Things To Know About Sensitive Skin: Causes, Prevention and Care


Sensitive skin occurs when your skin gets irritated easily. It happens because of a reaction to a certain product; e.g. due to the build-up of makeup on the skin, etc. It’s not a disease but a response to environmental and external factors. It can also occur due to the change of season, prolonged use of cosmetic products that get clogged in pores, sun, wind, etc.

sensitive skin

What is sensitive skin?

The term ‘sensitive skin’ is a general expression which means your skin is more sensitive compared to that of others. It causes the redness of the skin, burning or stinging sensation.

It develops when the skin’s natural barrier function is compromised, causing water loss and allowing penetration of irritants. Symptoms can worsen with exposure to the sun and certain ingredients in cosmetics and cleansers. 

Skin is the largest organ of the human body and has a complex anatomy. It is made up of three layers; namely, the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis. The epidermis is the topmost layer of the three layers that make up the skin. The dermis and the hypodermis form the innermost layers.

Skin structure

Sensitive skin meaning: 

It means having dryness, itchiness or redness in the skin. It occurs when nerve endings in the top layer of the skin becomes irritated. It is often the result of the skin protective barrier. This allows irritants and allergens to penetrate, causing inflammation.

If you visit a dermatologist to seek a diagnosis for sensitive skin, he/she considers the following symptoms: 

  • Dryness of the skin. Very dry skin causes nerve endings to become incapable of protecting skin properly. 
  • Any bumps, pustules, or erosion in the skin.
  • Redness in the skin.

Conditions that cause sensitive skin are rarely serious. The symptoms can be kept under control with a few simple changes in your skincare routine.


  • Redness of the skin
  • Skin prone to rashes and bumps
  • Beauty products sting or burn
  • Dry patches on the skin
  • Itching 
  • Skin sensitivity to the sun’s UV rays
  • Broken capillaries on nose and cheeks
  • Fragrances irritating your skin
  • Skin reacting to weather changes
  • Frequent skin break outs 


  • Pollution
  • Stress 
  • Hormonal fluctuations 
  • Temperature changes 
  • Smoking 
  • Alcohol 
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Cosmetic/medical procedures 
  • Cosmetics and soaps 
  • Chemical and/or synthetic fragrances and dyes

Frequently asked questions

1. What causes sensitive skin?

  • Dry Skin: Excessive loss of oils and moisture from the dermis may lead to skin dryness. Symptoms like itchiness, flakiness, skin that peels/bleed or get red can be attributed to dry skin.
  • Eczema: Caused by the inability of the skin to protect itself from irritants which otherwise do not cause a reaction to people.
  • Rosacea: A common skin disease where skin tends to become red more easily than others.
  • Hives (contact urticaria): A response of the skin when it comes in direct contact with the irritant substance. It is basically an allergic reaction to fragrances, raw foods, pollens, etc.
  • Sunburn: When the skin gets too much exposure to sunlight or sun lamps. It makes the skin to become red, peel or scale. 

2. How common is sensitive skin?

It’s quite a common occurrence as approximately half of the population experiences it. The symptoms like dryness, itching, etc can be easily managed with a little extra care of the skin.

3. How to know if you have sensitive skin?

If the irritation is short term or redness goes away with self-care, it’s a sign of sensitive skin. But in case of prolonged symptoms, one should always visit a dermatologist.

4. Can sensitive skin be healed?

Yes, it is easy to heal sensitive skin unless it is caused due to an underlying skin disease like psoriasis, etc. 

General tips for sensitive skin

When you have sensitive skin, everything feels irritating on your skin. With some changes in lifestyle, one can see significant improvement.

Things To Know About Sensitive Skin: Its Causes, Prevention and Care 1

The following tips can help treat sensitive skin:

  • Take a shower of few minutes like 5 or 10 minutes with warm and not hot water.
  • Do not use harsh astringents and exfoliants.
  • Use a gentle, fragrance-free soap.
  • Use essential oils instead of perfumes.
  • Use gentle, fragrance-free laundry detergent.
  • Try using organic cleaning supplies.
  • Use a shaving cream or gel.
  • Gently pat yourself dry after a shower and apply moisturizer immediately.
  • Test new products on other parts on your body at least one day before trying a full-application.
  • Use plant-based products that are free of artificial perfumes and alcohol. 
  • Use products suitable for your skin type.
  • Use products that are cosmeceutical grade and not just cosmetic grade.

