Whether you’re trying to treat symptoms or discover the source of your skin irritation, discover everything you need to know to soothe your sensitive skin.

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Sensitive Skin: Causes, Treatment, And Prevention

09/26/20238 min read

Over two-thirds of the world’s population consider their skin prone to reactions like itching and redness. The causes of this sensitive skin, however, range from person to person.

Your sensitive skin could be the symptom of a skin condition or the result of the dry winter weather, among other things. In this article, we’ll look at the causes of sensitive skin, how to treat it, and what you can do to prevent irritation.

But first, let’s review some of the symptoms of sensitive skin you might notice.

Table Of Contents

Symptoms Of Sensitive Skin

Woman with sensitive skin on her arm

While it’d be nice if everyone experienced the same symptoms, that’s not always the case. Your sensitive skin can present itself differently than someone else’s. This means it might take a while to figure out what’s happening with your skin.

Here are some of the clues that you may see:

  • Itchy patches
  • A stinging or burning sensation, especially after coming in contact with something
  • Redness
  • Hives, raised spots, or a rash
  • Dry skin that cracks or bleeds
  • Thickened skin
  • Cheeks that flush easily
  • Skin that feels different when the weather changes
  • Dry, hard patches

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s worth scheduling an appointment with your dermatologist. They can help you discover what’s causing these things to occur.

What Causes Sensitive Skin?

Woman touches sensitive skin on her face

Many factors can contribute to sensitive skin. Unfortunately, you may need to do some investigative work to determine what’s leading to yours.

To help you get to the bottom of it, let’s look at several common reasons skin becomes sensitive.


Let’s start with dry skin. It’s something that most of us can’t avoid once the temperature drops, so we feel like we’re stuck with it until spring decides to circle back around.

Unfortunately, having dry skin can lead to skin sensitivity. This is because your skin loses a lot of its moisture and oils that protect it from external conditions. When dry skin isn’t properly cared for, it becomes itchy and red.

Then, until moisture is added to your skin, the area will remain sensitive. For some people, it can become a vicious cycle that’s hard to control.

Damaged Skin

Dry skin can temporarily disrupt your skin’s natural barrier, but what happens if your skin then becomes damaged?

Damaged skin, when left untreated, also causes skin sensitivity. But this might be the least of your concerns. When your skin can’t protect and heal itself properly, your chances of developing chronic skin irritation and infections increase.

Some common causes of damaged skin include high levels of stress, smoking, UV radiation, and a severe lack of sleep. While damaged skin can create a long list of issues, it is easily treatable with the right care.

Skin Conditions

Man scratches skin on forearm

Living with a skin condition often means managing sensitive skin. Eczema, for example, usually causes dry and itchy patches of skin across your body and is commonly associated with sensitive skin.

Other conditions that are typically linked to sensitive skin include psoriasis, acne, and rosacea.


Spring isn’t all clear skies and warm weather for everyone. When winter comes to a close and some people start singing with joy, others are sneezing, coughing, and trying to get rid of that massive pressure headache.

More severe allergies go beyond a build-up of mucus and affect your skin through dryness, scaling, and hives. These conditions might cause you to scratch your way through the season, but that only makes things worse.

When dry, flaky skin is regularly scratched, you risk damaging and scarring your skin’s barrier, leading to sensitive skin. If your allergy meds aren’t doing their job, consult your doctor and get the relief you need.


Stressed out mom holds daughter with other child in background

There are a million things that cause stress every day. Whether it’s work, school, children, or the recent Kardashian news, stress can feel unavoidable.

However, managing this stress is important. When you feel stressed, chemicals are released in your body that cause inflammation and skin sensitivity. And the more chronic your stress is, the more difficult it can be for your skin to heal.


You’ve probably heard conflicting information about how your diet impacts your health. One moment you’re told to eat greens, fruits, and lean meats, and then you hear about someone who only eats chicken nuggets completing their fifth marathon this year.

