Sensitive skin itself isn’t something that a doctor will diagnose you with — it’s typically a symptom of another condition.
Thankfully, conditions that cause sensitive skin aren’t typically serious, and you can keep them under control by making some changes to your skincare routine.
We’ll explore ten causes of sensitive skin and how you can make simple changes to find relief.
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10 Causes of Sensitive Skin with Easy Home Treatments
From common dry skin to chronic conditions like rosacea, let’s discuss the top ten causes of sensitive skin and what you can do to start feeling better.
You can get dry skin when your skin loses too much oil and water, causing your skin to:
- Scale or flake
- Feel rough
- Appear red or ashy
- Crack and bleed
And while you can get dry skin anywhere on your body, it’s most likely to happen on your hands, arms, feet, and lower legs.
The best way to help treat dry skin is by moisturizing the dry areas. You can apply a moisturizing cream two or three times daily to help restore moisture and prevent it from drying out in the future. We recommend using a moisturizer that’s fragrance-free and designed for sensitive skin.
Besides using a gentle moisturizer to restore moisture to your dry skin, you can also try using natural oils that don’t typically cause irritation, like Shea butter.
Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)
Atopic dermatitis, commonly called eczema, affects your skin’s ability to protect against irritants — chemicals in soap and laundry detergent, germs in the air, etc. — which can make you extra sensitive to many products that other people don’t have issues with, including cosmetics and soaps.
And while eczema affects everyone differently, you’ll like notice one or more of the following skin conditions:
- Dryness and itchiness
- Small bumps that crust over or leak fluid
- Raw and swollen skin
- Red or gray patches of skin
- Cracked, thick, or scaly skin
If your eczema is relatively mild, over-the-counter moisturizers and anti-itch creams will typically help ease your symptoms. However, for those with severe eczema, treatment may require working with your healthcare provider.
If you have eczema, it’s crucial to choose products designed for sensitive skin so that you don’t further irritate your condition. Moisturizers that contain ceramides (like ours!) can also help form a protective layer over your skin to prevent further irritation.
Related: Ceramides, Clarified
It can also help to look into anti-itch creams and switch to hypoallergenic, fragrance-free soaps, laundry detergents, etc.
Irritant Contact Dermatitis
If you have irritant contact dermatitis, you likely deal with the red, itchy rash that accompanies the condition — it happens when your skin’s protective layer gets damaged by something it touches. Most people will only develop a rash on the skin where an irritant directly touches it.
Common irritant contact dermatitis symptoms include:
- A red rash
- Dry, cracked, and scaly skin
- A burning sensation
- Blisters and bumps that can crust over and ooze fluid
Typically, contact dermatitis will clear up within a few weeks on its own — the most important step you can take is to figure out what triggered it so that you can avoid the irritant in the future.
When dealing with a reaction, you’ll want something to help control the itching while the rash heals — scratching at it will make it even more inflamed.
You can find steroid creams, like hydrocortisone, at most pharmacies and grocery stores to help eliminate the itch and reduce inflammation. In addition, some anti-itch creams contain numbing agents to further relieve the burning and itchiness. Colloidal oatmeal is an ingredient that may help.
A third option is to take a cool, soothing oatmeal bath to help treat your burning, blistering skin. You can find pre-mixed bath treatments or make your own (all you have to do is grind oatmeal into a fine powder and add it to your bath!).
Allergic Contact Dermatitis
Similar (but less common) to irritant contact dermatitis is allergic contact dermatitis. This condition occurs when your skin has an allergic reaction to certain substances.
Allergic contact dermatitis symptoms include:
- Redness and itchiness
- Bumps and blisters that may contain fluid
- Swelling, burning, and tenderness
There are many allergens that can cause a reaction — common ones include:
- Soaps and lotions
- Cosmetics and fragrances
Like irritant contact dermatitis, it’s important to determine what substances cause your skin to react negatively so that you can avoid them in the future. Over-the-counter antihistamines typically help with the itching and inflammation associated with the condition.
Oral antihistamines (like Benadryl) can help stop your skin’s allergic reaction. These medications are also available as ointments, creams, and sprays that can help relieve symptoms caused by contact allergens like poison ivy.
It’s also not uncommon for reactions to stem from dish soaps and laundry detergents — switching to fragrance-free, gentle alternatives can often help.
Another common skin condition is rosacea. Early signs of this condition include flushing or blushing more easily than others, and it most often affects the face. Rosacea can cause extreme sensitivity, leading many products to cause immediate stinging and burning.
Other symptoms of rosacea include:
- Looking sunburned when you’re not
- Breaking out in small bumps and pimples
- Redness of your face, ears, back, or chest
- Visible blood vessels
The long-term care of rosacea typically involves prescription creams and medications from your healthcare provider.
However, you can do some things at home to help alleviate symptoms and create a rosacea-friendly skin routine.
Medications that reduce redness can help your appearance with rosacea, like Mirvase, which works by constricting blood vessels.
Sensitive moisturizers, like BALANCING ACT, can help protect your skin from further irritation. Avoid moisturizers with heavy fragrances and loads of preservatives.
