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While there is a trend towards natural skin care over synthetic or chemically synthesized products, the choice between the two is not easy or crystal clear, especially if you have sensitive skin.  Although skin sensitivity tends to be more common for those with dry skin, individuals who have normal, oily or combination may also have sensitive skin, making it even more challenging to choose appropriate skin care products.

Typically, those with sensitive skin are hyper-reactive, less tolerant and often deal with:
•Flushing or redness caused by environmental stresses such as cold, heat and wind. Everyday topical treatments may also trigger redness.
•Tightness or burning from skin care products. A weakened barrier function can make skin less resistant to ingredients found in many skin care products, especially fragrances and soaps.
•Itchy, dry skin.  While sensitive skin is more likely to feel the effects of harsh chemicals and ingredients, it's also more prone to losing moisture. For this reason, those with sensitive skin often experience dryness – which can lead to uncomfortable itching.

Choosing skin care products with a minimum of ingredients that are fragrance-free is a given.  However, opting for something that is labelled "natural" is no guarantee of its suitability.  Natural skin care products often contain essential oils like peppermint and bergamot, both high on the list of potential irritants to any type of skin.  And while the word "natural" may imply botanical or chemical-free to many of us, the fact remains that the labelling of a product as "natural" is not currently regulated by the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration), making it nearly impossible to be certain of what you're getting.

As for synthetic ingredients, the truth is that they are not all as bad as some in the beauty industry would have you believe.  In fact, many key skin care ingredients are more effective in their synthetic form and are actually made from a combination of natural ingredients.  In addition, the synthetic form may be more stable, may penetrate the skin more easily and create longer lasting results than the natural form.

Whether natural or synthetic, finding the right skin care product for your sensitive skin may come down to reading the labels to avoid known irritants and performing a skin patch test to minimize the chances of unpleasant reactions.

To help you decide choose which products are worth your hard-earned cash, ask yourself these questions:
1.Are ingredients present in sufficient concentrations to have a positive effect on the skin? Is the formulation chemically and physically stable?
2.Can the product penetrate the stratum corneum (skin's uppermost layer) to actually deliver benefit?
3.Does the product contain an effective preservative system? Freshness matters and if not preserved suitably, the product may be ineffective or possibly unsafe.

With all the money that companies spend to convince you that their product line is essential to achieving great skin, knowing the right questions to ask can help you make better decisions.

Sharmani Pillay is a Registered Pharmacist who specializes in anti-aging skin care and women's wellness. She owns and operates an online skin care store at [Link Removed].
For a limited time, Fabulously 40 members save 5% off all purchases. Code fab40 at checkout.

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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mature Makeup wrote Feb 19, 2014
    • I suffer from very bad allergies.  The doctor termed me as “hypersensitive” and said there is no way to treat me without risking killing me.  :(  I have to make my own skin care products with all natural ingredients.

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