Sensitive Skin

Sensitive Skin: What It is and How to Cope With It?

What is Sensitive Skin?

The term “sensitive skin” will not be found within the confines of a dusty medical tome, as it is more an informal term rather than a fully conceptualized medical condition. But for the purposes of this article, we offer this concise and direct definition: we can deem sensitive skin to be a complex dermatological ailment distinguished by very specific symptoms connected to the skin. It is not so much an illness as a skin reaction. In our informal assessment, a sufferer of sensitive skin is anyone who experiences a typical skin reaction to external stimuli, such as make-up products, or harsh environmental situations, such as sun exposure.

To be afflicted with sensitive skin is not by any means a rare occurrence; thousands of men and women around the globe have to suffer through the characteristic acute itch and unpleasant redness. In one particular case study, 994 subjects were surveyed for the purpose of inquiring after their dermatological health. Out of the 495 men and 499 women questioned, 44.6 % said that they had experienced sensitive or very sensitive skin at some point in their lives. Moreover, there appeared to be a significant gender skew, as a greater quantity of females were noted to be inflected compared to men [F: 50.9%, M: 38.2%]1 .

This study is indicative of the prevalence of this skin condition. Sensitive skin is something that many people will experience at some point in their lives. Therefore, a proper and through examination of this condition is needed. Its causes, symptoms and signs, and methods of treatment and prevention will be plainly and accurately presented in this article for the dual purposes of educating the public and offering valuable tools to deal with this bothersome ailment.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Sensitive Skin?

Sensitive skin can manifest itself in a few primary manners. The most common symptoms are:

Sensitive skin is very individualistic in its manifestation. What is meant by this, is that each person’s experience with sensitive skin will vary, as different symptoms and signs will manifest. For example, one person may only suffer from dryness as their sole complaint while another is troubled with redness, dryness, and itchiness. If any of the above symptoms are experienced, and it does not matter if it is only a singular symptom or three-four different signs, then a person may be considered to suffer from sensitive skin.

What Are the Causes of Sensitive Skin?

Sensitive skin is rarely a result of an internal anatomical condition; its occurrence is usually the result of an external stimulus. These means that your skin becomes irritated, not from a problem in the body, but rather from you coming into contact with specific outside products or situations. Common causes of sensitive skin include:

1. Cosmetic Products
The fragrance of your favorite skin care product or makeup can result in a negative skin reaction. The scents that are the most likely to result in sensitive skin are citrus and floral types. Another type of ingredient that can act as a detriment to the skin is surfactants, which can be found in certain soaps and cleansers. Though used as a means to cleanse the skin of dirt and oil, while doing so they can also strip the skin of valuable oils, leaving it dry and sensitive. Moreover, most people who have sensitive skin already suffer from dryness, so to add something to the skin that will act to remove any of the existing moisture will lead to redness and excessive peeling. Lastly, certain brands of makeup contain pigments or chemicals that are too harsh for sensitive skin, for example bismuth oxychloride, which can cause an uncomfortable stinging sensation.

Skin Condition

2. A Particular Skin Condition
Being afflicted with certain skin conditions, such as eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, dermatitis and contact urticaria, can cause the skin to become hyper-sensitive to an array of different environmental factors, including the aforementioned sunlight exposure and cosmetics.

3. The Changing Seasons
Being exposed to cold and harsh winds during the winter and autumn months can quickly dehydrate the skin. This lack of moisture in the skin can lead to sensitivity in the form of redness and dryness. Winter is not the only dangerous time of the year for the skin; summer and its harsh sunlight can effectively contribute to the happenstance of sensitive skin. The body’s overexposure to sunlight can result in skin that is very sensitive to the touch.

4. Allergies
An allergic reaction to particular foodstuffs or environmental situations can result in sensitive skin.

How is the Condition of Sensitive Skin Diagnosed?

Brandith Irwin

When it comes to sensitive skin, a visual appraisal of the skin is the normal means of forming a proper diagnosis. This visual observation is normally first carried out by the sufferer, meaning you. For example, as you put your makeup on you may notice dry or red patches on the face. In another case, while in the shower you might spot a patch of red bumps or notice that you have very dry elbows. The truth of the matter is that you know your body the best; therefore when something is atypical about it, you are most likely to be the person who first notices.

The next step is to ask a friend or close family member to look at the area of sensitive skin. This is completely optional, but it is often a good idea to gain a second opinion on the matter before going to see a health professional. The main reason for this lies in the fact that your confidant may be familiar with the skin condition. They could identify it as being easily treatable with home methods, such as ceasing to use certain cosmetics or choosing to use natural skin products. This can save you money and time. Or, you could simply visit the local pharmacy. Most of the time a pharmacist can offer a quick judgment upon the condition and recommend a specific over-the-counter ointment.

The last stage of diagnosis is achieved by making an appointment with a health professional, which should be done if the sensitive skin is particularly painful or if other means did not help the problem. A doctor will be able to look at the irritated skin and make a quick diagnosis, as well offer suitable means to cure the affliction.

What is the Treatment Used for Sensitive Skin?

There is no actual cure for sensitive skin. The only things that can be done are:

  • Curing the underlying skin condition that resulted in sensitive skin,
  • Reducing easing of the associated symptoms, such as itchiness or redness, or
  • Putting in place the means to prevent the occurrence of sensitive skin in the first place.

