Sensitive skin - somedays it's going to feel like spontaneous combustion. Somedays your sensitive skin will take a step away from burning to itchy and irritated. Other days, your sensitive skin will channel the kind of tightness that should only be possible with facial rejuvenation surgery.

Sensitive Skin: 10 Reasons You Have It & Exactly How to Wave It Goodbye…

In Sensitive Skincare by Cheryl Woodman MChemLeave a Comment

Sensitive skin – some days it’s going to feel like spontaneous combustion. Some days your sensitive skin will take a step away from burning to itchy and irritated. Other days, your sensitive skin will channel the kind of tightness that should only be possible with facial rejuvenation surgery.

Whether you experience tightness, itchiness, irritation or burning – it’s a fact – you have sensitive skin.

…but dear friend, sensitive skin doesn’t have to define you.

It’s time to kick-butt to days when your skin takes more of your attention than the handsome man sat opposite you on your daily commute.

Like all good therapy – you need to confront your cause before finding your cure.

Your skin’s just like a misunderstood man – trying to communicate but failing to find the right words.

Well, call me your skin whisperer, because 1 of more of these 10 sensitive skin causes are likely your primary triggers… and I’m explaining exactly how you can cure them.

Sensitive skin - somedays it's going to feel like spontaneous combustion. Somedays your sensitive skin will take a step away from burning to itchy and irritated. Other days, your sensitive skin will channel the kind of tightness that should only be possible with facial rejuvenation surgery.

1. Is Your Sensitive Skin caused by Over-Cleansing?

Your skin’s a lot like a duck feathers. Ever heard the saying, like water off a ducks back? Ever been warned as a little person, ‘don’t stroke the bird’ because stroking equals duck death?

All these sayings are for the same exact reason. Birds have a beautifully invisible waterproof coating that stops them from becoming shipwrecked. Bird with waterproofing equals fully functioning river floating creature. Bird without water proofing equals bird death.

Your skin works by the same theory.

Did you know your skins top layers are oil based?

Even if your skin doesn’t look or feel oily – there are oils there.

Ever noticed how a rain drop on your skin will bead-up the exact same way it would on your rain coat?

Well, let me introduce you to your very own, personalised skincoat. Kudos!

Your top layers of skin are the most important. They keep the baddies out and the goodies in. They’re your very own self-employed security guard.

If you have sensitive skin, your skins oil based protective coating is likely compromised.

This means a few of the baddies are being let in. The more baddies that get let in, the wider your flood gates are opened and the more irritated your sensitive skin becomes.

Over cleansing is a major culprit of sensitive skin.

Cleansing products like face wash, foaming washes and shower gels have special ingredients that eat away your skins natural oils.

What the heck? Why would your face wash contain something that eats your skins protection ‘eh?

Dear friend, this is all about balance.

Here’s the thing, your makeup is mostly oil based which means cleansers need to be made to eat up oil – it’s just some are much, much too good at it.

They don’t just eat up your makeup, they also eat up your skins protective oil-proofing.

What cleanser are you using? Does it foam? Is SLS or sodium lauryl sulphate listed on the ingredients list? Does it leave your sensitive skin feeling squeaky clean?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes – it’s likely your cleanser is too strong.

How to rescue your sensitive skin…

Switch out high water content cleansers like face wash’s, sulphate containing detergents and high foam products.

Replace with sensitive skin friendly cleansing balms, oils or creams. These have very mild cleansing actives which know how to respect your skins security barrier. That’s cleansers like;

2. Have You Developed Sensitive Skin because of the Weather?

The weather has a lot to answer for ‘eh. Sure, snow looks beautiful and the sun looks dreamy, there’s even a place for wind once in a while – cue Marilyn Monroe in ‘that’ picture. The weather has a lot of good stuff to give, it’s also sometimes the culprit of your skin’s health.

Do you live in a climate with a very dry winter?

