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10 Common Sensitive-Skin Triggers

10 Common Sensitive-Skin Triggers

Whether your skin is occasionally dry and itchy or you have a skin condition like eczema, you might be surprised by what can trigger skin sensitivities.

Here are ten common sensitive skin triggers plus practical tips for supporting skin.

1. Allergies

If your skin becomes red, itchy, and irritated after coming into contact with certain substances, you may have skin allergies.  

You’ve probably heard of poison ivy which can cause red, extremely itchy rashes in many people. But there are other common allergens that you’ll want to watch out for.

Other common allergens include:

  • Nickel which can be found in jewelry, eyeglasses, and clothing fasteners1
  • Pollen and pet dander2
  • Rubber, latex, and other adhesives1
  • Preservatives and fragrances which may be found in soaps, skincare products, and laundry detergents1

2. Soaps and other skincare products

Have you ever tried a new soap or body wash and felt like your skin was just…off? Whether you get red and itchy or dry and flakey, some people’s skin is sensitive to ingredients commonly found in soaps, shampoos, and other skincare products.

Look for products that don’t contain fragrance or alcohols. These can be irritating and drying to skin. Be careful with antibacterial products, too, since this can cause irritation for some people.

If you have sensitive skin, be sure to test out any new product you introduce into your home. You can do this by applying a small amount of the soap, shampoo, lotion, or other skincare product to a small portion of skin. Wait 72 hours to see how your skin reacts—if it remains clear and itch-free, you’re probably good to use that product. 

3. Age & Hormones

As we age, our skin becomes thinner, dryer, and more sensitive. But age isn’t the only reason we may experience sensitive skin as we get older.

If you’re over fifty and experience hot flashes or had acne as a teenager, you know firsthand the effects that hormones can have on skin.

Hormones are responsible for all kinds of important processes in our bodies, including metabolism, growth, and homeostasis, which is when your body experiences internal balance.3

Hormones can affect skin health in a number of ways. For example, the hormone estrogen helps to regulate our skin’s oil production which keeps our skin smooth. When estrogen declines, our skin becomes drier and itchier. When it increases, oil can increase and clog pores, causing breakouts and other issues.4

Read How to Support Aging Skin to learn more about how skin changes as we age and steps you can take to support it. 

4. Chemicals

Whether you’re washing dishes, cleaning the windows, or polishing furniture, your skin comes into contact with chemicals all day.

For some people, these chemicals can leave their skin feeling dried out, flakey, itchy, and burning.

You might be surprised by what kinds of chemicals can impact skin.

For example, hair dye may be a fun, new way to switch up your hairstyle, but many dyes contain a chemical called PPD that can cause allergic reactions in people.5

Another product you want to watch out for is laundry detergent. This can be a common source of irritation for people with sensitive skin. If you think your laundry detergent might be causing some skin sensitivity, switch to one that is specifically made for sensitive skin.

all® free clear is hypoallergenic, 100% free of dyes and perfumes, and the #1 brand of laundry detergent recommended by dermatologists and allergists for sensitive skin.


5. Temperature Changes

Depending on where you live, seasonal changes can have an impact on your skin. Winter air is cold and dry which can cause skin to dry out and crack, especially on your hands and face.

In the summer, heat and humidity can cause certain conditions like eczema to flare.

Once you know how your skin reacts to the different seasons, you can take steps to care for skin by protecting skin with warm, insulating layers of clothing in the winter or remaining in airconditioned spaces when it’s especially hot during summer.

6. Stress

Whether it’s from your finances, family, or that upcoming final exam, we all experience stress from time to time. Stress can cause all kinds of issues in your body, including to your skin.  Stress can weaken the immune system which can lead to a compromised skin barrier.6 If you are experiencing an eczema flare or extra skin sensitivities, take an inventory of your mental health to see if stress may be playing a part and take the necessary steps to reduce stress and calm skin.

7. Viral Illnesses

Have you had the sniffles recently? Did you know you may be more likely to experience skin sensitivities while you’re sick with a virus?

It’s why some people find themselves with cold sores after they catch a cold. When you catch a viral illness, your body undergoes all kinds of inflammation. This can weaken your skin barrier which means a virus may trigger skin sensitives.5

8. Pollution

Urban environments tend to have more air pollution, which is playing an increasing role in causing skin irritation.7

In addition, areas that have lower rainfall and warmer weather tend to experience stagnant air which can leave behind irritating particles in the air.5 When this pollution comes into contact with skin, it can cause irritation.

If you live in an urban environment or in a place that experiences a lot of air pollution like the West Coast during wildfire season, invest in a HEPA filter which helps clear pollutants indoors.

9. Diet

Did you know food allergies and intolerances can trigger itchy skin? About 10% of adults in the United States experience food allergies and itching is one of the most common symptoms.

From a few minutes to a few hours after eating, people who are allergic to certain foods can experience a whole host of symptoms, including itchiness in the mouth, on the skin, in the form of a rash or hives, or through an eczema flare.

Some of the more common food allergens include:

  • Dairy, especially to cow’s milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Peanuts and tree nuts
  • Sesame
  • Wheat and gluten8

And while a food intolerance is not as severe as a food allergy, people who have food intolerances can still experience skin sensitivities.

If you suspect you have a food allergy, talk to your doctor about running an allergy skin test, which helps to identify common food allergies as well as allergies to things like mold, pollen, pet dander, dust, and more.9

10. Cosmetics

There are a lot of choices in the makeup aisle, and you want to find the products that are right for your sensitive skin.

Always read the labels and ingredients of each product so you understand how it might affect your skin.

For example, waterproof makeup was intentionally designed to be difficult to wipe off. This can leave behind makeup which can clog pores and cause breakouts.

Look for labels like oil-free, non-comedogenic, and won’t clog pores. These products tend to be gentler on skin and are easier to wash off.

And always be sure to clean your face at least 1-2  times a day and your makeup brushes, sponges, and other products at least weekly.10


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  • all® free clear dryer sheets