the number of individuals who claim sensitivity has risen steadily with the number of consumer products targeted towards this supposedly uncommon group. Believed by many dermatologists, therefore, to be a 'princess and the pea' phenomenon, the problem of sensitive skin has largely avoided focussed research. Over the last few years, however, the evidence of documentable biophysical changes associated with the largely sensory symptoms of this disorder has accumulated, including some gained by improved methods of identifying subclinical signs of skin irritation. Although the understanding of the aetiology of this phenomenon is as yet incomplete, existing research now supports a biophysical origin for this disorder. Effective methods of diagnosis, intrinsic and extrinsic contributors to exaggerated neural sensitivity, and the specific mechanisms of the discomfort associated with the compliant are required, as are appropriate means of prevention and treatment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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