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Sensitive Skin

What is Sensitive or Reactive Skin?

Many of us have experienced sensitive skin at some point and for a number of us, it is a constant in our lives. Essentially, when we say someone has sensitive skin, we are talking about skin that is prone to reactions like redness, swelling, flaking, peeling, and general roughness. Commonly, it can also be accompanied by an itching, burning, or stinging sensation, especially in the immediate aftermath of a reaction.

2. Causes of Sensitive Skin

The causes of sensitive skin are many and varied, but include:

  • Environmental Conditions – harsh climactic conditions and air pollution are both known contributors to dry skin, irritations, and increased sensitivities.

  • Age – our skin becomes drier and less elastic as we age, putting us more at risk of sensitive skin.

  • Medications – some medications can cause dehydration and – consequently – dry, irritated skin.

  • Allergies – when our skin is exposed to an allergen, our immune system can go into overdrive, leading to inflammations and breakouts.

  • Hormonal Changes – hormonal changes, particularly during our teenage years, during the menstrual cycle, and during menopause, can lead to increased reactiveness.

  • Synthetic Chemicals – synthetic chemicals in personal care products often have a negative impact on our skin, making us more prone to breakouts and other irritations.

  • Skin Conditions – there are a number of common skin conditions that can be both the cause and symptom of sensitive skin, including eczema, contact dermatitis, psoriasis, rosacea, acne, and dry skin.


3. Common Mistakes Made in Caring for Sensitive Skin

Dealing with sensitive skin can be a frustrating experience, leading us to try all kinds of fixes to help calm and balance it. Sometimes, this can result in us making things worse, not better. Here are some common mistakes made by people trying to care for their sensitive skin…

  • Forgetting to keep things simple – If you have sensitive skin, it’s important not to overload it with too many products, hoping that you can pamper it into submission. Instead, relying on anything beyond a thoughtfully constructed, minimalist skincare regime is likely to result in the kind of aggravated, inflamed skin you’re trying to avoid! 

  • Losing it in the laundry – We’ve talked previously about how the laundry can – if we’re not careful - become the most toxic room in our home. This is something to be especially wary of if we have sensitive skin, as most laundry products (detergents, softeners, etc.) contain synthetic fragrances and dyes which can be transferred from our clothes to our skin, causing all kinds of unwanted breakouts and irritations (note – the same thing can happen if we wear new clothes without washing them first!). We should try, instead, to stock our laundry with products that are hypoallergenic, as well as scent, fragrance, and dye-free.

  • Forgetting to CBB (that’d be ‘cleanse before bed’…) – It’s important for all of us to stick to a night-time cleansing routine, washing off makeup and grime before we go to bed. But for those of us with sensitive skin - and hoping to keep our skin in the best possible condition - this is not so much a ‘to-do’ as a ‘must-do’. 

4. Caring for Sensitive Skin

If we can avoid the mistakes listed above, and follow the suggestions below instead, then we will at least give ourselves the chance to get off the sensitive skin rollercoaster and enjoy smooth, healthy skin.

  • Practice these six easy (but oh-so-important) lifestyle habits – None of these habits are difficult, but make a practice of them and your skin will thank you…

    • take short (no more than 5 minutes) showers, with warm, not hot, water.

    • rather than rubbing, pat yourself dry after bathing and apply moisturizer straight away.

    • avoid harsh astringent cleansers and exfoliants - use a gentle natural cleanser instead.

    • opt for a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic deodorant.

    • when it comes to your laundry and other cleaning products, go fragrance-free and natural.

    • always patch-test new personal care products on a discreet area of skin.

  • Fragrance-free for the win – Okay. Our stance on this is pretty clear. If you’re considering buying a product and you see the term ‘fragrance’ (or ‘perfume’ or ‘parfum’) in its ingredients’ list, then put it back on the shelf and run. That’s because these phrases almost always serve as cover for proprietary cocktails that can include dozens of potentially harmful synthetic chemicals, any or all of which might serve as an irritant to your skin.

  • Gently does it – Sensitive skins require gentle treatment. That means, when you’re shopping for your skincare and makeup, products that are natural and that have been formulated or tested specifically for sensitive skin should be at the top of your list.

  • Find the routine that works for you – Because sensitive skin can manifest in so many different ways, there is no one, universal product or routine that is suitable for all. Instead, if you experience sensitive skin, it’s important to discover what works for you. Likely though, you will want to keep your routine relatively simple, perhaps even limited to no more than a cleanser and moisturizer to begin with, with other products slowly added as the skin calms and balances. We highly recommend both our ‘Clean Slate, Fruit Acid Complex Cleanser’ and our multitasking rescue cream and moisturizer ‘Task Force Nine, Turmeric and Calendula Cream’ as an ideal starting point for anyone with sensitive skin. 

  • You are what you eat – Food allergies are becoming increasingly common and there’s a chance that any flare-ups or breakouts you might experience happen as a direct result of your diet. If you suspect that some kind of food might be responsible for your irritated skin, then try out an elimination diet, where you strip what you eat back to bare basics, before slowly reintroducing different food types, to discover what’s causing the reaction (note – if you do decide to adopt an elimination diet, it’s important to first consult a dietitian or nutritionist, to ensure you’re getting enough nutrients).


In addition to understanding what food types might trigger your sensitive skin, it’s important too, to eat a healthy ‘rainbow’ diet, rich in fruits and vegetables and organic protein. As with all skin types, moderating your intake of sugar, highly processed foods, and alcohol can also help, as will staying well hydrated thanks to good old H2O.