What Causes Sensitive Skin and How Can You Care for It?

Posted by Victoria Sorrell on

What Causes Sensitive Skin and How Can You Care for It?

Mostly, having sensitive skin is not a sign of a serious skin condition. Some people are simply more sensitive to products that come into contact with the skin. In many cases, avoiding harsh chemicals, perfumes, and other irritating ingredients in skin care products can help ease symptoms and keep them away. You may not even know you have sensitive skin until you have a bad reaction to a cosmetic product, like soap, moisturiser, or makeup.

Having sensitive skin means that you will be more prone to redness, irritation, and dryness. This can make you feel uncomfortable in your own skin and may even cause small rashes or bumps to appear on your skin. If you’re wondering what causes sensitive skin, you’re not alone. Sensitive skin affects many people, including those with rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis. One of the biggest concerns that people with sensitive skin have is how to manage their sensitive skin issues while getting ready in the morning, getting dressed, putting on makeup, and applying beauty products throughout the day.

Conditions that cause sensitive skin are rarely serious. You can usually keep your symptoms under control with a few simple changes to your skin care routine.

What causes sensitive skin?

What Causes Sensitive Skin and How Can You Care for It?

Dry skin, also known as xerosis or xeroderma, has many causes, including cold or dry weather, sun damage, harsh soaps, and overbathing. Skin becomes dry when it loses too much water and oil.

This can cause your skin to:

  • A feeling of skin tightness.
  • Skin that feels and looks rough.
  • Itchiness (pruritus)
  • Slight to severe flaking skin, which causes the ashy look that can affect dry brown and black skin.
  • Slight to severe scaling or peeling.
  • Cracked "dry riverbed" look.
  • Fine lines or cracks.

What you can do to treat dry, sensitive skin?

You can treat dry skin by returning moisture to the affected areas. Applying a moisturising cream or ointment two to three times per day will help restore moisture and prevent your skin from drying out in the future. Try using a moisturiser designed for people with sensitive skin. For your face moisturiser, we recommend Banksia Flower Light Moisturiser. 

Other ways to treat dry sensitive skin are:

  • Use a humidifier in the winter.
  • Limit yourself to one 5- to 10-minute bath or shower daily, so you don't strip away much of the skin's oily layer and cause it to lose moisture. Use lukewarm rather than hot water, which can wash away natural oils.
  • Minimise your use of soaps. Steer clear of deodorant soaps, perfumed soaps, and alcohol products, which can strip away natural oils.
  • To avoid damaging the skin, stay away from bath sponges, scrub brushes, and washcloths.
  • Apply moisturiser immediately after bathing or washing your hands. This helps plug the spaces between your skin cells and seal in moisture while your skin is still damp.
  • Use toning mist on your skin after you cleanse and before you moisturise Having damp skin allows the moisturiser to penetrate the skin better. We recommend Elderflower refreshing mist.
  • Use fragrance-free laundry detergents and avoid fabric softeners.



Rosacea is a common skin disease that affects the face. Early signs include blushing and flushing more easily than other people. To read more on how to manage rosacea, click here

Rosacea causes extreme sensitivity. Some products may cause immediate burning and stinging.

Other symptoms include:

  • redness of the face, ears, chest, or back
  • a sunburned look
  • small bumps and pimples
  • visible blood vessels

What you can do

Long-term maintenance of rosacea usually involves prescription creams, so talk to your doctor about your symptoms.


Eczema (eg-zuh-MUH) is an inflammatory skin condition that causes itchiness, dry skin, rashes, scaly patches, blisters and skin infections.

Eczema (atopic dermatitis) affects your skin’s ability to protect you from irritants, like germs in the air or chemicals in your laundry detergent. This can make you extra sensitive to products that don’t bother other people, like soaps and cosmetics.

The symptoms of eczema vary widely from person to person. You could notice any of the following:

  • Dry skin.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Red rashes.
  • Bumps on the skin.
  • Scaly, leathery patches of skin.
  • Crusting skin.
  • Swelling.

What you can do

Sometimes over-the-counter anti-itch creams and moisturisers are enough to ease symptoms. If your symptoms are severe, see your healthcare provider.

What else can you do about your eczema?

