Sensitive Skin: Causes and Remedies

Updated on November 12, 2019
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I've been an online writer for over six years. I specialize in lifestyle topics.

What Is Sensitive Skin?

Sensitive skin is a sensation involving burning, stinging, itching, and tingling as a result of factors such as temperature, wind, soap, cosmetics, pollution, ultra-violet light (UV), stress, cosmetics, and hormones (Farage and Maiback, 2010). This often occurs alongside frequent use of products such as toiletries and cosmetics. Women most often report cases of sensitive skin.

Causes of Sensitive Skin

There are a variety of factors that could be related to sensitive skin. According to a research article by Farage and Maiback (2010) in the journal Dermatitis, several of these factors include:

  • Sex/Gender
  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Cultural Factors
  • Environmental Factors

Skin sensitivity occurs most often on the face. Specific factors leading to this issue could include a thinner facial skin barrier, many nerve endings, and an increased number of facial products used on the face in women (Farage and Maiback, 2010).

Though we may not be able to change some of the potential causal factors, there are steps to take to address this issue. In this article, I will share ways to take care of sensitive skin to prevent being consistently bothered by irritated, red, and itchy skin.

How to Take Care of Your Sensitive Skin (Contents)

  1. Stay Consistent
  2. Less Is More
  3. Watch the Application and Removal
  4. Check the Ingredients
  5. Beware of Branding
  6. Mosturize

Take care of your skin to manage sensitivity.
Take care of your skin to manage sensitivity.

1. Stay Consistent

One tip for those with sensitive skin is that once you have found products that work well for you, to try to stick with them as much as possible. One of the main reasons we break out with rashes and acne is because we change products too often.

There was a time when I changed almost every makeup product I was using all at once just because I was bored and wanted to try new things. As a result, I was rewarded with the worst skin I had ever had. I had terrible itchy rashes and it was extremely uncomfortable. Though it is not "wrong" to want to try new makeup products, if you really must do so, try to change one product at a time to see how your skin handles it. I know that patience can be hard in this case, but as I said, I learned this truth the hard way!

When applying makeup and other products to your skin, be careful not to use excessive amounts.
When applying makeup and other products to your skin, be careful not to use excessive amounts.

2. Less Is More

A second tip is to not go "overboard" with your makeup. I used to think that I needed to use many layers of different kinds of beauty products. I was using moisturizer, primer, color corrector, concealer, foundation, blush, bronzer, highlighter, and powder. And it was stifling my skin. My skin was constantly itchy and red. Though some people may be able to get away with these layers, I eventually learned that I needed to pick a few types of products to use rather than using all of them at once. My typical choices now include moisturizer (which is always a must), foundation, and blush (not counting my eye, lip, and brow makeup). As a result, my skin has really calmed down.

Make sure to be gentle when applying and removing makeup.
Make sure to be gentle when applying and removing makeup.

3. Watch the Application and Removal

The next tip is to find a makeup application and removal method that is gentle. This will probably involve some trial and error. I try to avoid applying makeup with my fingers. This prevents oil, soap residue, and bacteria from transferring to my face. I also personally tend to avoid makeup brushes since the application tends to be harsher than other methods. The method that has consistently worked well for me is a damp sponge (specifically the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge). This also works well for me since it adds a little bit more moisture to my dry skin.

4. Check the Ingredients

Become comfortable with checking labels on makeup products. If a product has 50 ingredients, it is not likely going to be an appropriate product for someone with sensitive skin. Typically, the fewer ingredients a product has, the better. One ingredient to watch out for is fragrance (sometimes listed as "parfum"). Fragrance is an irritant that does not provide any benefits to skin. It's imporant to be on the lookout for preservatives as well.

It is also important to note that ingredients are listed in order of quantity. This means that the first several ingredients usually make up the bulk of a product, whereas ingredients listed further down comprise a smaller percentage by weight. Therefore, if fragrance is listed as one of the first ingredients, that is bad news for sensitive skin!

5. Beware of Dubious Claims

A general tip, though often tricky to apply, is to not blindly believe ad campaigns for products. Just because a product is marketed as "hypoallergenic" or is targeted toward "sensitive skin" does not mean that this is the case. Begin to look at products critically rather than instantly believing the claims that a company makes. The claims may be true, but on the other hand, they may not be true. I have seen so many products that have been advertised for sensitive skin, but one of the first ingredients was fragrance. Again, this is why it is important to read product ingredient labels.

Moisturize to ensure that your skin stays hydrated and reduces irritation.
Moisturize to ensure that your skin stays hydrated and reduces irritation. | Source

6. Moisturize

Those with sensitive skin should apply moisturizer daily. It is also important to always apply moisturizer prior to applying foundation. Farage and Maiback (2010) explain that moisturizer improves skin sensitivity when concerning issues in skin barrier function. This protects the skin barrier and keeps the skin hydrated.

One of my favorite moisturizers for sensitive skin includes:

  • CereVe Moisturizing Lotion for Normal to Dry skin

Additional products that have worked well for me in the past include:

  • Olay Complete All Day UV Moisturizer SPF 15 Sensitive Skin
  • Mario Badescu Kera Moisturizer

Factors That Can Contribute to Skin Sensitivity

Factor of Sensitivity
Sensitive skin occurs more often in women than men
It is estimated that skin sensitivity increases with age
Different ethnicities exhibit sensitivity to different environmental triggers
Hygiene practices, for example, may vary across cultures
Environmental Factors
Cold temperatures, pollution, heat, and cold may affect skin sensitivity
Factors that could lead to skin sensitivity (Farage and Maiback, 2010).

Learn More About Caring For Sensitive Skin

Care for Your Skin

There are many ways to prevent sensitive skin from becoming extremely annoying and even unbearable. Overall, make sure to be gentle when dealing with skin on the face. Less is more when applying products. Always check product ingredients and make sure to moisturize consistently.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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    • profile image

      Erika Lynne Campbell 

      3 years ago

      Having super sensitive skin, I appreciate your blog...thanks!


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