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Complete Guide To Sensitive Skin 2021

Many people suffer from sensitive skin, with as many as 70% of people reporting having experienced it in their lifetimes. Although extremely common, it’s not necessarily a diagnosis by itself, because most of the time, sensitive skin is due to other underlying causes. Many skin disorders are considered to be connected to sensitive skin. 

Examples of These Skin Disorders: 

  • Rosacea
  • Irritant contact dermatitis
  • Cutaneous mastocytosis
  • Physical urticaria
  • Eczema
  • Allergic contact dermatitis
  • Hives
  • Photodermatoses
  • Aquagenic pruritis

The most common are eczema and rosacea.

Sensitive skin is often defined by those with inflammation and negative reactions such as itchiness and hives. A high percentage of people who have sensitive skin do report subjective symptoms they can feel, rather than see, so it is sometimes difficult to diagnose.

Do I Have Sensitive Skin?

You may be reading this considering you possibly have sensitive skin. To know for sure, the most commonly found symptoms in sensitive skin: 

  • Redness
  • Easily flushing 
  • Bumps and rashes
  • Skin stings or burns 
  • Breakouts
  • Broken capillaries
  • Itchiness 

There are several professional assessments on what the causes of sensitive skin may be.

Sensitive Skin Causes

According to dermatologists, there are several causes of sensitive skin, from both the inside of our bodies and out. To start, some skin disorders such as rosacea or eczema can be due to hereditary reasons. Rosacea, according to the Mayo Clinic, is defined as “common skin condition that causes redness and visible blood vessels in your face. It may also produce small, red, pus-filled bumps.” You may have fairly constant irritation, or there could be different factors that will “trigger” a flare-up.

Although sometimes pre-determined from genetic makeup, environmental factors could worsen, or “trigger” symptoms, and many times, these factors can lead to sensitivity in someone who otherwise had not naturally suffered from sensitive skin, in a disorder such as Rosacea.

Risk Factors

Some of the risk factors for sensitive skin include

  • Already having the presence of a skin disease 
  • Having a fair skin type, 
  • Using many incorrect cosmetic products, 
  • Having thin or aging skin, 
  • Past or current smokers 
  • Having high levels of sun exposure. 


You may have a skin sensitivity disorder naturally, and find that some items will irritate the skin more than others. Usually, hot drinks and spicy foods, some medications, cosmetic products, alcoholic beverages, temperature extremes, sunlight or wind, emotions such as stress, can all further contribute to skin irritation.

Skin Sensitivity Triggers

The causes of sensitive skin and the triggers will come from a variety of different places. One of the largest causes of sensitive skin is the cosmetic and facial products you may be using.

Fragrances are known to affect skin sensitivity and cause vasodilation, which means it causes your blood vessels to open. This produces more inflammatory cells and other low-grade irritations such as redness and rashes. 

If a product states it’s “fragrance-free,” it means it was tested by the United States Environment Protection Agency for two different requirements: 

  1. The product meets EPA’s Safer Choice Standard, which is a set of strict safety criteria for both human health and the environment. 
  2. The product has also been verified to be free of chemicals that impart or mask a scent.


“Fragrance-free” is the absence of an artificial scent, whereas “unscented” may have additional scent to mask another. It is important to note that according to dermatologists, just because the product states fragrance-free on the bottle, we must remember, fragrance-free means no added artificial fragrance is present, however some natural fragrances, such as citrus, can be irritating, as well.


In addition to fragrances and cosmetic products, water can also become an irritant to the skin because extreme temperatures in the shower can aggravate the skin barriers. Some causes of sensitive skin can be due to psychological changes such as pregnancy or a pre-existing condition. And finally, seasonal changes can affect people’s skin sensitivity. In the winter months, the air sometimes loses moisture, which can contribute to itchy and dry skin.

Signs & Complications of Sensitive Skin

Most skin sensitivity is subjective, such as a stinging sensation, and really up to the individual to decide when it may be time to go see a dermatologist. Very dry skin and redness are often two of the most common objective signs of sensitivity. 

Other Signs: 

  • Skin flushing, 
  • Pustules, 
  • Skin bumps, 
  • Skin erosion, and 
  • Hives can all be other objective signs. 

An example of this is perioral dermatitis, which is a red, slightly bumpy rash that tends to occur around the mouth.

Dry Skin

Once you start to notice the signs, you may find many complications from suffering from sensitive skin. Often irritation and hives are some of the biggest complications, however, many complain of dryness. Overly dry skin can sometimes be caused by sensitive skin, or be the cause of sensitive skin.