Tips to prevent sensitive skin: 

  • Different skin types require different kinds of care. The one-size-fits-all does not hold valid especially in case of skin sensitivity. One needs to be extra careful while adding new routinely used products to your list.
  • When creating a skin routine care, use products that are easier for you and your skin to use. Always go for products made from natural ingredients. They are gentle on skin as they are curated through natural processes.

1. Cleanse thoroughly, but gently:

  • Cleanse using lukewarm water. Ensure that the water is not hot as it might irritate skin more. 
  • Use cleansers that won’t over-dry or irritate your skin which do not compromise your skin’s moisture barrier.
  • Gently pat your skin dry. 
  • Avoid using scrubs and washcloths.

2. Moisturize, care and protect:

  •  Apply facial and body moisturizers to damp skin. Do it within minutes of taking a bath or shower for better results. 
  • If prescribed by your doctor, apply any special medications first and then liberally apply moisturizer.
  • If using together with medically prescribed skincare, follow your doctor’s advice. 
  • Use hats, clothing, and broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreens.

3. Lifestyle changes that can mitigate sensitive skin:

  • Rid your routine of chemical and environmental irritants in your personal care items, laundry items, household cleaners, furniture, paint, etc.
  • Be wary of bacteria. Replace your washcloth and pillowcase more often.
  • Toss out old makeup and cosmetic products. Wash your makeup brushes and let them air dry.
  • When trying a new product, always test it on your wrist, arm, or behind the ear first before applying it on your face or body.
  • Identify and avoid your triggers. Avoid common triggers like harsh soaps, alcohol, chemicals, and fragrances. Check the labels on your skincare products before buying them.
  • Unless you live in a humid climate, use a humidifier to help your skin stay moisturized.
  • Manage stress as it affects your skin and body. Engaging in relaxing activities like meditation or creative hobbies are a good stress buster.
  • The most vital element for overall well being is sleep. Lack of sleep causes skin wear down. Ensure at least 7-8 hours of sleep for good skin.

Choosing cosmetics that are less irritating on sensitive skin:

Things To Know About Sensitive Skin: Its Causes, Prevention and Care 2

It is important to be careful while choosing makeup products and using them when you have skin sensitivity.

  • Choose face powder that contains fewer preservatives and has fewer chances of skin irritation.
  • Use a silicone-based foundation to have minimum skin irritation.
  • Avoid waterproof cosmetics as you need a special cleanser for their removal.
  • Black eyeliner and mascara happen to be least allergenic so use them.
  • Pencil eyeliner and eyebrows fillers should be used instead of liquid eyeliner as they might have latex which can cause an allergic reaction.
  • Never use and discard expired cosmetics. 

Season induced sensitive skin:

People experience sensitive skin issues both in summer and winter seasons. To protect skin from seasonal skin sensitivity, it’s important to use the right kind of sunscreen and moisturizers.

  • In summer, use sunscreen. Choose sunscreens with a sun protection factor of at least 30 and contain only zinc oxide or titanium oxide.
  • In winter, do the following to help prevent skin from becoming sensitive:
  • Avoid overheating your home.
  • Take warm baths/showers with a soap-free cleanser.
  • Pat your skin dry and apply moisturizer.
  • Look for moisturizers containing glycerin, mineral oil and other natural products. 

Sensitive skin isn’t a big issue and can be managed easily with self-care. Creating a daily regimen of gentle cleaning and moisturizing will do wonders for your skin.

Love yourself, care for yourself and always be happy.

Coreenna Ong

Coreenna Ong

Co-founder and Head of Research

Ms Ong has more than 25 years of extensive experiences in research and development, conceptualization, formulation, and production process development. She is currently the Head of Research and Development at aspurely skincare.

She has authored 2 best-selling Beauty and Wellness books with Marshall Cavendish, Nature’s Spa: DIY Beauty Treatments and Nature’s Treats: Recipes for Wellness, which are currently available in the Singapore National Library collection.

Ms Ong was also a Beauty columnist for Lianhe Zaobao, Singapore's largest Chinese-language newspaper publication, with huge regional presence. As its weekly expert contributor, she shared the latest research and technologies from the Beauty industry, and addressed many readers’ skincare issues and concerns, offered beauty tips, quick fixes and insider knowledge.



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