Sensitive Skin Care

Emblem for Skin Support Module - Using Formulations Designed for Sensitive Skin for Skin Stability

Executive Summary

Using formulations designed for sensitive skin can help prevent further barrier disruption and provide the conditions required for the repair process.


Due to barrier disruption seen in inflammatory skin conditions (such as seborrheic dermatitis) the skin can be become excessively sensitive to environmental factors.

Some of the most common of these factors include [1]:

  • Cosmetic usage
  • Sun exposure (UV radiation)
  • Air pollution
  • Temperature changes
  • Humidity changes
  • Wind exposure

Exposure to which, causes additional barrier disruption, increased inflammation, and further activation of the immune system.

Thus, the initial barrier disruption is then further worsened and symptoms are exasperated; leading to a viscous cycle that can be difficult to break.

Though it can be difficult to control all environmental factors, modifying your skin care routine to respect the sensitive nature of your skin can be a good starting point. Particularly because most literature on the subject indicates that topical usage may have one of the biggest influences [2, 3, 4].

Documented Benefits

Replacing standard products for those designed specifically for sensitive skin has shown to have the following benefits [5, 6]:

  • Enhanced barrier function and repair
  • Decreased irritation potential (to common irritants)
  • Increased hydration and TEWL
  • Reduced redness and inflammation
  • Stimulates collagen and ceramide synthesis
  • Stabilizes keratinocyte (skin cell) differentiation

Why It’s Important for Inflammatory Skin Disease

Characteristics most important for individuals affected by inflammatory skin disorders:

  • Improved stratum corneum structure
  • Reduced barrier disruption
  • Reduced irritation potential

Expected improvements:

  • Reduced skin dryness and flaking
  • Reduced itchiness and sensitivity
  • Reduced inflammation

Ideas for Integrations

In general, simply using formulations designed for sensitive skin should be enough guidance to reduce the chance of further barrier disruption and irritation.

However, in some cases a more targeted elimination, avoidance and re-introduction approach may be required. This approach would require deliberate planning and initial complete abstinence from skin care products.

In either case, some of the most popular guidelines for choosing skin products include [7]:

  • Select fragrance free formulations
  • Select formulations with limited ingredients
  • Limit overall number of formulations
  • Avoid soaps and strong surfactants (strong cleansing agents)
  • Avoid skin cleansing and exfoliating masks
  • Avoid formulations containing AHA, retinaldehyde and tretinoin

Additional tips for selecting cosmetic products [8]:

  • Never use expired products
  • Black eyeliner and mascara have least potential for irritation
  • Pencil formulations for eyeliners and eyebrow areas are preferred
  • Earth toned eye shadows are preferred
  • Cream/powder facial foundations are preferred
  • All cosmetics should be water removable (avoid water proof cosmetics)
  • Powder cosmetics are preferred
  • Clean brushes after each use

Additional Notes

  • Sensitive skin appears to be more common in females then in males, but this is based on survey data [9]
  • Sensitive skin is extremely common and approximately 50-70% of the population consider themselves as having sensitive skin [10, 11]
  • Non-foaming products appear to have less irritation potential [12]

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