6 Frequently Asked Questions About Sensitive Skin And Irritated Skin


Sensitive skin is a commonly misunderstood area in skincare. There are lots of misconceptions regarding sensitive skin, including its causes, how to treat it, and the lifestyle habits you should avoid or incorporate to keep your skin healthy and happy. There’s also a lot of confusion surrounding ‘skin sensitivity definition’.

Many of us don’t really know what sensitive skin even is to start with. We think it is a skin type similar to oily and dry skin. That’s the first fundamental misconception we have.

Other common misconceptions we have are that we think skin sensitivity only encompasses skin that gets red and itchy easily. And of course, we don’t know how to really properly care for and maintain our sensitive skin! Don’t worry, we dedicate this article to answering some of the most commonly asked questions about sensitive skin!

What is sensitive skin, exactly?

Sensitive skin isn’t a disorder or skin type that you can be diagnosed with. It is usually a symptom of an underlying skin condition. It could be because of allergic reactions, such as allergic contact dermatitis or irritant contact dermatitis, in response to certain ingredients and formulations.

What is the reason people have sensitive skin?

Sensitive skin is more reactive than normal. The sensitivity of the skin occurs when the nerve endings present in the top layer, or epidermis, of the skin, get irritated. This irritation can occur if the skin’s barrier is weak or broken down because of an internal or external trigger.

Environmental factors like the wind, heat, dryness, or cold can irritate easily sensitive skin. Skincare products like facial creams with harsh ingredients can also irritate it. We usually ponder how to stop dry skin or prevent an allergic reaction as an effect of this skin condition.

That said, the effects of sensitive skin are burning or stinging sensations, redness, flakiness, peeling, itching, and general discomfort.

What can trigger extreme sensitivity of the skin?

Pretty much anything can trigger sensitive skin! Environmental elements like dry winter air, heat, and sun are a big one, as well as air pollution, cigarette smoke, and pollen. Ingredients in skincare products or even household products can cause a reaction in sensitive skin.

Facial soaps, serums, masks, and moisturizers can all cause an allergic response or irritation to the skin, as can fragrances, dyes, and detergents in washing products and body wash. You can easily identify if your skin is having a reaction to skincare products if you notice discomfort or redness and irritation after applying certain products.

What skincare routine should I follow?

The rule of thumb is “less is more”. The fewer products you use on your skin, the better. Irritants that cause a reaction from the body easily trigger sensitive skin. Since we rarely know exactly what irritants can trigger a reaction, it can be anything from a single ingredient or even a particular formulation that does not agree with your skin. The fewer products you have, the less you are exposing your skin to the chances of an irritant.

The same goes for ingredient lists. The longer the ingredient list, the higher the chances of encountering an ingredient that causes a reaction. Hence, try to use clean skincare products with short ingredient lists so you can better identify what is causing your irritation should it cause you any.

As a sensitive-skinned person, all you really need is a very basic and simple routine — a gentle cleanser that does not contain sulfates and hence does not foam, a good moisturizer, and sunscreen with minimal SPF 15 is pretty much all you need for a daily basis.

Avoiding cleansers with grains and beads, harsh exfoliants, and strong topical creams with chemicals is the best way to go.

Should I avoid any ingredients?

Yes! Sensitive-skinned people need to be very careful and discerning with the ingredients in their skincare products. Even the best korean foam cleanser could sometimes cause reactions depending on the contents. Here are some common ingredients that can cause irritation to your skin as they are very strong: 

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is popular for acne to dry out the oils and stuff that is clogging up your pores, reducing the swelling and redness from pimples. However, it will over-dry the skin which might cause irritation and dryness for people with sensitive skin.

As such, the best way to remove blackheads and other impurities would be by using a much gentler substance.

Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid is one of the best hydrating ingredients for relieving dry skin because of its ability to retain up to a thousand times its weight in water. However, hyaluronic acid might cause irritation because it increases the penetration ability of other products for your skin to better absorb them.

While this would usually be a good thing, remember that sensitive skin is well sensitive, so this added absorption ability might in fact increase irritation.


Retinol is one of the best ingredients for your skin to fight anti-aging (thus addresses concerns with the question, “why am i aging so fast“), acne, and improve collagen production, but retinol often causes breakouts, irritation, visible blood vessels and peeling in the first couple of weeks of usage as the skin cells start to renew at a faster rate. This is what makes retinol unsuitable and not recommended for people with sensitive skin as it will only aggravate and cause a lot of inflammation and irritation. 

Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs)

AHA’s one of the best exfoliators but like every other product above, it is just too strong for sensitive skin. The most popular AHAs are glycolic acid, lactic acid, and malic acid and they are excellent for exfoliating the skin and giving a much brighter and smoother skin appearance. Unfortunately, these acids will cause irritation for skin that is sensitive and it also makes the skin more vulnerable to the sun. You can probably create an exfoliator diy alternative, but with proper directions from your dermatologist.

How do I know if I am allergic to a new product?

Regular patch tests should be a routine you do whenever you try a new skincare product. Test a bit of the product on the inner part of your arm first to gauge how your skin will react to the product. If your inner arm is not red and irritated, or if you don’t notice any scaly patches after a week of trying it, you can test it on the side of your neck. Should there be some irritation and redness, stop using the product as it is a sign that you are allergic to it. Patch testing can also help your skin build up tolerance and resilience to stronger products such as retinol and exfoliators. This will save you lots of time and money trying out new stuff then discarding it because it irritates you!

You can find more questions and answers about sensitivity in this article.


Visit a healthcare provider

The best way to develop a skincare routine that works for you with minor discomfort is to see a board certified dermatologist! If you have sensitive skin, they will be able to identify which products will cause the least irritation to your skin. Aside from that, they can answer questions like, “what are blackheads,” “how to deal with dry skin” – all while telling you your options as far as your sensitive skin is concerned. They’ll also be able to conduct a medical diagnosis and prescribe you steroid creams or numbing creams to help treat your sensitive skin. What’s more, they’ll be able to tell if your medical condition is caused by an underlying condition that requires certain medications to treat.

At-home treatments

Alternatively, purchase over-the-counter medication like an oral antihistamine if you’re experiencing redness and itching from an allergic reaction.

When choosing skincare products or even laundry detergents, choose those that are fragrance-free and free of harsh irritants.

Check back with us for more skincare topics. We’ll be answering questions like, “do i need eye cream,” “what’s the difference between pimples and acne?” and more!

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