I bet you’ve never been asked this question in small talk before…

What’s your ambient air humidity? AKA – is your air humid or dry? Does that change with winter to summer?

Dry air is a silent zapper of your skins hydration and oil protective barriers.

Essentially it eats up your skins nutrients for itself.

It needs water, so it takes your skins. That means it has to defeat your waterproof barrier until it can drink up your skins hydration.

That’s a lot of actions that’ll leave your skin oh so dry and defenceless.

Dry and defenceless skin is another way of saying you have sensitive skin.

Is this your sensitive skin cause? Do you find your skin’s more sensitive from summer to winter? Did you only develop sensitive skin when you moved to a new climate?

If you’re feeling like a yes robot, the weather is likely one of your sensitive skin triggers.

How to rescue your sensitive skin…

The cure to weather induced sensitive skin is simple – you need to ramp up your moisturising routine. That means nighttime moisturisers, facial oils and richly conditioning balms. These moisturisers are heavily oil and butter based, they treat your sensitive skin by reforming and replenishing your skins oil based barriers.

3. Is Your Sensitive Skin due to Hard Water?

Eczema is a condition characterised by a reduced skin barrier, which you guessed right, leads to chronically dry and sensitive skin. Interesting fact – the incidence of eczema has been directly linked to hard water.

People living in hard water areas have a much higher risk and incidence of eczema than those living in soft water areas.

At this point you may be wondering – just what is hard water? Is it that thing that happens when diving turns into a belly-flop?

Extremely valid question.

While that would be very fun, hard water is actually the fancy phrase used to describe water that has a high mineral content.

Specifically minerals like calcium and magnesium.

Ever seen limescale build up in a kettle? Limescale happens when those hard water minerals collect.

Hard water minerals can also collect on your skin.

Your itchy, scratchy sensitive skin may be a cause of hard water mineral deposits leading to dryness and poor barrier function.

Do you live in a hard water area? Did your sensitive skin develop when you moved to a new house? Do you see limescale build-up in your kettle?

If any of these questions are ringing your door bell, hard water could be the cause of your sensitive skin.

How to rescue your sensitive skin…

First up, the effects hard water can have on your skin will be limited by turning the heat down and becoming a speed cleaner in the shower. Cooler and quicker showers limit the time hard water has to aggravate your skin.

Next up, if eczema runs in your family and your sensitive skin is very much linked to hard water, you may want to consider investing in a water softener.

4. Are Skincare Products the Cause of Your Sensitive Skin?

One of the most aggravating ingredients found in skincare products is fragrance… the more shocking part, even natural fragrances have the same effects.

Yup, that means whether it’s a synthetic parfum or a natural essential oil – both could be the cause of your sensitive skin.

Fragrance is a very common source of ingredients technically called sensitizers, irritants and allergens.

The quirky part – ingredients like sensitizers bide their time. You could be A-OK using a moisturiser containing parfum for years, then – boom, one day your skins had enough and whenever you go near the stuff, sensitive skin is triggered.

Sensitizers are descried as being cumulative, which means your skin remembers each and every time you used them. It’s like a plugged bath with no over-flow and the tap turned on.

The levels your skins able to tolerate will be unique to you. As you have sensitive skin, you know your tolerance levels will be lower than normal.

Did you suddenly develop sensitive skin without having changed anything in your life or skincare routine? If the answer’s yes, fragrance in skincare products could be your likely trigger.

How to rescue your sensitive skin…

This is an uber simple save my friend – ensure your skincare products are free from fragrance and essential oils. Wondering where to start? I have this super helpful list of 10 fragrance free skincare brands that you’ll be safe to peruse knowing all picks are completely fragrance free.

5. Could Over Exfoliation be your Sensitive Skin Trigger?

Exfoliation is the winner of glowy radiant skin – sometimes it’s also the winning pacifier of conditions like acne. With great results, it’s tempting to over reach for your newly found secret weapon.

Yes – there really is too much of a good thing.

