Signs of Sensitive Skin

Many people have sensitive skin.  Knowing the symptoms can help you identify how your skin responds to certain products, environmental conditions, and common triggers, and may help you avoid significant stress and frustration. Also, understanding how sensitive skin affects people can help you understand what friends and family with sensitive skin might be experiencing.

Here are a few common symptoms people with sensitive skin experience:

Erythema or Redness

An abnormal pink or reddish hue in the skin is called erythema.  This is typically due to an increase in blood flow near the surface of the skin, which can be due to inflammation in the skin.  This increased blood flow shows through as a reddish area.


Often, people with sensitive skin will develop itching.  This is often due to the release of histamines in the skin.  For some people with sensitive skin, scratching can actually increase itching in the skin by releasing more histamine.


Another symptom of sensitive skin can be flaking or scaling.  If the skin has been inflamed for a few days, the typical almost invisible shedding of the surface is altered.  When this happens, the skin becomes flaky or scaly.

Stinging or Burning

When people have sensitive skin, many products or environmental exposures can trigger stinging or burning.  Over time, you may learn what products of ingredients your skin can and can’t tolerate. Products containing alcohol, gels and anti-aging products can be especially irritating to sensitive.  If you experience burning when you apply a product, you should probably avoid that product.

Flushing or Warmth

People with sensitive skin will often have an exaggerated or easily triggered flushing reaction.  This can lead to pinkness and warmth in the skin that can subside as quickly as it arises. If a portion of the skin becomes pink and warm for a prolonged period, however, you should be evaluated by a medical professional.  This is particularly urgent if you have a fever, chills or are not feeling well, since these signs could indicate an infection.

Sleep disruption

People with inflamed skin often report difficulty sleeping.  The itching, flaking, warmth and other symptoms can make it difficult to get comfortable or be still.  Sleep deprivation can lead to mood changes, inactivity and relationship issues.

Facial breakouts

Some people with sensitive skin will develop bumps on the face.  These can be comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) and pink inflammatory papules and pustules in people with acne-prone skin.  In people with rosacea-prone skin they may have increased small blood vessels and an overall pink appearance. They may also develop inflammatory papules and small pustules on the face, and typically flush more easily.

Decrease in self-esteem

Particularly people with skin issues in more visible areas of the body (such as the face, scalp or arms), can have a significant decrease in self-esteem.  This can affect willingness to participate in social interactions, and often influences choice of clothing. Even people with skin problems in less exposed areas, however, can feel uncomfortable with intimacy and develop relationship issues.

Sensitive skin in one form or another is a significant issue for many of us.  If you’re dealing with any of the symptoms above, a visit with a dermatologist can significantly decrease your flares, stress and frustration. Schedule an appointment with a provider at Avail Dermatology to evaluate your specific situation and develop a plan to become more comfortable in your skin.