In this article, we will look at the various causes of skin sensitivity, and what we can do to mitigate its effects.


Sensitive skin is a problem that many of us have had to deal with at least once in our life. Sometimes it’s a temporary thing that only lasts for a solitary winter, but it’s often a more long term problem that requires some level of treatment or lifestyle change.

The causes of sensitive skin vary from person to person and although they are sometimes genetic, they are more often than not a result of environmental influences and our lifestyle choices.

As such, it can be unclear as to the reason why you might be suffering from bouts of sensitivity, making treating it a confusing and often frustrating process.

Don’t worry though, help is at hand.

We have put together a list of some of the most common causes of sensitive skin to try and help you find the source of your discomfort, and treat it quickly and effectively.

Here is our list of the top 5 causes of skin sensitivity and what you can do to combat them.

woman clear skin portrait

Source: teinramones


What is Sensitive Skin?

This is the easy part, as sensitive skin is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. If your skin is prone to react to the various things it encounters, such as cosmetic products, airborne toxins in the air or certain items of clothing, then chances are you might have sensitive skin.

These ‘reactions’ can take the form of dryness, itching, soreness and redness and aren’t always the same each time. It is also possible that something that might have reacted with your skin before will not necessarily cause it to react again.

The good news is that, while sensitive skin can certainly be a pain (literally), it is rarely a result of a serious condition and can be reduced or prevented if treated properly. There is a whole range of sensitive skincare on the market today, so the chances are that you’re probably covered no matter the cause or severity of your sensitive skin.


The Causes of Sensitive Skin

This is where things start to get a little bit tricky. Whilst it is relatively easy to define what sensitive skin actually is, identifying the causes of it can be a lot more difficult especially as they differ from person to person.

There are, however, several definite causes of sensitive skin:

woman in winter hat portrait

Source: StockSnap


The Weather

One of the principal causes of dry and sensitive skin is the weather and general climate, with the changing of each season.

In general, our skin tends to be happier and healthier in the summer. This is down to a number of factors, but is primarily due to increased contact with the sun, meaning higher levels of vitamins, being in a better mood and being more active.

Naturally, this means that our skin is not going to fare so well in the colder and harsher winter months. The harsh winds and lack of sunlight often tend to make our skin tighter and drier - resulting in itching and soreness.

Often the cold and the wind can damage our nerve endings or the skin protecting them, which is something that frequently leads to soreness or redness.

In the winter, but also in autumn and spring time, cold winds are a known culprit behind sensitive skin. Exposing your face to excessive winds, and environmental pollution is only going to have a negative impact in the long run.


How to Fight It

Aside from the obvious advice of investing in a scarf and wrapping up warm in the winter, we recommend that you also take your skin routine to the next level.

Moisturising should be a daily occurrence throughout the winter, and if your skin is sensitive then it would be worth applying a nourishing moisturiser both morning and evening.

If your skin becomes sensitive to the point where it starts to react negatively to your moisturiser, then try seeking out a moisturiser with a neutral pH balance for sensitive skin, so that you can still retain the same level of moisture without causing yourself any discomfort.

woman portrait with hands behind her neck Source: alehidalgo  

Cosmetic Products

One of the other predominant factors behind reactive and sensitive skin is the use of cosmetic products, particularly those which contain ‘strong’ ingredients.

It is important to remember that people’s skin types can, and do, vary greatly and that, despite what they claim to do, not all cosmetic products will work in the same way for everybody.

For some people they may work perfectly and give the desired results, but for others they may wreak havoc on both their skin and their confidence.

aerial makeup brushes

Source: PixMedia


If you are already aware that you have sensitive skin then don’t worry, you don’t necessarily have to avoid all cosmetic products, but there are certain ingredients that you might want to try and avoid. These are:

  • Alcohol
  • Anti-bacterial or anti-perspirant ingredients.
  • Heavy fragrance or appearance additives.

How to Fight It

As you might’ve guessed, one of the best ways to prevent getting sensitive skin is to avoid some of the ingredients present in many of the cosmetic products that are marketed towards people with sensitive skin.

