Most people correlate sensitive skin primarily with the facial area. Faces are densely innervated, amplifying the intensity of adverse sensations. The skin on our faces is subjected to a broader range of products, including cosmetics, cleansers, and shaving products, compared to other parts of the body. Moreover, being largely uncovered, it’s exposed to weather extremes, climate variations, and environmental insults. Additionally, individuals tend to be more conscious of facial irritation or discomfort signs, often leading to the perception of heightened sensitivity.
Epidemiological studies have probed sensitive skin issues concerning areas beyond the face. These studies show that perceived skin sensitivity on the face is generally higher than any other body part. However, sensitivity at other anatomical sites should not be disregarded. One of our studies contrasted responses to a sensitive-skin questionnaire with perceived skin sensitivity levels (“very,” “moderate,” or “none”) at specific anatomical sites (e.g., face, body, genital area). We found that when asked about skin sensitivity on the face and body, participants’ responses either aligned with their overall perception of skin sensitivity (60.7% and 68.4%, respectively) or differed only marginally (36.7% and 31.3%). Responses varied when discussing the genital area, with less than half of the participants (46.2%) reporting a similar level of sensitivity as the overall skin. Genital skin was typically reported to be less sensitive. This emphasizes the importance of pinpointing anatomical sites while creating surveys to measure the prevalence of perceived sensitive skin.
Among facial areas, the nasolabial fold is considered the most sensitive, influenced by factors like the thinner skin barrier, the denser nerve endings, and the use of multiple products by women especially. The chin, forehead, and upper lip follow the nasolabial area in sensitivity. Sensitivity then progressively decreases from hands, feet, neck, torso, to back. A significant proportion of people also report scalp sensitivity.
In a study involving 1,039 men and women, 56.2% reported skin sensitivity in the genital area, an area of particular concern due to its embryonic skin composition, which makes it different from other body sites. African-Americans reported higher sensitivity rates than Caucasians (66.4%), p 0.0001. Rough fabrics were identified as the primary cause of skin sensitivity.
It was previously noted that prevalence estimates from various studies in differ, and shows a similar pattern. The disparity can be attributed to several factors, including the lack of a standard survey tool. Investigators designed surveys based on their specific interests, resulting in a wide variation in questions about self-perceived skin sensitivity. The study’s year can also impact the prevalence, with evidence suggesting a steady increase in self-perceived skin sensitivities over time. Consequently, earlier studies may have reported lower prevalence rates.”
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