These types of people are impressive, but they’re also outliers. The food we eat is a major contributor to inflammation, and if this inflammation occurs for too long, it can lead to sensitive skin, skin disease, or other conditions.

Processed foods high in sugar are just one of many examples of things that will harm your skin rather than heal it. This is because sugar creates a spike in blood sugar levels, which can lead to inflammation and, as a result, skin sensitivity.

Other foods to eat rarely or in moderation include red meat, saturated fats, fried foods, dairy products, and alcohol.


Pregnant woman

Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and it’s affected by hormone fluctuations. When your hormones become out of balance, skin sensitivity can occur.

Here are some scenarios that can cause your hormones to fluctuate:

  • Puberty
  • Menopause
  • Pregnancy
  • Conditions such as hyperthyroidism
  • Taking hormonal medications such as birth control pills or steroids

While, typically, your skin will adjust once your hormone levels balance out, that’s not always the case. It could lead to lasting sensitivity. If you suspect hormones affect your skin, mention it to your doctor.

Contact With An Irritant

Sometimes, coming into contact with something can trigger sensitive skin. This could be a specific ingredient in your cosmetic or skincare products or something you encounter in your daily routine, such as the fabric of your work uniform or the soap in the bathroom at the gym.

If you have eczema or irritant contact dermatitis, you’ll want to avoid any harsh chemicals or allergens that could trigger a reaction. Look for products with gentle ingredients to minimize your exposure to chemicals.

While irritants can be hard to track down, keeping a skin journal can help you discover your triggers.

Use a notebook or an app to document your daily routines to start this practice. You’ll want to include information about any new products you use and the ingredients they contain. Then, jot down a few words about how your skin feels at the end of each day.

This can help you recognize patterns in your skin’s condition.


What’s the air like in your area? If you’re in a large city or a place where wildfires often pump smoke into the air, air pollution could be contributing to your sensitive skin.

In fact, research shows that pollution can negatively influence skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. The pollutants enter your skin in two main ways.

The first is through direct exposure. When you’re out in polluted air, it can accumulate on your skin cells and slowly make its way deeper.

The second avenue is through absorption. Pollutants can get on your hair follicles or sweat ducts, and get absorbed by your body.

Natural Sensitivity

It’s not unlikely that your sensitive skin might just be a part of your genetic makeup. This means that your skin is more prone to irritation from factors such as strong winds, sunlight, severe temperatures, or certain types of clothes or skincare products.

Having naturally sensitive skin is nothing to worry about, especially when you know the best ways to prevent dryness or irritation and how to treat your skin if it does show symptoms.

Preventing Sensitive Skin

Woman treating sensitive skin on her shoulder

No matter what is causing your sensitive skin, you can take steps to prevent it from coming back in the future.

Protect Your Skin

The first step to preventing skin sensitivity is to protect your skin from irritants and other harmful factors.

This might look different depending on your skin type and what elements you’re sensitive to. But following a few basic steps will keep your skin glowing no matter what’s happening around you.

Moisturizing is an incredibly effective way to protect your skin from irritation caused by eczema. Bodewell Eczema Daily Calming Cream with a proprietary blend of botanicals uses colloidal oatmeal to help your skin stay nourished and healthy-looking.

It’s also critical to protect your skin from severe temperatures. When it’s cold out, layer up! And if you’re out in extreme heat, stay in the shade, use sunscreen, and be sure to drink plenty of water.

You’ll also want to wear gloves if handling toxic chemicals and promptly wash your hands afterward. Use lukewarm water instead of hot as you do this. Otherwise, you may accidentally damage your skin’s protective barrier.

Consider Your Diet

As we mentioned above, one of the biggest steps you can take toward healthier skin is to consider the foods in your diet. We all love a good burger or a pint of ice cream every once in a while, but eating these fatty, sugary foods too often can harm your skin.

Limiting unhealthy foods is only part of the skin-loving equation. There are many things you can put in your body that will have a positive effect on your skin, too. The more beneficial foods you eat consistently, the more your skin will naturally retain moisture.

