Get the Skinny on Sensitive Skin (And What to Do About It)

There's some simple ways you can alter your routine to help dryness, redness and itchiness.

8 sensitive skin

Over 68 percent of the world claims to have sensitive skin. But sensitive skin, as defined by dermatologists, specifically refers to genetic conditions like eczema or rosacea, conditions that 68 percent of the world doesn’t have. So why the disconnect? It would seem that “sensitive skin” has become a catch-all for ailments that people experience every day, like dryness, redness and itchiness. And if you went by a looser definition of sensitive skin, they’d be right—after all, when your skin is easily irritated, it is sensitive. But instead of being the result of genetics, most people’s sensitive skin might be the result of their grooming and lifestyle routines—like the perhaps all-too-familiar ones below.

1. Avoid Water That’s Too Hot

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that 20-minute morning steam sesh—a.k.a. your happy place—could be the reason your skin feels like a dry lakebed. Super hot water, like above 100 degrees, melts away the natural oils that are responsible for keeping your skin moisturised and hydrated. If you step out of the shower and your skin’s red and irritated, the water is too hot.

For those of you who like a good sweat now and again, a dry heat isn’t much better: Relaxing in the sauna can lead to breakouts, melasma and broken capillaries. The big takeaway? Ease up on the heat, and limit your showers to the length of one or two songs.

2. Don’t Give Yourself a Chemical Bath

Harsh chemicals and strong fragrances damage the skin’s protective layer, causing splotches and extra sensitivity. The good news is that here’s an easy solution: Get cosy with those product labels, and avoid anything that contains alcohol, lanolin, sulphates and strong fragrances. Instead, swap in products with soothing agents like chamomile, cucumber and tea extracts.

3. Don’t Scrub Too Vigorously

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and it comes in the form of a loofah. While the plastic or sponge scrubbers are great for removing dead skin cells (and feel amazing), overuse or too much pressure can do some serious wear and tear to your skin. Ease up on that loofah, and look for products with ceramides to strengthen your skin’s protective barrier.

4. Protect Yourself From UV Rays

Admittedly, the weather doesn’t have anything to do with grooming. It does, however, have to do with the fact that your skin feels like a piece of dried leather. Sunny UV rays are the leading cause for premature ageing, and cold, windy weather strips your skin of essential moisture. Keep your skin looking and feeling young by using a daily sunscreen (of at least SPF 30) and always stay well-moisturised.

Less is more when it comes to healthy skin, so ditch your two-showers-a-day routine, and you may realise your skin isn’t that sensitive after all.