Understanding the common causes of sensitive skin

Understanding the common causes of sensitive skin

Everyone knows change can be welcome from time to time – whether that’s embracing the change in weather, enjoying the adventure of moving to a new home or city, or even bringing a pet into the family for the first time. But while these changes can be exciting, they do have a mental and physical impact – and our skin can be one of the first to show the signs of sensitivity.

Sensitive skin tends to be characterised by a stinging, burning or itchy feeling, which can result in swelling, rashes, and dryness on different parts of the body. And it’s not an unusual sensation – in fact, 60–70% of women and 50–60% of men report experiencing sensitive skin. The causes of skin sensitivity vary widely from person to person, but the symptoms appear more often than not due to external factors.

So, what causes facial skin sensitivity, and sensitivity elsewhere on the body? Let’s take a closer look – and see what you can do to help find some relief.

Environmental triggers and their impact on sensitive skin


In the colder months, it’s likely we all experience those red, dry hands or chapped cheeks after spending time outdoors – this is due to cold winds stripping the moisture from our skin. And when you come inside to the welcome reprieve of central heating or a roaring fire, this takes even more moisture from the skin, leaving you feeling dry, irritated and sensitive.

In the summer months, it’s common to see heat rashes after time spent exposed to the sun’s rays, which occur due to the sweat ducts being closed off and moisture getting trapped under the skin. Whether the conditions are too hot or too cold, our skin’s sensitivity to temperature is clear.

Pollution and airborne irritants

Another environmental culprit for skin sensitivity is pollution. Dust, vehicle fumes and smoke in the air can stick to the skin and be absorbed into the pores – leaving your skin feeling grimy, oily, and sensitive. Over time, this can cause permanent damage to the skin barrier, and can leave skin more at risk to serious problems down the line.

UV radiation and sun exposure

We’ve already explored temperature and skin sensitivity, and with warmer weather, but also in the winter, comes exposure to UV radiation. Polymorphic light eruption is a common skin rash triggered by exposure to sunlight or artificial UV light, and results in an itchy, burning sensation that appears on the areas of the body most exposed to sunlight – typically the head, neck, chest and arms.

Household and personal care products

Exposure to irritants like soap, detergents, solvents and other household products can trigger a reaction called contact dermatitis. This causes the skin to become itchy, blistered, dry and cracked – causing lighter skin to become red, and darker skin to appear dark brown, purple or grey. Allergies to certain cosmetics also produce the same reaction in some people.

How to spot your personal triggers


Man applying Epaderm Ointment to his knee

When beginning to learn what causes skin sensitivity to touch or a change in your skin’s appearance, it’s important to try and understand your personal triggers. In terms of the products coming into contact with your skin daily, it could help to become aware of the ingredient listings on the back of cosmetic products – and keep a journal to make a note of which products you’re using most regularly. This way, you’ll be able to spot patterns when any irritation occurs.

And when using household cleaning products, make sure to protect the skin by using gloves and thoroughly washing your hands after use – especially if you have any contact with harmful substances.

Mum holding child hand

If your skin is particularly susceptible to changes due to weather, it could help to adjust your skincare routine seasonally. If your skin tends to display more dryness and sensitivity in the summer months, using a moisturiser designed to hydrate and put all the moisture you’ve lost back into your skin could help to relieve some of your symptoms. And if it’s the winter when your skin is at its most sensitive, making sure to protect your extremities is important – as is choosing a gentle moisturiser designed to care for extra sensitive skin in winter.

How to find the right products for sensitive skin


No matter the environmental trigger of your sensitive skin, it’s important to choose the right products to hydrate and moisturise those dry, sore and itchy patches – something without any added ingredients or fragrances that could irritate the skin further.

Women with Epaderm cream on her hand

For a daily solution, Epaderm Cream is a great place to start. It’s suitable for all areas of the skin, whether that’s the face, hands, or anywhere in-between. Plus, it’s fast-absorbing, so you can use it at home or on-the-go – wherever and whenever your sensitive skin needs a helping hand.

If you’re noticing particularly dry areas, Epaderm Ointment could be the solution for bringing some moisture back into the skin. It’s been formulated to support and restore the skin’s natural barrier function and can be used in many ways – whether that’s just before bed to lock in moisture as you sleep, or as a bath additive to soothe your body.

But to really fight off the signs of sensitivity to environmental factors, adopting a regular routine that uses a combination of both Epaderm Cream and Epaderm Ointment could be the solution for you. This routine will help you keep on top of day-to-day moisturising, and work to hydrate any areas that require a more intensive treatment. With only a few simple ingredients in both formulas, it makes allergen checking a doddle. Head over to our ingredients page to find out more.

If you are experiencing particularly painful symptoms and looking to understand extreme skin sensitivity causes, it’s important to speak to your doctor or pharmacist about the treatment options available.


The Prevalence of Sensitive Skin - PMC (nih.gov)

Polymorphic light eruption - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Contact dermatitis - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

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