Spreading the Word about Sensitive Skin Solutions

GW SMHS research shows interest is high among residents and physicians, however, training on the diagnosis and management of sensitive skin lags. 

May 31, 2024

Sensitive skin

Researchers at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), recently published an article in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology (JDD), shedding light on the educational exposure and perspectives of dermatology resident physicians regarding sensitive skin, a common yet complex condition encountered in dermatological practice. The study, conducted by GW SMHS fourth-year medical student Erika T. McCormick and Adam Friedman, chair of the Department of Dermatology at SMHS, emphasizes the need for enhanced education about sensitive skin in residency programs to improve patient care. 

Sensitive skin, characterized by symptoms such as redness, itching, burning and stinging in response to innocuous stimuli, affects roughly 70% of the global population, with 40% of those who have sensitive skin as their only skin condition. Despite its prevalence, there is a lack of consensus on its diagnostic criteria and management approaches. The study aimed to assess dermatology residents’ exposure to sensitive skin education, their perspectives on the condition and their management strategies.

Key Findings:

  • A staggering 99% of dermatology residents believe that sensitive skin should be included in their residency training, highlighting its recognized importance in dermatological care.
  • However, less than half (48%) of the residents reported receiving specific education on sensitive skin, with 51% receiving non-specific education in the context of other skin diseases.
  • Residents with specific education on sensitive skin were significantly more likely to report being “very knowledgeable” about sensitive skin diagnosis, clinical evaluation, and management compared to those without specific education.
  • The study also revealed a lack of consensus among residents regarding the primary etiology of sensitive skin, with 69% attributing it to skin barrier alteration and others considering external/environmental factors, immune dysregulation, or other dermatoses as the primary cause.
  •  Management approaches to sensitive skin were heterogeneous, indicating a need for standardized guidelines.

The study underscores the importance of incorporating specific and comprehensive education on sensitive skin into dermatology residency programs. By enhancing residents’ knowledge and understanding of sensitive skin, they will be better equipped to diagnose, evaluate, and manage patients with this condition effectively.

The authors suggest that a crucial step in improving sensitive skin education during dermatology residency is to bolster research on the topic and develop evidence-based guidelines. This will not only benefit the residents in their training but also improve the quality of care provided to patients with sensitive skin.

Innovators in the SMHS Department of Dermatology are leading the way in defining sensitive skin as a unique independent skin condition, revealing the underpinnings of disease, and identifying emerging approaches to manage. In addition to the cutting-edge clinical care offered at the GW Medical Faculty Associates, the department offers the Galderma Sensitive Skin Translational Research Fellowship Program, to prepare the next generation of dermatologists to better address the full spectrum of inflammatory skin diseases.

This story originally appeared in the spring 2024 edition of Medicine + Health, the flagship publication of the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences.