How to take care of your sensitive skin 101

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Should I be concerned about My Sensitive Skin?

Your doctor will probably not be the one to diagnose you with sensitive skin. This is because sensitive skin is more often than not a symptom of another underlying condition. You may not even know that you have it until you experience a bad reaction related to some form of the product - such as cosmetics, soap, or moisturizer. But, the good part is that the conditions under which your skin may react sensitively are rarely ever serious. You can often subdue your symptoms by making minute changes to your skincare regime. Read on to find out more about what causes your skin to be sensitive, symptoms to watch out for, some commonly found allergens as well as products that we swear by for those of you with sensitive skin.

What causes sensitive skin?

1. Dry skin

Skin is prone to become dry when there is an excessive loss of oil and water. Your skin may scale, flake or itch. It might feel rough to the touch and even crack and bleed. It can occur anywhere on the body, but most frequently appears on hands, feet, arms, and lower legs. 

What you can do

By returning moisture to the affected areas, you can successfully treat dry skin. One of the best ways to do so is by applying either a moisturizing cream or an ointment, at least twice or thrice each day to help restore and retain the lost moisture. This prevents your skin from drying out too quickly. A solid tip is to look for moisturizers that are fragrance-free since they are very well suited to sensitive skin. 

Products you can use

Some of the products that we recommend for those of you who struggle with dry skin include: 

  • Using a gentle cleanser that is preferably soap-free and does not wash away the natural oils of your skin. For those of you with extremely delicate skin, try and swap out your regular products for Cetaphil’s Gentle Skin Cleanser
  • To moisturize your face, use a gentle fragrance-free moisturizer that is ideally cream-based to help lock in the moisture and protect it all day long. Look out for products containing hydraulic acid, which is an extremely powerful moisturizer. When it comes to moisturizing your body, go for a natural oil that doesn’t irritate your skin. Shea butter is a preferred soothing agent. For your hands, which are prone to dryness in the winter season, use Aveeno’s Intense Relief Hand Cream For Dry Hands to help keep them soft and smooth. 

2. Eczema 

Also known as atopic dermatitis, Eczema is known to negatively affect your skin’s ability to protect you from irritating allergens including germs in the air or even chemicals that are present in the detergent being used to wash your laundry. Consequently, your skin becomes more susceptible to irritation because of products like soaps and cosmetics that generally don’t affect other people. Because the symptoms of Eczema may vary from each person to the other, it’s common to notice any of these things as indications, including dryness, itchiness, small bumps that tend to leak fluid and then crust over, red/brownish patches of skin, raw/swollen skin, cracked or scaly skin.

What you can do

Sometimes, just using some over-the-counter creams that contain anti-itch properties do the trick and subdue the symptoms. If they are much too severe to be managed by any cream or moisturizer, it is important that you see your designated healthcare provider. 

If you have eczema, opt for products that are delicate and will not irritate your sensitive skin. 

  • For moisturizers, use something like CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion, which is packed with ceramides. Ceramides are well known to form a protective layer over your skin, keeping allergens at bay.
  • Switch out your detergents to fragrance-free, hypoallergenic alternatives. 

You can even try applying OTC anti-itch creams such as Neosporin’s Eczema Cream, which is recommended by the National Eczema Association.

3. Irritant Contact Dermatitis

Irritant contact dermatitis can be characterized by a red, itchy rash that often sprouts up when there is some kind of damage to the protective layer of your skin. Some common symptoms of this condition include itchiness, rashes, scaly skin, bumps and blisters, swelling, burning, and tenderness. 

What you can do

Usually, contact dermatitis is known to clear up by itself within the span of a few weeks. Something that you should keep in mind is to try and figure out what caused the trigger of such a reaction, in order to avoid coming in contact with it in the future.

Products you can use

To control the itching during the time when your skin heals, try avoiding scratching the area, which will only make it that much more inflamed. Instead, try applying any of the following:

  • An OTC Steroid Cream containing hydrocortisone will reduce the inflammation dramatically while reducing the itchy sensation. 
  • Numbing creams are usually anti-itch creams that have a surface level numbing agent. This helps relieve itching and burning.

4. Allergic contact dermatitis

A less common form of contact dermatitis, Allergic Contact Dermatitis occurs when your skin has an allergic response only to a certain, specific kind of substance. Some commonly found symptoms include redness, itchiness, bumps containing fluid, swelling/burning, and tenderness.

Some of the common allergens that cause Allergic contact dermatitis include soaps, lotions, leaves/plants, jewelry, cosmetics, fragrances, and nickel that is found in jewelry

What you can do

The best way to help ease itching and inflammation is to treat the affected areas with an OTC antihistamine. The better, more permanent solution is to identify the agent that caused the allergic reaction so that you may avoid coming in contact with it in the future. 

