Fanny J. Berg, M.D.

Skin Care

Tips for Sensitive Skin

Sensitive skin is a common complaint that can result in redness, and a sense of tight, burning or stinging skin immediately after being exposed to an irritant. Common irritants include soaps and cosmetics. Skin redness (erythema) can occur quickly and last minutes. Repeated stress can cause the redness to persist.

Certain individuals are more prone to sensitive skin, such as people with dry skin, eczema, dermatitis and rosacea. Children and the elderly are more apt to experience skin sensitivity.

The most common irritant for those with sensitive skin are fragrances and preservatives found in skin care products.

Managing Sensitive Skin

  • Always start a new skin product by applying it to only a small area of skin, and gradually increase the amount applied if the product is tolerated.
  • It can be helpful to read the labels of products used on the skin to identify possible triggers.
  • Use sun protection measures. Staying out of the sun or wearing protective sunscreen may be critical for reducing skin sensitivity, particularly for those who are prone to sunburn or who freckle easily. Some chemical sunscreens may be irritating or cause allergic reactions, so a sunblock containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide may be recommended.
  • Those with sensitive skin may consider avoiding makeup with too many ingredients (10 or more ingredients is usually considered too many), throw out old makeup, use silicone based foundation, use a face powder with few preservatives and avoid waterproof makeup, as these require solvent to remove. Earth toned eye shadow tends to cause fewer reactions than dark colors, while black eyeliner and mascara appear to be safer than other cosmetics. Meanwhile, liquid eyeliner may contain latex which could lead to an allergic reaction, so pencil eyeliner is a good alternative.
  • Some conditions like rosacea (link to rosaceas type 1) may lead to facial redness and irritation. Treating the underlying rosacea may help reduce the sensitivity of the skin.