How to Know if You Have Sensitive Skin

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), millions of people are affected by sensitive skin. However, there is no formal definition of sensitive skin. If you experience stinging, burning, bumps or irritation when certain products contact your skin, you have some form of sensitive skin. A common factor of those with sensitive skin, is that their skin is easily irritated, whether it's due to ingredients, stress, or the environment.


The following are some of the signs that go along with sensitive skin:

  • Redness or flushing
  • Rashes of any type
  • Burning or stinging
  • Dry or flaky patches
  • Itchy skin
  • Smell of fragrance or perfume makes your eyes tear and cause irritation
  • Swelling or tenderness
  • Sensitivity to sunlight


Environmental and Lifestyle Sensitive Skincare Triggers include pollution, temperature changes, stress, smoking, alcohol, hormonal fluctuations, harsh soaps & cosmetics, medical & cosmetic procedures, seasonal changes, chemical or synthetic fragrances and dyes, diet, and UV exposure and sensitivity

There are different types of sensitive skin. You may be allergic to an ingredient, or a chemical may be a source of irritation. The following are the types and causes of sensitive skin and a summary of how they may show up on your skin:

  • Irritant contact dermatitis - By directly touching an irritating ingredient, you may react with a rash or any of the signs listed above for sensitive skin. Skin care, hair care, toothpaste and cosmetics may contain harsh, irritating ingredients that may lead to irritant contact dermatitis. If you know the ingredients that may be irritating to you, avoid the products that contain it. If you're not sure, a simple self-patch test or a dermatologist or allergist can help.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis - If your skin is exposed to a foreign substance you're allergic to, your body will fight it by releasing certain inflammatory chemicals. These chemicals may cause your skin to itch or be irritated. Common ingredients found in cosmetics or skin care products, such as fragrance and sulfates, or substances such as nickel and latex are common allergens.

Other causes of sensitive skin may be conditions such as:

  • Rosacea - reacts to anxiety or irritants by redness and flushing.
  • Eczema - is a result of easily irritated skin due to the disturbance of the skin barrier. Because of this, irritating ingredients or other external factors penetrate the skin causing rash and other symptoms. Very dry skin may be another cause of eczema.
  • Very dry skin - may be due to genetics, the environment, medications, aging, or general health conditions.
  • Hives - also known as urticaria, appear as raised welts on the skin. They may flare up suddenly and move around on the body.

How to Treat Sensitive Skin

Your doctor may prescribe antihistamines for some forms of sensitive skin symptoms, such as hives. Since there are no known permanent treatment for sensitive skin, managing it helps:

  • Protect your skin in the sun. Use a gentle sunscreen with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
  • Only use soap-free cleansers for your skincare routine.
  • Opt for fragrance-free hair care, skincare and cosmetics.
  • Use flavor-free toothpaste that's free of mint.
  • Keep your skin hydrated with a mild moisturizer for your skin type. Avoid those with anti-aging ingredients such as retinal.

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