Every skin type can experience sensitivity. It can, however, come as a surprise when you suddenly encounter this issue after years of having normal or insensitive skin. It can also be both frustrating and worrying, as sensitive skin can lead to several symptoms including redness, itchiness, burning, and dry skin patches.

Why is Your Skin Suddenly Sensitive

Sensitive skin has a number of triggers such as allergies, weather, or certain products. There can also be an underlying cause that can be treated or addressed to make the side effects go away. Continue reading as we explore what sensitive skin really is and the things that could be causing sudden skin sensitivity. 

What exactly is sensitive skin? 

Sensitive skin simply refers to skin that is easily inflamed or irritated. It is actually a catch-all term for skin that has reduced tolerance to topical products and external conditions. It can occur anywhere on the body, but is more noticeable on the face, which also often experiences most of the symptoms due to being an exposed area. 

Sensitivity is also associated with a compromised skin barrier, which is the protective film on the skin’s outermost layer. This barrier can weaken due to aging, external influences, genetic predisposition, and other factors. A damaged or compromised barrier commonly presents itself in sensitivity and dryness. Symptoms include: 

  • Redness or bumps
  • Dryness, peeling, and a feeling of tightness 
  • Itchy skin 
  • Stinging, swelling, or burning sensations
  • Dull skin or rough skin texture

Sensitive skin is also often linked to dry skin, mainly because this type of skin is usually sensitive. Dry skin’s inability to retain enough moisture disrupts the skin barrier and makes it more susceptible to irritation due to external aggressors. It is also possible for oily and combination skin to become sensitive due to excess sebum production that can disturb the skin barrier. 

For further reading: 5 Misconceptions About Sensitive Skin

Why is your skin suddenly sensitive? 

A number of things may cause sudden skin sensitivity. These can include: 

Seasonal changes

It is common for many people to experience skin sensitivity issues due to changes in weather and climate. Cold winter weather can spell trouble for your skin, as it negatively impacts the skin’s ability to retain moisture. This can lead to dry, itchy, and cracked skin, as well as exacerbate other skin issues such as eczema and psoriasis. 

Summer or warm weather can also be a problem, as  it increases water loss from the body. This can lead to dehydration and cause the skin to become dry, red, and irritated.  Prolonged and unprotected sun exposure can also weaken the skin barrier, resulting in dryness, itchiness, rough patches, as well as early signs of aging

Psychological factors 

Sometimes, your moods may trigger sudden skin sensitivity. This is especially true if you’re feeling stressed, anxious, angry, or other overwhelming emotions for a prolonged period. Stress is a big factor that causes skin sensitivity, as it releases cortisol or stress hormone that negatively affects the skin and suppresses the immune system.

An article from the American Psychological Association (APA) also notes that stress, depression, and other psychological problems can worsen skin problems. These include acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, pain, itching, and hives. The good news is that treating psychological problems can help improve skin conditions. 

Life stage

The life stage you’re in is also partly to blame. Baby skin, for instance, is susceptible to irritation, as it doesn’t have a full skin barrier yet. The use of harsh cleansers or scrubbing aggressively on teenage skin can also cause problems by stripping the skin, which can make it overly dry or sensitive.

The skin also changes with age. Aging or older skin is more prone to injury and sensitivity, as the skin at this stage is thinner and more fragile. Changes also occur with pregnancy and menopause due to hormonal fluctuations. These can affect the skin’s oil production, which can compromise the barrier function.

Lifestyle habits

Sometimes, your daily habits may be the culprit to sudden skin sensitivity. These can include:

  • Diet – certain spicy foods and too much alcohol can cause sensitivity
  • Activities – such as bathing in hot water or swimming frequently may damage the skin.
  • Cleaning products – harsh detergents or bleach can dry the skin and also cause damage.
  • Over-exfoliating – or scrubbing too hard damages the skin barrier, which aggravates skin sensitivity.

How to deal with sensitive skin

Knowing what your triggers are and avoiding them can help you avoid side effects and manage your skin health. Here are a few other things that can help you deal with sensitive skin.

Read product labels – Choose products that are labeled “gentle” or “ideal for sensitive skin”.  Don’t forget to check the ingredients to see if there’s anything that might make you flare. 

If you’re in the market for a new face cleanser, check out Dr. Sylvia’s Sensitive Cleanser with Aloe Leaf Water. It is formulated with the most soothing ingredients that make it gentle enough even for skin prone to rosacea.

Keep your showers cool –  If you’re experiencing sensitive skin on the body, you might want to avoid hot water when showering. It can strip the skin of its essential oils, which further dehydrates the skin. It is also advisable to shorten your showers to protect the skin and hair from getting overly dry. 

Patch test new products – Before using any new topical product (particularly on the face), do a patch test on an area that is easily covered (corner of the forehead, behind the ears, along the jawline). Wait for about 24 hours to see how your skin will react. If you have no reaction, you can use it on your face. 

Avoid heavily scented beauty products – The same also goes for scented laundry detergents, as they might cause negative skin responses. You should also avoid those with soaps, alcohol, and dyes.

Always moisturize your skin – Dry skin can lead to sensitive or irritated skin, as well as exacerbate certain skin conditions. Moisturizing daily can keep your skin from drying out, as it can help lock in moisture and soothe any associated symptoms. Look for a gentle moisturizer or a formula with hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, oatmeal, and lactic acid.

Get in touch with Cutis

If you’re experiencing sensitivity issues and other skin concerns, Cutis Medical Laser Clinics in Singapore can help. We have a range of medical-grade skincare products and non-surgical procedures that promote better skin health and quality. Contact us today to learn more about our services or book a consultation with one of our aesthetic doctors.