Fruits and vegetables

Certain kinds of seafood, like salmon or sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids. This fat is not naturally produced by the body, but it helps hydrate your skin, regulate its oil production, and prevent breakouts and skin sensitivity.

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is also an ideal way to protect your skin. Leafy greens, berries, apples, and other similar foods are good sources of antioxidants, which are great for preventing sun damage and helping your skin heal.

Other foods that do wonders for your skin include nuts, whole grains, oranges, and — while it’s not technically a food item — water!

Examine Your Shower Habits

Long, hot soaks in the tub feel amazing, but hot water isn’t good for your skin. Heat strips away natural oils in your skin, leaving you prone to dryness.

To keep your skin moist and help prevent sensitivity, reduce the temperature and shorten your time in the water. Aim for a lukewarm shower or bath that only lasts 10-15 minutes. This way, you can make sure you’re staying clean without doing further damage.

Always Do A Patch Test

You bought the new cleanser everyone is talking about. But once you put it on, you don’t feel better. Instead, your skin feels like it’s on fire.

Unfortunately, people with sensitive skin must be careful with their products. And even if you think you’ve found a winner, it always pays to do a patch test first so you can avoid unpleasant surprises.

Thankfully, doing this test is simple. It just takes some time. Put a small dab of the product on your inner arm and wait about 24 hours to see if you notice any irritation.

If you’re in the clear, go ahead and use it as directed. Otherwise, you’ll want to steer clear of that particular product and try a different one.

Keep Stress Levels In Check

Woman squeezing a stress ball in the office

As we mentioned above, stress and sensitive skin often go hand in hand. Practice good stress management techniques to help prevent flare-ups and keep your skin feeling healthy.

While everyone has different stress-busting strategies that work best for them, here are a few ideas:

  • Do a yoga video each evening
  • Meditate before bed
  • Squeeze a stress ball
  • Take a brisk walk at lunch
  • Enjoy a massage (just make sure the masseuse uses lotion designed for sensitive skin)
  • Try aromatherapy
  • Have a night out
  • Download a mindfulness app
  • Watch funny YouTube videos and laugh
  • Take a class and learn a new skill
  • Listen to your favorite tunes
  • Read a chapter of a great book
  • Snuggle with a pet

By regularly engaging in activities like these, you’ll stay more relaxed. And that can be good for not only your skin but also your whole body.

Give Up Smoking

The chemicals in cigarettes take a toll on your skin. As such, quitting can be one of the best ways to protect your body from further damage.

You’ll also benefit from improvements in your overall health, such as better blood circulation and increased oxygenation.

Choose Your Clothes Carefully

Some materials irritate your skin and leave it feeling sensitive. Wool, nylon, latex, and synthetic materials can all be irritating. Opt for cotton, silk, bamboo, and other fabrics designed for sensitive skin when possible.

You’ll also want to select loose clothes that don’t rub. Anything tight could create friction, which can lead to further sensitivity.

Finally, it’s wise to cut the inside tags off of your clothes because they can also irritate your skin.

Run A Humidifier

When cold weather strikes, the air becomes dry. But you aren’t at the mercy of the weather. You can fight back by putting moisture back into the air.

A humidifier lets you do just that. Plug one in at home, and let it increase the room’s humidity levels. Ideally, these should be in the 30-50% range.

Trust Dermatologists

If you believe your skin requires more preventative measures than those listed above, seeing a dermatologist can be extremely helpful. Not only will they determine the exact cause of your sensitive skin, but they can recommend ways to prevent further irritation or damage.

At Bodewell, we trust our team of dermatologist advisors to make sure our products are meeting the needs of your unique skin conditions.

Treating Sensitive Skin

Woman touches her face and looks in mirror

While the skincare tips above can help you prevent sensitive skin, what can do if you’re already experiencing symptoms?

