By Skincare Junkie Inc

Understanding Sensitive Skin: Causes and Solutions

Sensitive skin is a common concern for many of us—research shows it affects around 60% of women and 50% of men. At Skincare Junkie, we understand the frustration that comes with having skin that reacts easily to various triggers. For those with sensitive skin, finding the right skincare products and routine can be a challenge. In this article, we explore the causes of sensitive skin and share dermatologist advice to help you care for your delicate complexion.

What Is Sensitive Skin?

Sensitive skin is a term used to describe skin that tends to be more reactive and may be easily irritated. Sensitive skin doesn’t depend on skin type. You can have dry, oily, or normal skin and still have sensitive skin. Skin can become sensitive over time (sensitized) due to factors like hormonal changes, stress, or environmental triggers.

The degrees of skin sensitivity can vary. Some may experience discomfort, skin tightness, or dryness, while others might have more extreme reactions like redness, itching, burning, breakouts, or peeling.

This condition can be triggered by various factors, including environmental influences, certain skincare products, and underlying health conditions. People with sensitive skin often experience discomfort and reduced tolerance to common skincare ingredients.

Do I Have Sensitive Skin? 

Sensitive skin often reacts when exposed to certain products or environmental factors. Dermatologists look for the following signs of sensitive skin: reactivity, severe dryness, and flushing. The reasons for these unpleasant symptoms are often due to a compromised skin barrier, skin inflammation, or reactive skin nerves. 

If you have to stick to a minimalist skincare routine, you may have sensitive skin. If you need specific laundry detergents or cleaning products and your skin easily reacts to environmental factors such as temperature, water quality, or UV radiation, you likely have sensitive skin. If you have an underlying condition like eczema or rosacea, you have sensitive skin. 

a man is checking his face in a mirror

Causes of Sensitive Skin

There are five main factors that cause skin sensitivity: 
  1. Genetics: Family history of sensitive skin or conditions like eczema, rosacea, or psoriasis increases your likelihood of having the same. These conditions can compromise the skin's barrier, making it more susceptible to irritants. 
  2. Environment: Environmental triggers such as changes in temperature, UV radiation, water chemicals, and pollution can aggravate sensitive skin. 
  3. Skincare: Using skincare products unsuitable for your skin type, overusing active ingredients, or using products with harsh ingredients can disrupt the skin barrier, leading to increased sensitivity. 
  4. Hormonal changes and aging: Aging leads to loss of collagen and elastin, resulting in skin thinning which may increase sensitivity. Hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause can also heighten skin sensitivity. 
  5. Lifestyle: Diet, sleep, alcohol consumption, and other lifestyle factors can lead to skin sensitivity. Stress plays a crucial role as it triggers cortisol release, weakening the skin barrier and increasing inflammation. 

If you have persistent or severe sensitive skin, consult a dermatologist. They can diagnose underlying conditions, provide personalized advice, and recommend treatments tailored to your skin's needs. 

Dermatologist Approved Solutions for Sensitive Skin

Skincare Junkie® founder and board-certified dermatologist Dr. Murphy-Rose emphasizes that less is more for sensitive skin. Fewer products with fewer ingredients means fewer potential adverse effects. The trend of “skinstreaming”—adopting a minimalist skincare routine—aims to promote healing of a damaged skin barrier and reduce the number of potential skin offenders.  
Dr. Murphy-Rose recommends the following skinstreaming principles: 
  1. Adopt a gentle skincare routine based on a few high-quality skincare products suitable for your skin type with effective, evidence-based ingredients (see below). 
  2. Avoid fragrances, strong active ingredients, alcohol, and harsh exfoliants. Also avoid overuse of skin exfoliants! 
  3. Focus on products that restore hydration and support skin barrier repair, such as those containing ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide. 
  4. Opt for hypoallergenic products (meaning they do not contain common skin allergens) but always check the product label and the ingredients. 

In addition to topical solutions, taking oral antioxidants can help calm skin inflammation. For example, drinking matcha or green tea regularly can help soothe and protect the skin from within. Fruits are high in vitamins and antioxidants that support skin health. Ensuring you eat enough fruit daily can help to combat free radicals and reduce inflammation. 

Finally, staying well-hydrated is key for maintaining a healthy skin barrier. Proper hydration helps maintain skin elasticity and overall skin health, making it a key component in managing sensitive skin.

a woman in the store with a skincare product

Skincare Junkie® Routine for Sensitive Skin

Dr. Murphy-Rose launched Skincare Junkie® in response to her patients’ needs, many of whom have sensitive skin. She recommends the following sensitive skin-friendly daily skincare routine. 

In the morning, protect and prevent: 

  1. Cleanse with a gentle hypoallergenic cleanser if skin feels oily or skip cleansing (or use a micellar water) if skin does not feel oily.
  2. Apply Skincare Junkie® Megadose Antioxidant Facial Moisturizer, a multitasking moisturizer combining serum and moisturizer, rich in antioxidants and sensitive skin-friendly ingredients like ceramides, squalane, and hyaluronic acid plus skin-soothers. 
  3. Apply mineral SPF. 

In the evening, hydrate and repair: 

  1. Cleanse with a gentle cleanser suitable for your skin type. We recommend Skincare Junkie® Gently Jelly Facial Cleanser with cucumber, ceramides, and niacinamide. 
  2. Few times a week, gently exfoliate with Skincare Junkie® Pore Therapy Daily Toner Pads.  
  3. Nourish and hydrate with Skincare Junkie® Megadose Antioxidant Facial Moisturizer.

Managing sensitive skin requires understanding the causes of sensitivity and creating a skincare routine that soothes and protects. You can achieve a more comfortable and healthier complexion by choosing gentle products, avoiding irritants, and adopting a healthy lifestyle. And when in doubt, seek advice from your dermatologist.