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Soothing Your Sensitive Skin

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6 Sensitive Skin Triggers to Avoid

  • smiling-woman-with-daughter-outside
    Keep Sensitive Skin Happy
    Sensitive skin can seem mundane, but it can significantly affect your daily life. My patients with sensitive skin often describe their skin as dry, flaky, red, itchy, or burning. They tend to have more allergies to chemicals found in skin care products, cleaning solutions, and the environment. It can be challenging to identify every culprit, but the first step in managing sensitive skin is learning to avoid triggers that can agitate your skin.
  • steamy shower
    1. Hot water.
    Although it can feel wonderful to wash off the day’s stress and grime in a steaming shower or long bathtub soak, the hot water can irritate your sensitive skin by drying it out. Stick with warm water instead and keep showers shorter than 10 minutes. Baths without bubbles are better than showers, since soaking can help hydrate the skin—but don’t stay in longer than 15 minutes. And don’t forget to moisturize afterwards to lock in hydration!
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  • washing-hands-with-soap
    2. Too much soap.
    Soaping up your whole body every day can dry out and irritate sensitive skin, so use soap sparingly. When choosing your soap, look for products formulated with moisturizers that are hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, and specially suited for sensitive skin.
  • woman-carrying-basket-of-laundry
    3. Regular laundry detergents.
    You may not think about it, but your everyday laundry detergent might be bothering your skin. Avoid aggravation by choosing detergents specifically designed for sensitive skin, and be sure to use laundry products that are free of dyes and fragrances. Stay away from fabric softeners and dryer sheets, because these often contain fragrances and chemicals that can further irritate sensitive skin.
  • African American woman applying fragrance on wrist
    4. Fragrances.
    Fragrances are one of the most common irritants to sensitive skin. Look for fragrance-free skin care products, and don’t be fooled by “unscented” claims: this often means there’s a masking fragrance added to the formula, which can inflame sensitive skin. Also, avoid putting perfumes or colognes on your skin, because people with sensitive skin can often develop skin allergies or rashes in response to them.
  • midsection view of woman holding pile of wool sweaters
    5. Tight or scratchy wool and synthetic clothing.
    Wool is known for being itchy and irritating, and wearing it can often start a vicious itch-scratch-itch cycle. Synthetic fabrics like nylon and rayon can also aggravate sensitive skin, since they don’t “breathe” well and can trap moisture inside, leading to skin rashes. Instead, I recommend loose-fitting, breathable cotton clothes. If you’re especially sensitive, look for garments without tags or seams, and always wash clothes before wearing them for the first time.
  • view of empy sauna
    6. Saunas or steam baths.
    For people with sensitive skin, keeping skin hydrated is a must. That’s why it’s important to stay out of saunas and steam baths, since the hot temperatures and steam can cause your body to lose water and moisture. Plus, these consistently wet areas are havens for bacteria, which can cause rashes and irritation.
Sensitive Skin Triggers | Managing Sensitive Skin

About The Author

Jenny Liu, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. On her blog,, and her Instagram, Dr. Liu dives deep into skin care, beauty, medicine, and living a healthy life. View her Healthgrades profile >
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THIS CONTENT DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. This content is provided for informational purposes and reflects the opinions of the author. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional regarding your health. If you think you may have a medical emergency, contact your doctor immediately or call 911.