Know Which Products To Avoid

Sometimes, your skin becomes irritated despite your best efforts to prevent it. It happens! Don’t let it stop you from finding treatment.

To start, identify which products and ingredients to avoid. Your skin will thank you!

Essential oils are known to irritate a variety of skin types. That being said, there are plenty of essential oils designed specifically for skin. Just keep in mind that cheaper and poorly sourced oils will have a very low chance of doing your skin any favors.

Certain sunscreens can also be made with harmful chemicals instead of minerals. These chemicals can absorb UV light, which is an irritant for sensitive skin.

You should avoid abrasive exfoliants, sulfates commonly found in shampoos, and certain cleaning products as well. The grit these items contain can rub your skin raw.

Be Consistent In Your Skincare Routine

Adopting a skincare routine designed for sensitive skin can make a big difference in the state of your skin.

However, you can’t just follow the steps for a day or two and expect a miraculous turnaround. Instead, commit to caring for your skin from this day forward. Consistency pays off over time.

If you’re looking for a skincare regimen to follow, try this one:

In The Morning

  • Wash your face with a mild cleanser
  • Apply a calming toner with hydrating ingredients
  • Finish up with a lightweight moisturizer

In The Evening

  • Wash your face and remove makeup with a gentle, non-irritating cleanser
  • Apply toner with vitamin E and antioxidants
  • Apply a hydrating moisturizer cream that’ll soak into your skin while you sleep

Once A Week

  • Use a moisturizing face mask
  • Clean your makeup brushes to avoid cross-contamination


  • Check for expired products (get rid of them if they’re past their prime)
  • Reevaluate your skincare routine and make changes as necessary

These steps can help reduce sensitivity over time.

Use Natural Ingredients

Oatmeal in a scoop and bowl

Natural ingredients, like colloidal oatmeal, are the perfect way to give your body what it needs without risking exposure to harmful chemicals. Depending on the type of treatment you’re looking for, there’s sure to be something for you.

Colloidal oatmeal, for example, works particularly well for relieving eczema. Not only is it soothing and gentle, but it’s also praised for its effectiveness for allergic reactions to common ingredients.

If itch relief is what you’re after, then shea butter might be the trick. Other products to consider are coconut oil for skin hydration or Gotu kola, an herb that works exceptionally for healing wounds.

Be Gentle

Scrubbing too hard can further damage sensitive skin. Being gentle means lathering your body rather than scouring it, avoiding extreme temperatures (like scalding-hot showers), and using gentle products without harmful chemicals or abrasive ingredients.

Treat Underlying Skin Conditions

If you have eczema, psoriasis, or another skin condition, talk with your doctor about a treatment plan. Often, better management of these conditions can help alleviate symptoms of sensitive skin.

You’ll also want to look for skincare products designed to treat your specific skin disorder. Once you identify some, integrate them into your daily routines.

For example, keeping a bottle of our Eczema Daily Calming Cream: On-the-Go in your purse makes it simple to keep eczema-prone skin hydrated no matter where life takes you.

Try A Cold Compress

When your sensitive skin leaves you feeling itchy, a cold compress can provide relief. Simply soak a washcloth in cold water, wring it out, and apply it to your skin. Leave it on for about ten minutes, then remove it.

The coldness can help relieve swelling and provide a numbing effect that helps take your mind off the itching. Repeating this practice several times each day is safe, as long as the washcloth isn’t too cold.

Soothe Sensitive Skin With Bodewell

Woman treating her sensitive skin with skincare products

There’s an overwhelming list of factors that cause sensitive skin. But from allergies to a natural skin disposition, finding relief is as easy as following our expert guide.

Our skincare products at Bodewell aim to give you what you need: simple management for your skin without compromising its natural beauty.

Whether you’re looking to prevent or treat sensitive skin due to eczema, psoriasis, or any other cause, Bodewell helps you find exactly what you need so you can live life confidently in your skin.

You can enjoy better skin days again!


National Center for Biotechnology Information
National Eczema Association
PubMed Central

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