Underlying Skin Condition

If the cause lies in a specific skin condition, such as eczema or rosacea, then the underlying condition will need to be cured. This can be achieved through an antibacterial ointment or cream, topical steroids, emollient creams which are applied to the affected area, or possibly antibacterial oral medication, depending on the condition.

Easing Of The Symptoms

Sensitive skin can be absolutely horrible due to the ensuing itchiness, extreme dryness, redness, and swelling. However, there are methods that can be used to ease these annoying and sometimes painful symptoms:

  • Fragrance-free moisturizers can be used for the relieving of itchiness and dryness of the skin
  • Particular oils such as flaxseed and fish oils can be used for the relieving of skin dryness
  • Petroleum jelly can be used in order to add moisture to the skin as well as protecting it from various environmental irritants
  • Oatmeal is surprisingly not only a delicious breakfast meal, but also a functional skin care product for sensitive skin. By simply slathering some oatmeal onto the irritated skin, one can dramatically reduce itchiness and dryness
  • A cold flannel or cold bath can be an effective way to stop itchiness. Cold temperatures are effective at stopping itchiness, as the cold interferes with the ability of nerve fibers to transmit sensation
  • Over-the-counter creams and lotions can be used to reduce all the symptoms of sensitive skin. These lotions will need to be applied regularly throughout the day
  • Oral medications, normally some kind of antihistamines, can be used to reduce itchiness, swelling and redness of the skin.

The final way to cure sensitive skin is through preventive measures, stopping its occurrence in the first place.

How Can Sensitive Skin Be Prevented In The First Place?

sensitive skin prevented

Methods that can be used in order to prevent sensitive skin from manifesting are extremely easy to include in your daily life routine. Some of these methods are:

  • The use of skin care products, cosmetics, and cleansers and soaps that are fragrance-free and contain no harsh ingredients
  • Employing proper means of sun protection, such as a wide brim hat, regular application of sunscreen, and wearing clothes that ensure full skin coverage.
  • Trying to take baths or showers that are lukewarm in water temperature. Do not use boiling hot water, as this can irritate the skin and cause dryness and redness
  • Using fragrance-free moisturizers and creams in order to prevent the skin from getting too dry.

The “Dos” of Sensitive Skin

1. Apply over-the-counter products such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid
2. Alternatively, use topical creams, which require a prescription
3. Use a gentle cleanser 2 to 3 times a day
4. Use lukewarm water to wash the face, never hot water
5. Use a toner, as these can dramatically reduce facial oil
6. Moisturize the skin with something that is fragrance-free and not oil-based

The “Don’ts” of Sensitive Skin

1. Try to refrain from touching your face too much, especially if you have not washed your hands
2. Avoid oil based products, such as makeup and moisturizers
3. Stay away from products that contain fragrances or any harsh ingredients

Frequently Asked Questions

    What Is The Medical Term For Sensitive Skin?
    There is no official medical term for sensitive skin, as sensitive skin is not an official medical disorder but rather a layman term to describe a negative skin reaction.

    Does Diet Play a Role In Sensitive Skin?
    Yes. There has always been a relationship between a person’s diet and healthy skin. If salty, sugary or greasy food is eaten then it can negatively impact the skin through redness and breakouts. But if fresh fruit and vegetables, grains, and nuts are regularly eaten then they can give the skin a healthy glow. Moreover, the skin can become sensitive through an allergic reaction to a particular food.

    Can Moisturizer Help Sensitive Skin?
    Yes. Using a gentle and non-fragranced moisturizer can dramatically help with sensitive skin by relieving dryness.

    Are There Medical Tests For Sensitive Skin?
    Medical professionals may perform patch tests or a skin biopsy in order to find the particular cause of your sensitive skin.

    Should Men Be Concerned About Sensitive Skin?

    Brandith Irwin

    There are no gender differences when it comes to sensitive skin. It is no more problematic if a woman has sensitive skin than if a man has it. It is a problem that affects the genders equally, but women are more concern about sensitive skin issue.

    What Is The Impact Of Ph Balance On Your Sensitive Skin?
    Your skin’s pH should rest somewhere between 4.5 and 6.5, meaning it is slightly acidic. This pH level is optimal as it helps to maintain the protective layer of the skin known as the acid mantle. This aids in protecting the skin from harmful environmental conditions and keeping in all of the important things such as moisture and minerals. If the skin is too alkaline, then excessive dryness or oiliness can occur. At the other end of the scale, if it is too acidic then the skin can become prone to irritation or sensitivity. Soap is something that can dramatically increase the alkalinity of the skin, while harsh peels or lemon juice can increase the acidity. Therefore, it is better if you use gentle cleansers and skin-care products instead.


    Sensitive skin is an annoyance that many people experience, but the important thing to remember is that this skin condition is both treatable and preventable. Hopefully, this article has shed some insight upon sensitive skin and its various methods of treatment.


    1. Sensitive skin in the American population: prevalence, clinical data, and role of the dermatologist. Misery L1, Sibaud V, Merial-Kieny C, Taieb C.(
    2. Marriott M, Holmes J, Peters L, Cooper K, Rowson M, Basketter D A. The complex problem of sensitive skin. Contact Dermatitis 2005
    3. Jourdain R, de Lacharriere O, Bastien P, Maibach H I. Ethnic variations in self-perceived sensitive skin: epidemiological survey. Contact Dermatitis 2002
    4. Willis C M, Shaw S, de Lacharriere O, Baverel M, Reiche L, Jourdain R, Basttien P, Wilkinson J D. Sensitive skin: an epidemiological study. Br J Dermatol 2001

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