Don’t Look at My Sensitive Skin!

If you look at me. If I even think you’re looking at me… There goes my skin! Whoosh—it gets all pink and red, heating up like a furnace. Yes, I have sensitive skin.

On the one hand, I’ve had sensitive skin my entire life. My mom had to make sure I was slathered with sunscreen because the thought of sun could burn me.

But I have to say that in recent years my skin’s sensitivity has developed to extremes, which I attribute to the side effects of the powerful medications I’m taking to treat my rheumatoid arthritis. I had my first severe episode a few years ago while I was on antibiotics. Although it wasn’t an RA treatment, I didn’t know (wasn’t informed) that antibiotics could increase skin sensitivity. I spent an afternoon outside watching a tennis tournament and left with blistered hands that had burned in the sun.

Lesson #1: Antibiotics can make you more susceptible to sunburns.

Not long after I recovered from that incident, I started taking methotrexate for my RA. It felt like my skin had just calmed down when the medication started working in full force. My joints felt significantly better, but every time I went outside I felt like I sizzled—even with sunscreen!

Once in awhile I enjoyed having a facial treatment, but when I went to my usual place all the lotions cause my skin to react. My skin burned and said “No more!”

My doctor had warned me about the drug making me more susceptible to sunburn, but this went above and beyond in my case. Later we were able to decrease my methotrexate and the oversensitivity decreased a modest amount, but it never went back to normal.

Lesson #2: Methotrexate can increase skin sensitivity.

About a year ago I started taking Enbrel in combination with a lower dose of methotrexate. The medication is really helping my RA, but I noticed another increase in the sensitivity of my skin.

The big difference is that now I am on the lookout for the signs and have some techniques for protecting my delicate skin cells. I always used sunscreen, but now I also wear a hat with a big brim when I’m outside. If I’m out for any length of time, then I’m sure to seek shade or even wear light, long-sleeved clothing to protect my skin.

Lesson #3: Protect your skin from the sun.

While my skin was always somewhat sensitive, now it’s enough that I’m really careful about the products I use, like cleanser and moisturizer. I buy the items labeled “sensitive” and I try to test them before using to see if my skin can handle them. Still, I have to use lotion sparingly because my skin is so reactive.

Lesson #4: Buy products for “sensitive” skin and test before using.

Despite all my coping methods, my skin still befuddles me. After touching my face, even lightly, I can always see the red marks for awhile after. My skin is literally too sensitive to touch!

And I get so annoyed that it reddens for no apparent reason. If I feel warm I get red, but then I go red at seemingly the drop of the hat and I cannot control it!

While I’ve come to grips with my extra sensitive skin, I have a feeling it will periodically plague me. However, for this inconvenience it is worth the medications that alleviate my RA.

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