What Is Sensitive Skin & What Are The Causes?

What is sensitive skin? How do you care for it? Find answers to ten frequently asked questions about sensitive skin. 

What Is Sensitive Skin & What Are The Causes?

What is sensitive skin?

Sensitive skin s skin that can react to either products or the external environment. Your skins sensitivity changes with the quality of your skin.

What causes it?

When nerve endings in the top layer of your skin are irritated, they react. Nerve endings in sensitive skin can either be more prone to irritation or be due to a broken down skin barrier function.    Your skin can be more sensitive at different times, for example, after a period of stress or sun exposure. Sensitivities in your skin are influenced by many things.   Commonly, causes of sensitive skin can include: •           Sun exposure
•           Exposure to air pollution
•           Frequent changes in temperature
•           Cold, harsh weather
•           Hard water (water with higher mineral content)
•           Very hot water
•           Lack of sleep
•           Hormonal changes during your menstrual cycle or pregnancy
•           Stress and late nights
•           Chlorine in swimming pools
•           Dry skin
•           Dehydration

How common is sensitive skin?

Figures can vary, although they suggest that a majority of men and women consider themselves to have sensitive skin. A European study found that 52% of people think they have sensitive skin. Another 2009 study found that 77% of people claim  to have sensitive facial skin.

But there are varying levels and types of sensitive skin. Your skin might be barely sensitive, reacting only occasionally, or extremely sensitive with daily discomfort.
You could have sensitive skin that is prone to looking dehydrated, with dry, flaky patches. Or you could experience the appearance of redness, oiliness and blemishes more frequently. Intolerant sensitive skin reacts to irritants more often.

How do I know if I have sensitive skin?

Everyone’s skin is different. If you can identify with one or more of these signs, you may have sensitive skin.


Sensitive skin:
•           Often feels tight and uncomfortable
•           Is sometimes sore or sensitive to touch
•           Needs extra hydration in winter
•           Dries out during flights
•           Can be oily in summer
•           Flushes easily after a spicy meal or drinking alcohol
•           Has patches of redness that may or may not fade
•           Has areas of uneven texture, with dryness and flakiness
•           Reacts to skincare
•           Becomes itchy or develops a rash after contact with irritants
•           Can feel itchy after wearing coarse, synthetic fabrics
•           Turns red and dries out after a hot shower or bath
•           Becomes irritable after continued washing with hard water

What makes sensitive skin worse?

Any of the causes of sensitive skin can damage your skin’s natural barrier, increasing your sensitivities and making them worse.

Wearing no sun protection during the day can make your skin more sensitive, because sun exposure can be a cause of irritation for your skin.
If your skin is irritated by an ingredient in one of your skincare or cosmetics products, you’ll continue to feel sensitive for as long as you use the product

What should I do when I have a sensitive skin reaction?

If your reaction is severe, contact your GP. If it is mild, for example, your skin has developed blemishes or feels dry and tight, you may be able to soothe and revive your skin at home.

Firstly, cleanse your skin with a gentle, soap-free cleanser. Try using tepid water.
Then, hydrate. A deeply moisturising masque will help restore your skin’s natural barrier and soothe your irritated skin. Again, to avoid making it worse, always choose products for sensitive skin. Once you’ve removed all of the masque, smooth a nourishing serum into your face and neck. Leave it to sink in for ten or fifteen minutes. Finally, use a moisturiser with a non-greasy but intense formula. Massage it gently across your face, paying particular attention to any dry patches, until it has all been absorbed.
Repeat this process whenever your skin feels uncomfortable.

What’s the difference between an allergic reaction and sensitive skin?

If you have a skin allergy your reactions are caused only by contact with that particular allergen (although, your skin can be allergic to several things). Skin sensitivity is caused by a general irritability of the nerve endings in the upper layers of your skin, which can be brought on by a combination of different factors.

If you’re allergic to something, you could develop a rash on contact, with itching or burning sensations. Allergic skin reactions tend to be more severe than reactions of sensitive skin. In extreme cases an allergic reaction will cause vomiting and difficulty breathing. If this happens, get medical attention right away.
Common skin allergens include:
•           Gold, nickel and other metals
•           Parabens and fragrances in skincare and cosmetics
•           Antibiotics in first aid creams
•           Rubber and latex

Can sensitive skin be healed?

Sensitive skin will always have sensitivities. However, with the right skincare regime, you can protect your skin from irritation, keeping it hydrated, smooth and glowing.

Are women more prone to sensitive skin?

No. Sensitive skin can affect men as much as women. However, because women generally use more facial skincare products, they may be more likely to put their skin into contact with potential irritants.

Which products can I use if I have sensitive skin?

Use a daily skincare routine that is suitable for your skin type, formulated especially for sensitive skin. Look for products with relatively few ingredients.

Cleanse every evening, moisturise twice a day and wear an SPF of 15+ with UVA protection. Always choose cosmetics that are suitable for sensitive skin, too.Avoid chemically laden cleaning and laundry products, which can also irritate your skin.
How La Roche-Posay products can help If you have skin allergies or sensitivity, you’ll need to take great care over the products you use in your skincare routine.
Our products are hypoallergenic and tested on the most sensitive skin. Comforting and gentle, they can help soothe your skin and reduce the appearance of redness. They have minimal ingredients and fragrance, and are paraben-free.