Products you can use

Products that are best suited to treat and prevent allergic contact dermatitis include:

  • Oral antihistamines: These are known to be the best way to prevent allergic contact dermatitis as they regulate the excess levels of histamine in your blood. An over the counter option is diphenhydramine tablets, also known as Benadryl.
  • Topical antihistamines: There are creams, ointments as well as sprays in which antihistamines are present. They help relieve itching and prevent inflammation that occurs due to poison ivy (or any other contact allergens). Opt for an anti-itch cream like the one Benadryl offers.
  • Switch out your regular dish soap and laundry detergents for gentler versions that are fragrance-free, such as Seventh Generation Free & Clear and Tide Free & Gentle.
  • Use a generous application of clear nail polish on the insides of your jewellry such as rings and bracelets to prevent direct contact and allergic reaction to allergen metals like nickel.

5. Rosacea

Rosacea is a skin disease that commonly affects the skin present on the face. Some of the early signs to watch out for include blushing or flushing much more easily than other people do. Those who have Rosacea suffer extreme sensitivity, and some products may even cause an immediate burning and/or stinging sensation. Some other symptoms include redness in the face, ears, chest or back area, a sunburnt look, bumps/pimples, or visible blood vessels. 

What you can do

The long-term solution for rosacea includes the usage and application of prescribed ointments and creams, so make sure to talk to your designated healthcare provider regarding your symptoms. 

Products you can use

For those of you who have the condition, it might help to include the following in your skincare routine:

  • Medications that help reduce redness - prescription drugs such as topical gel brimonidine, Mirvaso, effectively counter facial redness by constricting blood vessels.
  • Color-correcting makeup primers, such as green primers work towards counteracting the redness of your skin. For best results, apply directly to clean skin right before you start your makeup routine.
  • Good moisturizers and oils help prevent skin irritation. Stay away from moisturizers that contain fragrances.

Ingredients commonly found in skincare items that tend to trigger allergic reactions-

Aluminium Compounds

If you notice the skin in your underarm getting red or starting to peel each time that you use an antiperspirant, you probably are allergic to the aluminium compounds that are present in most of them. Consequently, the more powerful your wetness protection, the higher the presence of Aluminium, and the more severe your allergic reaction. 

Soothing alternative: Using a natural deodorant helps mask body odour, but unfortunately does not do much towards perspiration prevention. To deal with pit stains, try opting out your usual products for Dove’s sensitive skin antiperspirant, which contains very low levels of aluminium.  


It is quite obvious that a product whose most potent feature is to slough off your skin cells may end up doing a lot more harm than good. For example, salicylic acid is an oil-soluble beta-hydroxy acid that treats acne and oily skin. Topical retinoids are known to normalize the maturation process of the skin and promote collagen stimulation. Glycolic acid is a water-soluble alpha-hydroxy acid that is an active ingredient present in many chemical peels. All of these acids cause terrible amounts of skin irritation, dryness, redness, and burning if you are not careful with their usage. 

Soothing alternative:  Talk to your dermatologist and follow the guidelines regarding usage instructions very carefully with any topicals containing either retinoids or salicylic acid that can be found at home. You may have to start with fewer rounds of applications and then slowly move on to more, or decrease, depending upon the way your skin takes it. If you notice that you have an allergic reaction to some kind of a glycolic peel, try using vitamin C or fruit enzyme peels. Sticking to non-chemical methods of exfoliation using a gentle scrub is also a viable alternative.


It is quite common for synthetic fragrance ingredients to trigger irritation. Over 20% of the global population reportedly suffers from sensitivity to fragrance, having outcomes such as skin rashes, headaches, coughing, wheezing, and other respiratory irritations. Fragrance does not always have to mean perfume, because it is something that is used in almost every beauty product that is available. Even in “unscented” products, you can find traces of fragrance as companies use certain chemicals which are known as masking agents to come up with the so-called “non-scent”.

Soothing alternative: If you figure that you are sensitive to fragrance, try looking for fragrance-free alternatives to all your cosmetics and beauty products to prevent further irritation.

General tips for sensitive skin:

When you struggle with sensitive skin, it almost feels like everything irritates it. But there are a few lifestyle changes that you can incorporate in order to notice significant improvements.

  • Instead of hot water, bathe in warm water for no longer than 5-10 minutes. Take these showers not more than twice a day.
  • Keep away from harsh exfoliants and astringents.
  • Use soaps and face washes that are gentle and fragrance-free.
  • Instead of perfumes, use essential oils.
  • Swap out your laundry detergent and dish soap for gentle, fragrance-free alternatives.
  • Use cleaning supplies that are alternative.
  • Pat yourself dry in a gentle manner instead of rubbing.
  • Apply moisturizer/oil right after stepping out of the shower.
  • Patch test all your new beauty products on a discreet area of your skin.

Watch one of our favourite experts talk about sensitive skincare!


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