It might take a while for you to find a product that your skin does not react negatively to, and even then you will have to find a balance that your skin can cope with and adjust to it. Once you have found a great product though, stick to it, because it is essential to keep your skin happy and healthy.

silver shower head Source: PublicDomainPictures  

Hot Water

Of all the skincare revelations that have come out in recent years, along with the fact that a poor diet is bad for your skin, this is one of the most inconvenient truths and one that people are often unwilling to compromise on.

But yes, unfortunately for most of us, it’s true. Those 10 minute scalding sauna sessions that we cherish so much in our mornings and / or evenings might provide us with some instant gratification but they are certainly doing our skin no favours.

Hot water might feel good, but it drys out and tightens the skin, which can leave it sensitive and itchy. This is particularly damaging when no moisturiser is applied after getting out of the shower.

This point goes for baths as well, which not only mean your skin is exposed to hot water for too long but normally mean that you are soaking in some kind of soap or product, which is also going to cause you problems.


How to Fight It

We might have always been taught that hot water is the best way to get ourselves clean, but in reality, it’s far better to have shorter showers in luke-warm or even cold water to save our skin in the long run.

The best time to use a moisturiser is within five minutes of having showered, as that is when your skin is able to absorb the most moisture, so make the most of this time to help your skin.

stressed out guy at work on desk Source: caio_triana  

Stress and a Lack of Sleep

It’s fairly obvious that spending your whole time being stressed out and overly tired is not going to stand you in good stead either physically or mentally, it’s perhaps less obvious that it can have an impact on your skin.

But it can, and it will if you let it.

If you don’t look after yourself, then in time it will begin to show. The long term effects of those extra hours in the office and nights out at the weekend will start to appear on your skin, which is something we’d all rather avoid.

When we think about what causes sensitive skin, we don’t often think about stress and a lack of sleep as primary causes, but they are often related to many of the principal causes.

For example, when somebody is tired and stressed out, they might feel more inclined to have a long, hot shower to wash their angst away and to relax them.

Equally, when we are stressed out, we tend to have more breakouts and our skin is generally worse as well as being more sensitive.

This may lead people to use more cosmetic products, such as makeup or cleansing scrubs on their face to try and make themselves look and feel better, when in fact this often does more harm than good.

How to Fight It

Well, the obvious answer is to go a bit easier on yourself. Whether this is physical or mental stress, it is often the case that we create many of our personal problems unnecessarily. t is always worth giving yourself some extra time to relax,taking a brief moment each day to breathe deeply and let the problems that you can let go of, float away.

Another solution is to make sure that you are getting an adequate amount of sleep. We’ve all had people telling us that they simply don’t have the time to sleep, but it’s often simply a question of organising one’s time proactively.

For example, if you had time to watch two episodes of Game of Thrones, then you had time to get an extra hour’s sleep.

woman resting head on hand portrait Source: Engin_Akyurt  

Genetics and Natural Causes

For many people, sensitive skin is just a natural part of life. It might be exacerbated by some of the reasons listed above, but it is very often unavoidable.

Sometimes, dry or sensitive skin is something that people are born with and it isn’t necessarily the result of something you’re doing.

It is often the case that people develop sensitive skin at certain points in their lives. There is sometimes no rhyme or reason to this, it can be in childhood, adolescence or as an adult.

Unfortunately, it is very hard to tell if your skin is naturally sensitive or not. Nevertheless, whatever the cause of your sensitive skin, it is still important to treat it properly.

How to Fight It

If your skin is naturally sensitive, then there is often not a lot that you can really do about it, but do not despair.

Sensitive skin is often not completely curable, but it can be heavily reduced. Finding the right products to soothe and soften your skin is essential to keeping it at its best.

So while it remains unclear what the individual causes of each case of sensitive skin might be, it’s clear that there’s a whole host of habits and products that you can avoid in order to improve the overall health and appearance of your skin.

In cases where your skin is particularly sensitive, then it is important to consult your doctor as there could be an underlying reason that is more serious than the one listed here.


By following these simple steps, you might find that after a while your skin feels a lot more comfortable and a lot less sensitive. But remember, it’s about lifestyle and not just temporary changes - so it’s important to be consistent to see the best results.