Dry Skin Complications

When the skin becomes dry, it can be irritating and cause itchiness, creating a vicious cycle. Consistent itching combined with excessive dryness can irritate nerve endings in the skin, intensifying the original problems. It’s important to remember that dry skin can cause aging to quicken, as the skin no longer has the moisture to remain taut and supple. Conditions like crepey skin often first appear in your 40s, but in those suffering from excessive dryness and excessive sun exposure, it can appear even earlier.

Treatments & Natural Remedies for Sensitive Skin

Now that we’ve learned the causes and triggers of sensitive skin, let’s dive into some dermatologist recommendations for how to treat it. 

Medical treatments a dermatologist may recommend for sensitive skin, such as 

  • Steroid creams 
  • Analgesic 
  • Numbing 
  • Creams 
  • Ttopical antihistamines 

However, many options for sensitive skin relief simply come from more natural, general lifestyle changes. The following are some of the most common natural remedies for sensitive skin:

Product Detox & Avoid Fragrances

Many dermatologists’ number one recommendation is a product detox, to eliminate what might be contributing to sensitive reactions. Creating a minimal skincare routine with few ingredients will be able to help. Purge your medicine cabinet filled with skincare and ensure that you read the ingredients to ensure you are using products free of hidden fragrances and mark terminology deemed healthy and safe for sensitive skin.

How To Find Out What To Remove

If you are unsure of what products you may need to get rid of and which ones may be good for you, you may want to first, consult your doctor, but you can also conduct a patch test. 

An easy way to do this is to apply a small amount of product to your jawline and wait for 24 hours. If there is no negative reaction, it is safe to use it on the remainder of your face. 

Finally, in your makeup routine, switch to paraben-free and natural mineral makeup, so that your skin is not overwhelmed in this time of sensitivity.

Well Balanced Diet

Working from the inside out should be a topic of focus when considering skin remedies. Many antioxidants that are found in common skin care products are also simply vitamins that you can receive from the nourishment you put in your body. Ensuring a well-balanced diet with fruits, veggies, healthy fats, other proper nutrients will optimize the production of collagen. In addition, drinking enough water can help your skin retain proper hydration. The dryness from dehydration can cause irritation, which we are looking to avoid.

Avoid Over Cleansing

You should reduce the times you cleanse your skin in a day to be no more than twice a day. As we mentioned, water may act as an irritant depending on the temperature, but in addition, over-cleansing can strip natural lipids.

Watch for Temperatures

Not only will a hot shower temperature irritate your skin, but environmental factors such as cold, dry winter air may act as a trigger to sensitive skin. When you have sensitive skin, you should take lukewarm showers and ensure you’re dressing appropriately in winter conditions. You may also want to consider investing in a humidifier to ensure the air in your home is not too dry.

Protect Yourself from the Sun

Ensure you are wearing at least an SPF of 30 every time you’re in the sun. The rays are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm, so adding a hat or some other sort of coverage will assist in protection at that time.

Manage Stress

If you’re overextending yourself, you’ll start to show physical signs of stress such as breakouts of skin rashes. It’s important for healthy skin to take care of yourself on the inside by getting enough sleep, making time for self-care, and ensuring you take care of yourself mentally through exercise, mediation, and behavioral professionals.

Sensitive skin is not a sentencing that one does not have control over. You may help assist your coping with introducing ingredients in your skincare that will alleviate some side effects. 

Best Ingredients for Sensitive Skin

  • Chamomile: Anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antioxidant, anti-fungal, and antiseptic
  • Cucumber: Anti-inflammatory, promotes hydration
  • Aloe: Anti-inflammatory, soothes irritation, promotes hydration
  • Colloidal Oatmeal: Promotes moisture and hydrates, anti-inflammatory, provides itch relief
  • Green Tea: Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial
  • Azelaic Acid: Anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial
  • Jojoba Oil: Antibacterial, antioxidant, promotes moisture
  • Hyaluronic Acid: Extreme moisture and hydration benefits
  • Squalene: Anti-inflammatory, provides redness relief
  • Hemp Seed Oil: Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, promotes moisture
  • Ceramides: Extreme moisture and hydration benefits, redness relief

Products You Can Introduce to Help Your Sensitive Skin

First, we will round up some of the best face masks, by category:

Best Face Masks for Redness & Irritation:

