Why Is My Skin So Sensitive?

Everyone will have at least a few skin issues during their life. However, some people have skin that is more prone to dryness, itching, burning, and general irritation. If you are one of those people, you might be wondering, “Why is my skin so sensitive?” Well, there’s no one answer to that question, but there is a long list of factors that contribute to skin sensitivity.


Often, the answer to the question, “Why is my skin so sensitive?” is eczema. According to the Cleveland Clinic, up to 15 million Americans suffer from eczema. Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a condition that makes skin red and itchy. It can occur at any age, but it is commonly present during childhood. Symptoms of eczema include dry skin, itchy skin that gets worse at night, small bumps, and red or brownish-gray patches of skin. These skin patches usually occur on the following body parts:

  • Hands
  • Feet
  • Ankles
  • Wrists
  • Neck
  • Upper chest
  • Inside the bed of the elbows
  • Inside the bend of the knees
  • Eyelids
  • Face and scalp (in infants)

People with eczema have a genetic trait that prevents the skin from staying moisturized and protecting itself from bacteria, allergens, and irritants. Without protection, the skin is vulnerable and sensitive. Because of this vulnerability, people with eczema often get other conditions like contact dermatitis, skin infection, hay fever, and neurodermatitis.

Contact Dermatitis

While people with eczema often have contact dermatitis, not everyone who experiences contact dermatitis has eczema. Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is a condition that makes the skin vulnerable to things like contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis is when your skin reacts to something it has come into contact with. The reaction may include itching, redness, rashes, dryness, flakiness, or hives. There are three types of contact dermatitis:

  • Irritant contact dermatitis: Caused by contact with a toxic material or a non-toxic substance too often. Irritant contact dermatitis is the most common form of contact dermatitis and can be caused by:
    • Battery acid
    • Bleach
    • Drain cleaner
    • Kerosene
    • Detergents
    • Pepper spray
  • Allergic contact dermatitis: Caused by an allergic reaction to a foreign substance, such as:
    • Poison ivy, oak, or sumac
    • Latex
    • Perfumes in cosmetics, skincare products, or detergents
    • Jewelry or belt buckles made with base metals like nickel
  • Photocontact dermatitis: This is the least common form of contact dermatitis. Photocontact dermatitis develops when something on the skin reacts to sun exposure and causes irritation.


Rosacea is a common skin condition that causes redness in the central parts of the face (cheeks, nose, forehead). Sometimes rosacea causes breakouts that can be confused with acne due to the presence of red bumps filled with pus. People who have rosacea often have very sensitive skin that does not tolerate many of the skin treatments that people without rosacea use.

Harsh Ingredients in Skincare Products

Even if you are not allergic to the ingredients in a skincare product, some products may cause sensitivity. Treatments that contain retinol or retinoids can often irritate the skin if the concentration is too high. Products used to treat acne may also cause sensitivity if they contain a lot of salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or benzoyl peroxide. Sometimes this is expected and will go away with time, but check with your dermatologist if a topical medication they’ve prescribed makes your skin sensitive.

Sun Damage

We’ve all experienced the burning and stinging sensation that comes with a sunburn. After getting too much sun, your skin will be sensitive for a while. Your skin could be damaged even if you do not feel like you have a sunburn. After sun exposure, you can care for your sensitive skin by keeping it hydrated and avoiding irritants. Many after-sun products can moisturize and soothe skin. Some contain ingredients like aloe or lidocaine that may relieve pain associated with burns.

The best way to prevent skin sensitivity caused by sun exposure is to protect your skin going forward. Find a good sunscreen that’s free from harmful ingredients and has an SPF of at least 30. If you will be exposed to the sun for long periods, cover exposed skin with clothing, wear a hat, and stay in the shade as much as possible (in addition to the SPF). Not only will this keep your skin feeling good, it is the best way to prevent skin cancer.

If your skin is irritated regularly, may find yourself always asking, “Why is my skin so sensitive?” At Blue Ridge Dermatology, we specialize in both medical and cosmetic dermatology. So no matter what kind of issues your skin has, we can help. To get more information or make an appointment, call us at (919) 781-1050

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