What causes sensitive skin: know from dermatologist

Written By Dr Surbhi, MD Skin

Last updated: 03/10/18

“Doctor, My face gets red in the sun, and nothing seems to suit my sensitive skin. What causes sensitive skin? Why me?”


People with sensitive skin struggle in day-to-day life looking for the product that would suit their skin or feel embarrassed when their face turns red in the sun or with emotional triggers. As the old adage says, half the battle is won when you know your enemy well. Let us begin this journey to decode sensitive skin care by finding an answer to "what causes sensitive skin?" in this article.

Is my skin sensitive?

Sensitivity breakouts might occur once in a while due to prolonged exposure to bright sun or harsh chemicals, but that cannot be labelled as sensitive skin. People with sensitive skin develop redness, itching, irritation, burning, flushing or bumps on the face in response to one or all of the following:

  • prolong sun exposure,
  • spicy and hot food
  • stress,
  • anger,
  • alcohol
  • cooking in a hot climate
  • harsh chemicals in cleansers, moisturiser, toner, sunscreens, makeup, etc.  

In short, sensitive skin breaks out quickly, and the products that did wonders for your friends make your situation worst.

Why me? What causes sensitive skin? 

Sensitive skin can be due to following reasons:

  • The family history of allergies: You might be born with sensitive skin because of the tendency of allergies in your family. One or several of your immediate blood relations might have asthma, allergic rhinitis (present with frequent sneezing), allergic conjunctivitis (itching in eyes) or atopic dermatitis (present with dry skin, rash and itching).   
  • Experimentation: You can develop sensitive skin during lifetime if you treat your skin as guinea pigs exposing it to harsh chemicals or procedures frequently. Check out, the list of products that are less likely to irritate your sensitive skin.
  • Severe and prolonged sun exposure: Others might develop sensitive skin after a long beach holiday in the tropical sun.   
  • Steroid misuse: Still others, might develop it due to repeated use of steroid creams. This occurs when you self-medicate the steroid creams like Betnovate, lobate, cosvate, tenovate, etc. They clear your skin instantly, but flare-ups might occur on discontinuation. If such is your situation, a dermatologist can help you with the management of both steroid dependence and sensitive skin.   
  • Idiopathic: However, there might not be any reason for the sensitivity in some.    

Whatever the reason is, please do not scrub the roughness of your skin or hope to regain the smooth look with facials, or the most expensive creams, because all such efforts might irritate your skin further. Remember that when your skin is red, irritated, burning or breaking out, it is crying out loud "leave me alone". In such cases, you should visit your dermatologist to restore natural skin rather than experimenting around.

All said and done, for Sensitive Skin- Prevention is better than cure!

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