Sensitive and irritation may seem like similar words. They’re both adjectives that describe skin
reactions, but I’m sure you can tell the difference if someone says your skin is sensitive or
irritated. This is what this article is all about.

How do you know if you have skin sensitivity?

Some people are born with skin that’s highly sensitive to the sun. Others develop skin sensitivity
from overexposure to the sun or other environmental factors over time. Regardless of your skin
sensitivity, knowing more about it will help you take better care of your skin.To find out if you
have skin sensitivity, perform a self-test.

First, you’ll need to do a patch test. Apply a small amount of sunscreen and wait 24 hours
before applying any other products to your face.

If, after 24 hours, there are no adverse reactions such as redness or itching, you’re good to go.
You can apply the rest of your daily skincare regimen as usual and your sunscreen daily without
concern for compatibility issues.

If after 24 hours you notice any adverse reactions while using only sunscreen, it may mean you
have sensitive skin, and you should use gentle products on your face.

What is the difference between irritated and sensitive skin?

Many people quickly use the words ‘irritated’ and ‘sensitive’ interchangeably; however, there is a
between the two.

Irritated skin is an inflammatory condition where redness and soreness are experienced. On the
other hand, sensitive skin is not a reaction that is stimulated by external factors but rather an
internal intolerance to certain ingredients.

Irritated skin can occur from shaving to sun exposure, while sensitive skin reacts to a specific
ingredient found in a chemical product. This may include fragrances, essential oils, and even
some types of moisturizers and cleansers.

For example, experience an adverse reaction after using a face wash with salicylic acid (BHA)
or retinol (Vitamin A). It may be because your skin is sensitive to salicylic acid.

What causes sensitive skin and what is sensitive skin?

Many ingredients in everyday products can irritate sensitive skin, including fragrances
(perfumes), alcohols, dyes, and certain essential oils. Allergens or particles may also be present
in cosmetic products that trigger an allergic reaction.

If you think that your skin problem might be caused by a reaction to certain make-up products,
bath or shower gels, or hair products, remove them from your daily routine for at least two
weeks to see if it makes a difference to your skin.

If you notice any changes in your skin (for example, it clears up), then you can try reintroducing
one product at a time to identify the root cause.

How to test skin sensitivity

A skin prick test is a common method for detecting allergies to specific substances. During this
noninvasive test, a substance is applied to the forearm or back and then scratched with a
needle to cause a small, itchy bump (a welt).

Some people are allergic to the substance being tested and develop a larger welt. If no reaction
occurs, that means the person probably doesn’t have an allergy to that substance. The skin
prick test is used mainly to identify allergies to pollen, mold, pet dander, dust mites, and foods.

In adults, the test is usually done on the forearm. This is because the inside of the elbow can be
painful when pricked. You can also do the test on your back, but it’s more difficult to see where
you have been stung. On diagnosis, you should try treatment for sensitive skin.

Key skin care ingredients to avoid

With so many chemicals in personal care products being potential irritants, it’s good to know
which ingredients are likely to cause a reaction. Here is a list of common ingredients that may
be irritating to your skin:


Synthetic (Parfum) and Natural Fragrances are made from petroleum or plant sources, and they
can irritate the skin. The FDA does not require manufacturers to list all ingredients in a
fragrance, so you may want to check with the manufacturer to see what the ingredients are.

Active Ingredients

It is important to be aware of the active ingredients in your products. For example, Retinol and
Vitamin C can often cause skin irritation. Try checking out our natural retinol alternative illume!

Natural Fragrances

Many essential oils such as citrus and clove can irritate when used on sensitive skin. Other
natural fragrances, like lavender oil, have been known to cause reactions on sensitive skin.


These ingredients disperse oils and water-based ingredients together in a product. They are
sometimes allergens themselves, but more often, they can trigger an allergic reaction through
skin irritation. Typical emulsifiers include Cetearyl alcohol, stearic acid, and propylene glycol.

While these skincare terms are often confused for one another, as it turns out, they are entirely
different! Irritation results from direct chemical contact on your skin, causing a rash or hives.


Sensitive skin is just that, sensitive to chemical and physical changes in the environment.
Understanding the differences between sensitivity and irritation will help you best treat your skin
issues and avoid further damage or disruptions to your skin’s health.

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