How Come My Skin Is All Of A Sudden Sensitive?

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Anyone who’s ever experienced sensitive skin will know how concerning a first-time symptom can be. And although we often refer to it as a skin type, sensitivity can occur to anyone.

In fact, recent insights from QV revealed that 64 per cent of people surveyed suffer from sensitive skin(1). So if you’ve noticed your own complexion becoming a bit more reactive and unhappy at times, you’re not alone.

Here are some of the common triggers that could be to blame, plus some simple tips to help get your skin back to feeling more comfortable. 

P.S. If you do experience a change in your skin, it’s always a good idea to discuss with your health professional to rule out anything untoward. 

Common triggers of skin sensitivity

While some people can experience sensitive skin year-round, it can also be caused and exacerbated by both internal and external factors(2). Here are some of the most common:

Stress

According to QV’s insights, 66 per cent of people said their sensitive skin is triggered by specific events such as stress(1). When stress occurs, the body releases chemicals (like the stress hormone cortisol), which can cause inflammation of the skin. For some, this can even result in a stress rash that can be itchy and raised(3).

Switching products

Changes in your skin care routine could also be the cause of skin sensitivity. If you can manage to find the product culprit, take note of the ingredients on the label. Then, if it ever happens again, you can see if any of the ingredients match up and narrow down your trigger.

Seasonal changes

46 per cent of people surveyed also said their skin sensitivity changes depending on the season(1). And while the cold air of winter and the skin dryness it causes may be what first springs to mind, the sunlight in summer can also exacerbate some irritations(4). Let’s not forget hayfever either; the allergy can wreak havoc on the skin.

Hormonal fluctuations

The same as hormones can be to blame for certain kinds of acne, fluctuations can also lead to sensitivity. In fact, some women find their skin to be more sensitive just before and during the menstrual cycle(5).

Tips for dealing with sensitive skin

Look for ‘dermatologically tested’

When purchasing products for managing sensitive skin, looking for ‘dermatologically tested’ on the label is a good place to start. Dermatologists traditionally steer clear of irritants and stick to well-researched ingredients that won’t disrupt the skin barrier. And if you’re yet to try QV, 66 per cent of people have found its products helped their sensitive skin(1). It’s also the #1 recommended brand by GPs, pharmacists and dermatologists for sensitive skin(6).

Try fragrance-free formulas

Even if your skin has previously tolerated fragrance in products, if you’re experiencing a newfound sensitivity, it’s best to steer clear. Fragrance could potentially be exacerbating the irritation you’re experiencing, even if it wasn’t the original cause.

Keep showers cool

Although nobody likes to hear it, if you’re experiencing sensitive skin on the body, it’s best to keep the temperatures of your showers mild. Hot water will only further dehydrate the skin. Even if it feels good in the moment, the scorching temperature won’t do your skin any favours in the long run. 

Remember, it’s always a good idea to discuss any changes in your skin with your pharmacist or doctor, to rule out any more serious causes of sensitivity. 

  1. Are Media, Research, QV Skin Survey, July21 N=828 women with skin sensitivity/condition or with a child 0-12 with skin sensitivity/condition
  2. Duarte I, Silveira JEPS, Hafner MFS, Toyota R, Pedroso DMM. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. An Bras Dermatol. 2017;92(4):521-525. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.201756111 
  3. Chen Y., Lyga J. Brain-skin connection: Stress, inflammation and skin aging. Inflamm. Allergy Drug Targets. 2014;13:177–190. doi: 10.2174/1871528113666140522104422. 
  4. Murota H, Katayama I. Evolving understanding on the aetiology of thermally provoked itch. Eur J Pain. 2016;20(1):47–50. 
  5. Falcone D, Richters RJ, Uzunbajakava NE, Van Erp PE, Van De Kerkhof PC. Sensitive skin and the influence of female hormone fluctuations: results from a cross-sectional digital survey in the Dutch population. Eur J Dermatol. 2017 Feb 1;27(1):42-48. doi: 10.1684/ejd.2016.2913. PMID: 27873738.
  6. Acare Research. Brand Healthy Study, OTC Skincare: Jun 2021

Do you experience sensitive skin? What do you find helps soothe it?

Share your thoughts

Comments 33

  1. Yes, when overdoing with acids and retinol. Skin stings when applying some creams and becomes tight. Just by lying off strong stuff, using plain rich hydrating cream and toner to quench and let it rest helps.

  2. I generally don’t get sensitive skin – the only time I have is when I’ve used a cream that felt like it was prickling my skin! I stopped using it and I don’t have a problem. I did find one time I used a specific brand of face mist which my skin found aggressive which was very unusual for me. I was asked by the company to send it to them and they’d send me a different product – they sent me a hand cream! I really wasn’t impressed as the mist toner cost me a lot more and I didn’t need another hand cream as I had a few already on rotation. I think I gave it away to my daughter from memory.

  3. I never had any problems with sensitve skin until I went through MENopause. The rest of body is okay but my face doesn’t like some creams these days. Majority though, I can handle most products I buy. Luckily I know what’s not good as soon as I apply to skin.

  4. My skin- face and body changes constantly and is really affected by seasonal change. I have to adjust what I’m using in my serums and moisturises as all of a sudden I have rashes,dry itchy spots and a real feeling of discomfort.

  5. YES I DO & my gawd it’s annoying. Sometimes I really wish I could just use whatever product I want, but I know I can’t for whatever reason. Ditto with weather & stress & hormonal stuff; wish I didn’t get so affected by it all! Having such fussy skin means I have to change products every few years because all of a sudden I can react to stuff I’ve been using.

    Just recently I used a sample of a gel cleanser (was using it as a 1st cleanse then going in with a cream cleanser for my 2nd) & it gave me eczema on my forehead *sigh*

  6. I have sensitive skin, i know what somethings trigger me to breakout. But i have found the right products for my skin. But very interesting article, some really good points there to look out for in products!

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