You’re so sensitive

Jaclyn Gunasilan tells you what you need to know about itchy, flaky and parched skin.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Jaclyn Gunasilan tells you what you need to know about itchy, flaky and parched skin.


What is sensitive skin?

It can be described as anything from super-dry, parched skin to skin prone to bumps, pustules or frequent flushing.

What causes sensitivity?

The nerve endings in sensitive skin are more prone to irritation, so when skin is exposed to sunlight, pollution and extreme temperature changes, a reaction is more likely to occur. Sensitive skin can also be caused by a lack of sleep, hormonal changes, dehydration and stress. Other culprits include skin conditions like eczema and rosacea.

How do you know if you have sensitive skin?

Symptoms like excessive dryness or redness are telltale signs, but I’d recommend seeing a dermatologist to get a professional diagnosis. That way, you’ll know if your skin is sensitive or if you’re just having an allergic reaction to that new serum you tried last week.

What’s the difference between sensitive skin and an allergic reaction?

The latter occurs when skin comes into contact with a particular allergen, but the former is a condition that makes skin more irritable in general.

What products and ingredients should people with sensitive skin avoid?

You’ll want to avoid heavily fragranced products and those with potentially irritating ingredients like retinol, alphahydroxy acids and alcohol.

Which products are good for sensitive skin?

Fragrance-free products with as few ingredients as possible are your best bets. Choose gentle, soap-free cleansers and look for hypoallergenic skincare that has a pH of 5.5 – this pH level helps skin maintain its barrier.

How can irritation be prevented?

Patch-test every new skincare product you want to use. I test all my skincare products on the area just behind my ear for at least four days and look out for signs of irritation before using them on my face.

This month’s topic was inspired by a story idea from Her World reader Yan Ting, 29.