From the moment you are born, every second of every day, your skin surrounds you with a protective barrier. It shields you against the elements, knocks, bumps and countless harmful substances in our environment. Yet we tend to take the immense role skin plays in our lives for granted.

With so many textures, fragrances and finishes on offer, the sensorial experience of skincare can be a moment of pure indulgence. But for women who have sensitive skin, with its fragile barrier and reactive nerve endings, the skincare aisle can feel like a minefield!

Your Questions
Derm answers

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What is the best moisturiser for sensitive skin?

Sensitive skin formulations should be free from irritants such as fragrance, lanolin and parabens, and containing ingredients to decrease inflammation and skin discomfort. Niacinamide and ceramides are particularly effective for sensitive skin and neurosensine® in La Roche-Posay products is helpful to reduce discomfort. Dr Cara McDonald, Dermatologist – Complete Skin Specialists

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How can I shave my sensitive skin?

Application of a protective barrier balm before and after shaving can be helpful. Shaving cream formulated for sensitive or allergic skin is preferable and avoidance of soap or other irritants such as aftershave containing alcohol or fragrance is essential. Dr Cara McDonald, Dermatologist – Complete Skin Specialists

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What is sensitive skin?

Sensitive skin is a skin type which presents with some redness and unpleasant sensations in response to external stimuli such as environmental changes or application of skincare. Skin sensations include burning, stinging, tight or flushing feelings and an intolerance to heat, cold, wind, sun and many skincare products. Dr Cara McDonald, Dermatologist – Complete Skin Specialists

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Why is my skin sensitive to touch?

People with sensitive skin have a lowered threshold for the activation of nerve endings in the skin. For this reason, the skin can be sensitive to touch as well as to other external stimuli. Discomfort is often seen with changes in the temperature or weather and also with application of skin care products to the skin. Dr Cara McDonald, Dermatologist – Complete Skin Specialists

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What causes sensitive skin?

The exact cause of sensitive skin is unknown. It seems to be a skin type, meaning that some people are prone to the symptoms associated with sensitive skin lifelong. In most cases there's a weakened skin barrier which has led to low-grade excessive inflammation and damage to the skin's nerve endings over a period of time. Dr Cara McDonald, Dermatologist – Complete Skin Specialists

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What is the best laundry detergent for sensitive skin?

People with sensitive skin may be more prone to skin irritants such as fragrances. Ideally all products coming into contact with the skin should be fragrance free, hypoallergenic formulas. Dr Cara McDonald, Dermatologist – Complete Skin Specialists

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Just because something is natural does not mean it won’t cause sensitive skin rashes. In fact, many natural plant extracts can bring on those all-too-familiar prickling, burning and stinging sensations. As for allergens, nature is overflowing with them.
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Stress and intense emotion cause blood vessels in the skin to dilate, triggering flushing and sensations of discomfort. Many people find mindfulness or similar relaxation techniques a valuable ally to keep their sensitive skin in the Zen zone.
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Sun is can really penalise sensitive complexions.This is because UV rays trigger oxidative stress and inflammation within the skin, causing redness and rashes. Make sure broad spectrum UVA-UVB and long-UVA protection.
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Sensitive skin can be hard to diagnose, even professionally, for a very simple reason: it is defined by what women feel, not by what the physician sees in the clinic.
From the woman’s perspective, sensitive skin is a distressing daily reality. Skin prickles, stings, flushes and burns in response to the environment, diet or daily care products.
From the dermatologist’s perspective, sensitive skin can look a little red or dry, but its appearance is essentially normal.


The root cause is the skin's own defense system that is no longer doing its job optimally. Healthy skin has a protective barrier called the hydrolipidic film, which acts like a shield to stop bacteria and irritants from reaching the deeper skin layers. This defense shield also holds in moisture and is critical in maintaining skin's firmness, elasticity, and above all its comfort!

In sensitive skin, this barrier is weakened, leaving skin vulnerable to “nasties”, as well as changes in temperature and humidity. Overexposed to bacteria, irritants and environmental changes, skin thinks it’s in danger and sends out warning signals, leading to flushing, burning and stinging.


Why does skin react so strongly?

The skin has an incredible network of nerves, with around twelve endings per square centimeter. In sensitive skin, these nerve endings are hypersensitive, firing off significantly more danger signals to the brain than the nerves in normal skin. In essence, the nerves interpret normal stimuli as harmful, leading to sensations of discomfort at the slightest thing.


What can trigger sensitive skin reactions?

The common aggravating factors basically fall into three categories, evidenced by major studies led by La Roche-Posay on a total of over 6,000 consumers in 8 different countries
Environmental (59.8%)*: changes in temperature or humidity can bring on intense discomfort, as can sun exposure, pollution and even pollen exposure.
Skincare products (55.1%)*: some contain potential irritants, like fragrances or colourants.
The third category is internal factors: psychological stress (34.7%)* as well as lifestyle choices such as spicy foods or alcohol can all trigger sensitive skin to react with redness and discomfort.

*Observational study on 3,800 patients in 8 countries.

Did you


By a phenomenon called retro-contamination,  particles in the air – potential irritants or allergens – enter the pack after it has been opened and can contaminate your daily face care products. Opt for tubes rather than jars to avoid contaminating the formula with your hands or airborne particles every time you grab some formula.


The information displayed here is intended for general educational purposes only and should not in any case be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any medical question.