Sensitive skin in the American population: prevalence, clinical data, and role of the dermatologist

Int J Dermatol. 2011 Aug;50(8):961-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-4632.2011.04884.x.


Introduction: Sensitive skin is a complex dermatological condition, defined by abnormal sensory symptoms. The aim of this epidemiological survey was to assess the prevalence of sensitive skin and collect data on sensitive skin in the US population.

Methods: A phone survey was conducted in the USA by a poll institute in 2007. A sample was drawn from a representative national cohort of the American population at least 18years of age through the quota method. Data on demographic characteristics, environmental and climatic factors, skin characteristics, dermatological disorders, cosmetics use, and visits to the dermatologist were collected.

Results: Of 994 subjects who answered (495 men and 499 women), 44.6% declared having "sensitive" or "very sensitive" skin. Women were more concerned than men (50.9% vs. 38.2%, P<0.0001). There was no significant difference related to geographic localization, age, or ethnic distribution. Subjects with sensitive skin had mainly dry (34.5%) or mixed skin (35.7%), fair phototypes, dermatological disorders, higher skin reactivity to cosmetics and various environmental factors in comparison with subjects who stated having only a "slightly" sensitive or not sensitive skin. The dermatologist had a strong influence on subjects with "sensitive" or "very sensitive" skin through the prescription of skin care products.

Conclusion: This study, based on a representative sample of the American population, reveals a high prevalence of sensitive skin in the USA. Sensitive skin is mainly associated with dry skin, fair phototype, reactivity to climatic and environmental factors, and cosmetics. American dermatologists seem largely involved in the care of this condition.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cosmetics / adverse effects
  • Data Collection
  • Dermatitis, Contact / epidemiology*
  • Dermatitis, Contact / therapy*
  • Dermatology / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Distribution
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Cosmetics