Tips for Caring for Sensitive Skin

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

Part 4 in a series:

Understanding Skin Types

Caring for Dry Skin

Caring for Oily Skin

There are four types of sensitive skin according to the American Academy of Dermatology: acne, rosacea, burning/stinging and contact dermatitis. Even though these all have different reactions and symptoms, the one commonality is inflammation. A dermatologist can best help you develop a skin care routine to protect your sensitive skin based on the type you have.

There are also some things you can do to take care of your sensitive skin:

  • Simplify your skin care routine. Use only one or two gentle cleansers and moisturizers (plus a sunscreen). If you need to add additional products, add them one at a time - if you don't have any reaction, then you can add another product. The fewer [products you use, the less chance of your skin having a reaction.

  • Look for products that are fragrance free and don't have artificial colors.

  • Start with gentle cleansers and slowly work your way up if you don't feel the cleanser is working.

  • Be gentle when washing your face, scrubbing hard is only going to irritate your skin. Use a soft washcloth and use a new washcloth every day. Limit face washing to twice a day - once in the morning and once before you go to bed.

  • Before using a new product, patch test on the back of your arm. If your skin becomes irritated, don't use it on your face.

  • After washing your face, let your skin dry completely before putting on any skin care products.

  • Use a moisturizer based on your unique needs. For example, if you have acne, you don't want a heavy or oil based moisturizer; if you have dry patches, a cream or heavier moisturizer is best.

  • Drink plenty of water - drinking eight glasses of water each day helps keep your skin moisturized - from the inside out.

  • Change your skin care routine with the seasons. Different weather patterns create different needs for your skin, for example, in the summer your skin may be more oily and in the winter you may worry about dry skin.

Tips for specific sensitive skin


  • For those with sensitive/acne prone skin, skip the exfoliating as it can spread the bacteria and increase inflammation and redness.

  • Avoid products containing coconut oil and avocado as they can cause outbreaks

  • Look for products containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid


  • Look for products containing sulfur, sulfacetamide, feverfew, chamomile, green tea and licorice extract

  • Avoid products containing vitamin C and alpha hydroxy acids.

Burning and Stinging

  • Avoid products containing lactic acid, azaelic acid, benzoic acid, glycolic acid, vitamin C and alpha hydroxy acids as these ingredients are known to cause stinging

Contact Dermatitis

  • Avoid products containing fragrance, preservatives, artificial coloring or formaldehyde.

  • Beware of organic or natural products as these can cause allergic reactions. For example, if you have a ragweed allergy, you may also be allergic to chamomile, feverfew and calendula

  • A dermatologist can perform patch testing to determine exactly which ingredients cause an allergic reaction.

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.