Related: Skin 101: The Basics
When you get hives after coming in contact with an irritating substance, contact urticaria is the culprit. It results in an immediate reaction with symptoms like:
- Itching and burning
- Tingling and redness
- Swelling and welts
Many products, materials, and substances can cause these hives, including:
- Raw foods
- Ingredients in beauty and bath products
If you develop hives from contact urticaria, the symptoms shouldn’t last much more than a day. However, you can still choose treatments to ease your symptoms while you wait for the rash to run its course.
Common helpful treatments include over-the-counter medications and creams.
Taking an antihistamine like Benadryl can help reduce symptoms by limiting the amount of histamine in your bloodstream.
Steroid creams that contain hydrocortisone can help soothe your itching and reduce inflammation.
Pain relievers like naproxen and ibuprofen can help reduce your swelling and discomfort.
Physical urticaria results in hives (similar to contact urticaria); however, this condition is caused by exposure to cold or heat, chemicals, plants, or exercise.
The symptoms of physical urticaria include:
- Small hives
- Hives with white, pink, or red centers
- Itching and swelling
- Hives surrounded by a red ring
While symptoms typically go away on their own, taking an oral antihistamine as soon as you notice hives popping up can help clear them up quickly.
Because temperature is a common cause of physical urticaria, there are some additional things you can do to help avoid this condition. When it’s cold outside, or you’re handling plants or chemicals, you should always wear gloves. It can also help to use hand warmers when you’re outside in the winter.
In addition, many people get symptoms of physical urticaria when getting out of a shower or swimming pool. Keeping large towels and warm bathrobes nearby can help keep you warm enough to avoid getting hives. In the winter, hooded bathrobes can help even more.
This uncommon skin condition happens as a reaction to sunlight. People with photodermatoses have a reaction to UV rays that trigger their immune systems, causing them to develop rashes, blisters, and scaly patches of skin.
While this condition can be difficult to recognize, some signs to look for include:
- A rash that appears where you were exposed to the sun
- Worsening rashes in the spring and summer
- Skin covered by shadows is unaffected (under your chin, your eyelids, etc.)
- Skin covered with hair is unaffected
- Clear lines distinguish covered skin from exposed skin (similar to tan lines)
If you suspect your skin condition is photodermatoses, talk to your healthcare provider — it could be caused by something you’re taking, like an over-the-counter supplement or medication.
If the sunlight irritates your skin, you want to ensure you use sunscreen that’s at least 30 SPF, wear UPF clothing when outdoors, and use aloe vera to soothe any rashes or blisters that develop.
This skin condition — cutaneous mastocytosis — happens when too many mast cells accumulate in your skin. Because those cells are part of your immune system, when they sense a threat, they release various chemicals, causing swelling.
Other than swelling, symptoms of cutaneous mastocytosis include:
- Small red or tan spot on your body
- Spots on your legs, arms, neck, or stomach
- Completely flat spots (not raised at all)
Most of the time, symptoms don’t appear until triggered by an irritating substance, like lotion and or fragrances. However, there are other triggers, including scratching, emotional stress, temperature changes, and some medications.
Typically, treatment involves steroid creams and antihistamines. Those with severe symptoms may undergo PUVA therapy.
Treating cutaneous mastocytosis spots consists of using oral antihistamines like Benadryl and topical steroids like hydrocortisone.
To help prevent your cutaneous mastocytosis from triggering, you can use fragrance-free moisturizers designed for sensitive skin.
A rare condition, aquagenic pruritus triggers when any water touches your skin.
Unlike the other nine skin conditions we discussed, aquagenic pruritus doesn’t cause visible symptoms like blisters or rashes. Instead, it causes itchiness as soon as you touch water, lasting for minutes or hours.
It’s difficult to treat, and if you have this condition, working with your healthcare provider is your best bet to determine your next steps.
In the meantime, you can use gentle cleansing cloths to clean your face, hypoallergenic, antibacterial wipes to clean your body, and moisturizing, antibacterial gel to clean your hands.
More Tips to Ease Your Sensitive Skin
For those with sensitive skin, it can seem like everything causes irritation. However, with some lifestyle changes, you might be able to see some significant improvement.
Try these tips to ease your sensitive skin:
- Take short showers (five to ten minutes) with warm (not hot) water
- Avoid using hard exfoliants and astringents
- Use fragrance-free, gentle soap and laundry detergents
- Always use shaving gel or cream when shaving
- After a shower, pat (not rub) yourself dry — apply moisturizer immediately
- Whenever you use a new product, test it on a small, discreet area of your skin
Because so many conditions can cause skin sensitivity, and some require more diligent, serious treatment than others, it never hurts to talk to a doctor, dermatologist, or allergist about your sensitive skin to find out what’s causing it.
However, many people successfully treat their sensitive skin conditions at home by identifying what’s causing the irritation and working to avoid it.
BALANCING ACT: The Moisturizer Designed for Sensitive Skin
One of the most important things you can do to help your sensitive skin is to pick the right moisturizer (and use it regularly!). That’s why we created BALANCING ACT.
BALANCING ACT is a moisturizing cream designed for people with the most sensitive skin, whether the cause is eczema, rosacea, dry skin, or any other condition. It helps moisturize, heal, and restore your skin with the perfect pH balance for 12+ hours — say goodbye to redness and irritation.
Related: The Right pH Level Is Everything
Ready to find relief for your sensitive skin? Try BALANCING ACT today — your lightweight solution to sensitive skin issues!