You might be incorporating an exfoliation step into your skincare routine in 1 of 2 ways. Physically or chemically.

If physical is your step – you’ll be using a scrub, facial cloth or spinning brush, hell, maybe even a Konjac sponge!

If chemical exfoliation is your step, you’ll be using a toning fluid continuing an ingredient like salicylic acid or glycolic acid. Those names are exactly what you’ll find them as in that teeny-tiny ingredient list.

Exfoliation can trigger sensitive skin because it’s working away to thin your top layers of dead skin cells. These layers of skin are also the ones protecting you from dryness and sensitivity.

If you’ve been channeling the Ms.Bisto gravy granny with your exfoliation hand, over exfoliation may be your sensitive skin trigger.

How to rescue your sensitive skin…

You’re on the mark my friend – the solution is simple, pop your favourite exfoliating pal into your skincare cupboard and only say hello a few times per week.

6. Is Sunshine on a Cloudy day your Sensitive Skin Cause?

Without our dear friend Sunshine, neither you or I could exist, turns out, we have a lot to thank our yellow friend for. Thing is, as much as sunshine gives it can also take away.

The culprit – UV light.

Sunshine has a rainbow all of its very own – a rainbow you can’t see, but your body still experiences..

Of the light reaching our little planet – we only see a small amount, the appropriately named visible light.

…but it’s not the only light reaching us.

There’s lots of other, higher energy lights you can’t see – lights like UV.

UV light causes damage to your skin. UVB light will give you a lobster level sunburn and UVA light will penetrate your skin more deeply, ageing your collagen and depleting your skin of its youth.

Both UVA and UVB light cause your skin inflammation.

Inflammation goes hand in hand with sensitivity, the more damage or inflammation your skin experiences the more sensitive it’ll become.

Ever touched lobster sunburn? If the answers yes, you’ll know this feeling.

Here’s the thing most people don’t know.

UVA is just as strong in winter as it is in summer.

While you won’t be getting a tell-tale sunburn, your skin will still be bonding with the same dose of UVA light, oh and it can also come through windows.

Daily exposure can cause low level inflammation that rears its head as sensitive skin. If you have sensitive skin, UV exposure is very likely to be one of your triggers or aggravators.

How to rescue your sensitive skin…

Friend, you don’t have to become a shade seeking, indoor dwelling hermit. Oh no – it’s daily sun protection that’s your skin saving solution. For sensitive skin, sunblock is your best friend – this article, ‘Why Sunblock is Best for Sensitive Skin’ explains exactly why and exactly how to tell if your sun protection fits the sunblock bracket.

Want a few quick recommendations? I’m your gal, these 3 below formulas are pre-vetted and sensitive skin friendly.

7. Could Long, Hot Showers be Triggering Your Sensitive Skin?

Remember our water off a ducks back analogy? Yup that one. Well long, hot showers are like duck-death to your skins very own waterproofing.

Your waterpoofing is uber important because it keeps sensitive skin triggers out. That’s things like fragrance ingredients, dyes from your clothes, pollution particles and bacterias.

When your waterproofing, also known as your skins barrier has been teased away from tip-top condition, all baddies get a free invitation in.

Hot water is very good at this!

Ever noticed how well hot water dissolves up saucepan crust? How quickly tea brews when your waters boiling?

Hot water makes things happen at superwoman speed.

That includes dissolving away your skins natural barriers. When you’re at this stage, sensitive skin station is only 1-stop away.

Is your skin more sensitive after bathing? Does your skin become dry after showering? Do you have extra irritation after visits to the bathroom?

If you’re answering yes, yes, yes – long, hot showers or baths may be your sensitive skin cause.

How to rescue your sensitive skin…

You’ve got this my friend – turn the heat dial down and your speed dial up. Treat showering like an indulgence that lasts as long as a gold foil wrapped chocolate.