  • Moisturise your skin at least twice a day. 
  • Apply an anti-itch cream to the affected area. 
  • Take an oral allergy or anti-itch medication. 
  • Don't scratch, instead apply a cold compress or face cloth to the affected area to relieve the itching.
  • Use a gentle, non-soap cleanser such as Milk Thistle Cream Cleanser.

 Irritant contact dermatitis

Irritant contact dermatitis is the most common type of dermatitis causing sensitive skin. This non-allergic skin reaction occurs when an irritant damages your skin's outer protective layer. Some people react to strong irritants after a single exposure. Others may develop a rash after repeated exposures to even mild irritants, such as soap and water.

Irritant contact dermatitis is a red, itchy rash that develops when the protective layer of your skin is damaged by something it touches. In most cases, a rash will only develop on the area that directly touches the irritant.

 Symptoms of contact dermatitis vary widely and may include:
  • An itchy rash.
  • Leathery patches that are darker than usual (hyperpigmented), typically on brown or Black skin.
  • Dry, cracked, scaly skin, typically on white skin.
  • Bumps and blisters, sometimes with oozing and crusting.
  • Swelling, burning or tenderness.

 symptoms of contact dermatitis vary widely and may include: An itchy rash. Leathery patches that are darker than usual (hyperpigmented), typically on brown or Black skin. Dry, cracked, scaly skin, typically on white skin. Bumps and blisters, sometimes with oozing and crusting. Swelling, burning or tenderness.

What you can do

Contact dermatitis usually clears up on its own within a few weeks. The most important thing you can do is figure out what triggered the reaction so that you can avoid it in the future.

To help reduce itching and soothe inflamed skin, try these self-care approaches:
  1. Avoid the irritant or allergen. 
  2. Apply an anti-itch cream or ointment. 
  3. Take an anti-itch drug. 
  4. Apply cool, wet compresses. 
  5. Protect your skin. 
  6. Soak in a soothing cool bath. 

Allergic contact dermatitis

Allergic contact dermatitis is a form of dermatitis/eczema caused by an allergic reaction to a material, called an allergen, in contact with the skin. Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when you have an allergic reaction to a specific substance. It is a less common form of contact dermatitis. 

Symptoms include:

  • redness on the skin
  • itchiness 
  • blisters and bumps, sometimes containing fluid
  • burning
  • swelling
  • tenderness

Common allergens include:

  • Nickel, which is used in jewelry, buckles and many other items
  • Medications, such as antibiotic creams
  • Balsam of Peru, which is used in many products, such as perfumes, toothpastes, mouth rinses and flavorings
  • Formaldehyde, which is in preservatives, cosmetics and other products
  • Personal care products, such as body washes, hair dyes and cosmetics
  • Plants such as poison ivy and mango, which contain a highly allergenic substance called urushiol
  • Airborne allergens, such as ragweed pollen and spray insecticides
  • Products that cause a reaction when you're in the sun (photoallergic contact dermatitis), such as some sunscreens and cosmetics [Source]

What you can do

Treatment with an over the counter antihistamine should help ease itching and inflammation. Try to identify the cause of your allergic reaction so you can avoid it in the future.


When to seek medical advice.

While remedies may help soothe irritation and other symptoms of sensitive skin, the best way for a person to find the source of their skin sensitivity is to see a dermatologist.

Dermatologists can test the skin and check for any potential allergies or underlying conditions. Knowing the cause of the symptoms often makes them easier to treat.

Although it is rare, it is possible for a person to have a severe allergic reaction to skincare products and experience anaphylaxis. It is also possible that a rash can be a symptom of some other serious medical condition. You should seek emergency medical attention for concerning symptoms, including:

  • difficulty breathing, wheezing or gasping for breath
  • swelling in the face, tongue, or throat
  • fever
  • rash covering the entire body
  • dizziness or fainting
  • blisters
  • signs of infection in the skin such as pus
  • a rash that is painful
There are a lot of different conditions that can cause skin sensitivity. Some require more serious and diligent treatment than others. If you suspect your skin condition involves an allergic response, you should consider making an appointment with an allergist.

Most people with sensitive skin can treat their condition at home. This typically involves identifying the product or substance that’s irritating your skin and finding a way to avoid it.


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