Have you ever been worried you might have sensitive skin, but you’re not sure how to narrow down the causes? According to the US National Library of Medicine, ~60–70% of women and 50–60% of men report having some degree of sensitive skin. So chances are good that even if your skin shows no signs of sensitivity, someone else in your household may be having a slight or severe reaction to any number of products in your house! But before you go around tossing out every face cream or kitchen cleaner that might be causing an issue, let’s learn a bit more about sensitive skin causes, care, and treatment!
How Do I Know If I Have Sensitive Skin?
Having just one symptom doesn’t mean you need to switch over to all sensitive skin items for everything in your house. Everyone’s skin gets dry, and everyone breaks out from time to time due to stress, hormones, etc. But if a few of these apply to you, and are plaguing you in your day-to-day life, you may have sensitive skin! According to Healthgrades, you can put a finger down if….- Your skin is easily reactive.
- You notice frequent redness.
- Your skin is often itchy.
- You feel stinging and burning.
- Your skin is dry, especially with rashes, bumps, or flaking.
- You're prone to breakouts.
- You sunburn easily.
General Tips for Caring for Sensitive Skin
Now, sensitive skin is not exactly the same thing as rosacea, eczema, and allergic contact dermatitis, so please contact your doctor or dermatologist to ensure that you have a correct diagnosis and treatment plan! For those of us who experience mild but regular skin irritation, the best advice for daily care is of course to moisturize (which we will talk about in the next section!). Other helpful tips are to avoid personal care items with fragrance, limit hot water, and to use sunscreen daily! For sensitive skin localized to your face, change your pillowcase frequently and make sure you’re removing your makeup before bed every night.
Moisturizing Tips for Sensitive Skin
Just like a decadent birthday cake, the key to healthy skin is moisture, moisture, moisture. Here are some things to remember when moisturizing:
- If you use a prescription topical medication, apply it as directed, before you moisturize.
- Use the “lock it in” method by applying a thick layer of moisturizer all over your skin within three minutes of bathing or showering.
- Pick a moisturizer that is fragrance and dye-free
- Soften moisturizer by rubbing it between your hands and then apply it to your body using the palm, in downward strokes. Avoid rubbing in the moisturizer by stroking up and down, or in circles.
- Allow enough time for moisturizer to be fully absorbed before removing the excess.
- Moisturize your hands every time you wash them or when they come into contact with water.
It’s also important to know the difference between ointments, creams, and lotions. Ointments, which have the highest oil content, are usually the first choice for eczema treatment. They are the real MVP when it comes to being gentle and sealing in moisture. Creams come next on the oil scale, but are pretty impressive on the moisture front too! But be sure to read labels carefully — creams sometimes contain stabilizers or preservatives that can irritate your skin. Lotions have the least amount of oil, and are mostly made up of water. Proceed with caution if you have sensitive skin, as lotion is the most likely to burn when applied to skin that’s scratched or broken.
Bathing Tips for Sensitive Skin
Dermatologists and skin experts agree, some of the most crucial steps for caring for sensitive skin happen in the bath or shower! Here’s how to get the best clean while protecting your skin:
1. Close the door to the bathroom to keep moisture in.
2. Find the coolest temperature you can stand and leave it there.
3. Opt to simply rinse with water as much as is possible, keeping soap to the dirtier areas (armpits and groin)
4. Choose non-exfoliating products as they can only make already sensitive skin worse. Make sure your washcloth is made from a soft fabric, instead of something scratchy. Toss it in the laundry after every use to be sure it isn’t housing bacteria or mold.
5. Keep it short! Under ten minutes is best, as staying in too long washes the oils away from your skin.
6. Try to dry off by patting with a towel instead of air drying or rubbing.
7. Once you’re dry, lock in moisture by slathering on cream or ointment right away.
Care Tips for Sensitive Baby Skin
Delicate baby skin can be sensitive to irritants like fragrances, dyes, alcohols, and harsh chemicals, so it’s important to choose products that are made not only with gentle ingredients, but that also don't disrupt the skin's microbiome.
The skin's microbiome is the natural balance of bacteria on the skin’s surface. When this gets disrupted, it can affect immune responses and increase the likelihood of skin irritation and allergies. Since babies haven’t fully developed the ability to defend themselves against toxins like adults, it's important to choose ingredients that are safe for their skin's microbiome.
Look for brands that formulate their products with minimal, gentle ingredients. A bundle like NOLEO's Baby Box comes with an organic diaper care formula, organic cotton pads, and a refillable travel bottle, making diaper changes easy at home and on the go. NOLEO is also certified microbiome friendly, which can help effectively preserve the existing good bacteria on baby skin.
Laundry Tips for Sensitive Skin
Choose the right detergent, and don’t use too much of it! Dropps Baby & Sensitive Skin Detergent is designed to work for the most sensitive skin. With no added scents, colors, or enzymes, it’s gentle on skin—while still being tough on stains. This coating can be irritating, triggering skin sensitivities and allergies. If you’re looking for skin-friendly scent and softness, consider a more natural option, like our Fabric Softener Pods. Use gloves if you’re going to hand wash! Check out this article for more in-depth laundry tips for sensitive skin.
Perfume Tips for Sensitive Skin
Dr. Vidhi and Rushikesh Patel, founders of niche fragrance brand Panah London, say, “If alcohol is the allergen for you, then look to use non-alcoholic perfumes, wax perfume or oil-based fragrances, as they will cause less irritation on the skin.” They also suggest applying fragrance to your neck, and to do a patch test in other areas to see how your skin reacts. If the test is successful, then you should be safe using the product freely.
The big, scary monster under the bed with most perfumes is that mysterious ingredient “fragrance”. Your best bet is to go as natural as possible with your ingredients. We love leaning towards essential oils, as it’s easier to know exactly what you’re putting on your skin. But while essential oils offer an all-natural scent, they won’t work for everyone. Some people may still experience sensitivity to essential oils. So the same tip goes here as well as with your moisturizer: do a patch test before applying a large amount to your body. Note that a handful of oils (like lemon, lime, orange, and bergamot) are also photosensitive, meaning they may cause a reaction if you apply them and then expose your skin to the sun.
Check out this awesome article for fragrance picks for sensitive skin!