8. Is Your sensitive Skin caused by too Few Emollients?

Huh? Emollients? Don’t worry, I have you covered on this one. Emollients are a kind of moisturiser, they’re the kind that soften and nourish skin while also helping to reform your skins barrier.

That skin barrier comes up a lot ‘eh.

If you’ve ever suffered eczema or dry skin, your doctor may well have prescribed or recommended an emollient cream. In their most basic form, emollient moisturisers are creams like E45.

When your skins on the brink of a sensitive skin fit, emollients can help tease it back.

I bet you can ring off a few triggers that an emollient cream could save.

Things like long hot showers, weather, air conditioning, central heating – wherever dryness can be caused, sensitive skin can also be triggered.

If you have dryness paired with sensitive skin or skin that feels squeaky then too few emollients could be your cause.

How to rescue your sensitive skin…

Another easy save on the sensitive skin front – make sure you have a good emollient moisturiser in your routine. These are great used before bed as loose clothes give these creams time to sink in fully. You’ll want to look for creams that are like body butters, thick lotions or even oils.

Here’s a few sensitive skin friendly emollient winners;

9. Are You Triggering Sensitive Skin with Inflammatory Foods?

On one side of the table you have a yummy healthy salad with avocado, sweet potato chunks and red pepper garnish. On the other side you have a ready-made burger in a fried to finish bun with 3-times cooked chunky chips and a large helping of ketchup sauce.

I’m not going to lie to you – there’s a time for each.

The question is – do you have too many inflammatory foods in your diet and not enough anti-inflammaotry foods?

If you didn’t know this that’s A-OK. You probably knew the healthy pick was salad and the sometimes treat was the burger.

The reason that second meal’s a once per month occurrence is because it contains lots of foods that cause inflammation.

If you have sensitive skin – this is a problem. Inflammation is a sensitive skin trigger.

Foods that have high sugar content, contain alcohol or have a high GI are likely to send your body into an inflammation rollercoaster.

You know these foods are bad for you already, it’s just you may not have realised they’re your sensitive skin trigger.

So who are your food culprits? I’ll start you off with a few because you’ll be successfully guessing the rest from there! You have…

  • Sugar coated cereals.
  • Red meats.
  • Fried foods.
  • Dairy products.
  • Refined foods.
  • Processed foods.
  • Alcohol.
  • White grains like rice.

How to rescue your sensitive skin…

Cut down inflammatory food groups to treat days only. In their place, layer in yummy anti-inflammatory foods like tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, nuts, fatty fishes and fruits like blueberries.

10. Is Your Sensitive Skin an Allergic Reaction?

Our final potential reason for your sensitive skin – could your sensitivities actually be an allergic reaction?

Many skin conditions, even ones like eczema can be the consequence of an allergic reaction. You might be allergic to something that’s common for skin not to like. You could also be allergic to something it’s un-common for skin not to like.

The commonest of allergic sensitive skin triggers is fragrance – we already have that covered.

This is where your skin may be allergic to a specific ingredient, it could be a sunscreen filter or a preservative, or even a simple moisturising ingredient.

Again, you may have used this ingredient for yonks with it only recently triggering your sensitive skin. That means your go-to moisturiser, the one you used when your skin was super healthy – could in fact be your trigger.

How to rescue your sensitive skin…

Keeping a skincare diary is a must if you suspect allergies to be your sensitive skin cause. Snap a picture of each ingredient list you use, when your skin has a fit – refer back to your lists and see which ingredients where new to your skin.

The best way to start is to simplify your skincare routine to products with a handful of ingredients. Take your pick from this list of skincare picks with fewer than 10 ingredients each.

oh, and you might find this article helpful, ‘The Exact 9 Steps to take after Your Skins had an Allergic Reaction’.

With those 2 resources you should have this trigger covered.


Which do you suspect as your sensitive skin triggers? Do any of these 10 really make perfect sense to your skins situation? Tell me in the comments below, lets chat dear friend…