Because sensitive skin is a symptom, not a diagnosis, no single medical test can test for sensitive skin. A variety of tests, however, can help you understand why your skin is sensitive.
It's usually not hard to miss the signs of sensitive skin: the breakout that requires a week's worth of recovery after using a new lotion. The mysterious red welts that appear after shaving with even the newest, sharpest razor. The annoyance of never being able to skip moisturiser. You probably don't need a medical test to tell you that your skin is highly reactive.
But much like headaches or sneezing, sensitive skin is a symptom, not a diagnosis. That means no single medical test can diagnose you with sensitive skin, but your doctor may be able to narrow down the causes of your problems with a combination of testing and careful monitoring.
Monitoring Skin Sensitivity
Your doctor can't tell you much about your sensitive skin without knowing when and how your skin reacts to various skincare products and environmental changes. Consider keeping a skin health log for two to three weeks, keeping diligent notes about:
- Specific skin reactions, their severity, how long they lasted, and whether they went away on their own or with treatment.
- Every skincare product you use.
- Every other substance that comes into contact with your skin, including laundry, haircare, and household cleaning products.
- Your diet, particularly any changes that coincide with skin reactions.
- Climate changes, including those occurring indoors from air conditioning, heating, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, or open windows.
- Your emotional state. Some people with sensitive skin find that their skin is more reactive when they're stressed. And in some cases, hormonal changes can trigger emotional swings that also cause sensitive skin reactions.
Medical Tests for Skin Sensitivity
In addition to taking a detailed medical history that includes specific questions about your sensitivity, your doctor may perform a number of tests. The right combination of tests will depend on your other symptoms but may include:
- Blood testing to assess hormone levels.
- Skin testing for allergies.
- Examination of your skin for signs of infection or skin disorders such as eczema.
- Biopsies of any suspicious-looking moles or other growths.
Your doctor may also adopt a trial-and-error approach to diagnosis and treatment. For example, he or she may recommend eliminating all skincare products, then gradually reintroducing them one at a time. This allows you to determine whether a specific product is the culprit in addition to helping your doctor assess whether your skincare regimen is helping or hurting.
If your doctor can't find a specific medical cause for your skin sensitivity, it could mean that your skin is simply hyper-reactive to harsh ingredients, or that you need to treat your skin more gently by using products designed for sensitive skin. If you continue having difficulties even with a switch to sensitive skincare products, talk to your doctor about prescription remedies that might reduce the frequency of skin reactions.