10 Ways you’re aggravating your sensitive skin

Tired of your red sensitive skin? From hot showers to stress at work, leading dermatologists helped us identify the top causes of irritated skin.

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Hot showers

A hot shower is a full body indulgence. Unfortunately, the hot water strips skin of its natural oils, leaving it dry, sensitive and irritated. Turn that dial to warm and give your skin a break. You may even want to install a filter to keep potentially irritating chlorine, fluoride, lead and aluminum away from your sensitive skin.


Inflammatory diet

Inflamed skin may become even more irritated after drinking alcohol or eating spicy foods. If you’re experiencing particularly sensitive skin, you’ll be better off skipping the margaritas and chips and salsa. Sorry ladies.



If you suffer from sensitive skin, learning to manage stress can do wonders for your inner and outer beauty. Use massage, yoga and meditation to clear your mind and cope with life’s stressors. Dr. Murad tells his patients, “Be imperfect, live longer. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Healthy skin is a reflection of overall wellness.”


Environmental exposure

Smoke, pollution, sun exposure and extreme temperatures may be no big deal to women with normal skin. But for those with sensitive skin, life’s just not fair. Take precautions and avoid these harsh conditions.


Excess washing

Washing your face is good for your skin, right? Not always. Too much washing can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to inflammation, an overproduction of oil and even breakouts and rashes. Fight the urge to wash MORE, and try washing less instead.


Product overload

In an attempt to slow down the effects of time, it’s common for women to go a little overboard with anti-aging products like retinol, alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) cleanser and salicylic acid (beta hydroxy acid) for blemishes. “Ouch, ladies,” says Dr. Jessica Krant. “All three of these things are irritating to the skin, and will make you look dried out, dull, and older in combination, instead of the bright, plump, fresh you that you’re going for. Bring everything in to your dermatologist to review the best overall plan for progress without irritating.”



Everything in moderation. Lightly exfoliating loose skin cells from the surface occasionally is not a bad thing, but there’s no need to do it every day. Plus, regular gentle washing and products like retinol and AHA’s are already exfoliating your skin. In addition to irritating the skin, Dr. Krant says when you pull too many skin cells off the surface, your skin will go into overdrive, producing more to replace them, and you’ll end up with flakes all the time, “Which will make you feel like you need to exfoliate even more. Vicious cycle, ladies.”



Save your skin by washing gently. Hard scrubbing will cause microscopic inflammation of the skin, which swells pores shut and leads to more blemishes.


Lack of daily moisturizer

Plump up with a good moisturizer that not only protects your skin, but gives it a healthy glow. A good moisturizer is like a cozy blanket and cup of tea for your skin. It lets it relax and recharge. Surprisingly, well-moisturized skin produces less oil, leaving you with happy (not greasy) skin.

Expert tip:

Dermatologist Dr. Peter Lio says it’s important to moisturize to lock the water in after bathing. “Applying moisturizer liberally within a few minutes of a shower or bath can help keep sensitive skin hydrated and happy!”


Wrong products

If breakouts are getting you down, don’t fight acne with harsh, drying products. Use a mild cleanser and soothing treatment that targets the skin problem. Finish with a hydrating moisturizer.


Dr. Debra Jaliman, professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, and the author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist

Dr. Jessica Krant, M.D., M.P.H., board-certified dermatologist, founder of Art of Dermatology in NYC and a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology

Dr. Peter Lio, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University, and a diplomate of the American Board of Dermatology

Dr. Howard Murad, associate clinical professor of medicine at UCLA and founder of the skin care company Murad Inc.

More skin care tips for sensitive skin:

6 Sensitive skin dos and don’ts
Skin care tips for sensitive acne-prone skin
Oops! Beauty treatments that are irritating your sensitive skin


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