  • Dr. Jart + Cicapair Tiger Grass Nightly Re.Pair Mask
  • Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Mask
  • SkinFix Redness Recovery+ Antioxidant Redness Treatment Overnight Mask
  • Eau Thermale Avene Tolerance Extreme Mask
  • Dr. Brandt Skincare Hydro Biotic Recovery Sleeping Mask
  • Dr. Hauschka Revitalizing Mask
  • Herbivore Botanicals Blue Tansy Mask

Best Face Masks for Dryness:

  • Eau Thermale Avene Soothing Moisture Mask
  • Laneige Water Sleeping Mask
  • Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Hydrating Treatment Mask
  • Burt’s Bees Hydrating Overnight Mask
  • AHAVA Hydration Cream Mask
  • Lanolips Face Base Aussie Flyer Mask
  • Vichy LiftActiv Hyalu Face Mask with 1% Natural Origin Hyaluronic Acid

Best Face Masks for Acne-Prone:

  • Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Masque
  • COSRX Ultimate Moisturizing Honey Overnight Mask
  • Caudalie Purifying Mask
  • Dr. Dennis Gross DRx Blemish Solutions Clarifying Mask
  • SkinCeuticals Clarifying Clay Mask
  • Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Daily Leave-on Mask

Next, we know it is important to exfoliate from time to time, but with sensitive skin, it can be a tricky step to execute. See below for some of the top dermatologist-recommended exfoliators.

Best Gentle Exfoliators for Sensitive Skin:

  • Cetaphil Extra Gentle Daily Scrub
  • La Roche-Posay Ultrafine Scrub for Sensitive Skin
  • Ole Hendrickson PHAT Glow Facial
  • Farmacy Honeymoon Glow AHA Resurfacing Night Serum
  • Acure Brightening Facial Scrub
  • M-61 Fast Blast Facial Mask
  • Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion Exfoliant
  • Obagi Professional-C Microdermabrasion Polish + Mask

We’ve done a complete review on exfoliators for sensitive skin here

Makeup Recommendations for Sensitive Skin: 

When looking for the best makeup for sensitive skin, dermatologists often recommend mineral makeup, because it is free of dyes and fragrances. In addition to “mineral makeup,” be sure to look for the following words on the makeup package: non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic, SPF, clinically tested.

Sebaceous Filaments

Non-comedogenic means the product contains ingredients that won’t block or clog pores. You may have noticed you have small black bumps or dots on your nose or other areas in your skin with heavier oil production. These black dots are known as sebaceous filaments or blackheads, and can often form from layering incorrect products on your skin that blocks your pores. Some brands that offer some non-comedogenic makeup options are Neutrogena, BareMinerals, L’Oreal, Clinique, and Glossier.


Hypoallergenic is often referred to products that have fewer allergens, or “triggers” in their makeup or fewer ingredients, in general. This overall will lead the sensitive skin consumer to believe there is less of a chance to have an allergic reaction when using the product. Some brands with hypoallergic products are Jane Iredale, Burt’s Bees, Giorgio Armani, Almay, and Physician’s Formula.


SPF stands for sun protection factor and is found in skin protectants, sunblocks, and sunscreens. Products will SPF protect against ultraviolet B rays, which will assistant in preventing sunburn. The higher the number of SPF, the more protection it will bring. Dermatologists recommend wearing an SPF of at least 30 every day. 

It is important to implement sunscreen into your skincare routine, but many makeup products have built-in SPF as well. Protecting yourself from the sun will combat sun-exposure-related triggers for sensitive skin.

Clinically Tested

And finally, “clinically tested” is an important label to note when buying makeup. Clinically tested means the product was tested through scientific studies on many humans, by professionals and dermatologists, in a clinical setting. These studies are conducted to confirm that the brand’s claims are true.

Natural Remedies 

Fortunately, there are so many natural remedies and treatments you can implement into your daily routines to limit triggering factors. 

  • Take showers in lukewarm water rather than hot water 
  • Using natural-based beauty products
  • Avoid over-cleansing your skin 
  • Manage your stress 
  • Protect yourself from the sun by using an all-natural tanner


Unfortunately, sensitive skin is a concern most people will face at some point in their life, even if it wasn’t genetically pre-determined in the stars. 

Dermatologists have many recommended products you can start to introduce to your skin after you eliminate the contributing factors to your sensitive skin. Once your purge through your old routine, start introducing these safer, healthier options for your skin in a minimal skincare routine. 

Don’t forget to first talk to your dermatologist and patch test products for 24 hours before fully immersing your skin in this new item. If you follow these dermatologist recommendations, you will be on your way to a redness-free, hydrated skin life.

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