People don't usually cause themselves aggravation intentionally. Still, we can't always control everything in our lives. Many of us may have developed skin care habits, including using questionable skin-care products, that we forget to question, so it's important to learn how to recognize and minimize potential skin irritants.
Skin-care products are often to blame for sensitive skin conditions -- even ones marketed to sensitive skin can cause problems. If your skin is sensitive, you'd do best to avoid anything that contains perfume, alcohol, soap, antibacterial or deodorant ingredients, retinoids or alpha-hydroxy acids [source: WebMD]. Even some fabrics or fibers can irritate sensitive skin, especially wool. Choose cotton, silk, rayon and linen instead [source: WebMD].
Another sensitive-skin trigger is stress, which causes your body to release stress hormones and chemicals that worsen inflammation and make your already sensitive skin even more sensitive [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. Stress can also disrupt the skin's natural water barrier and impair its ability to repair itself [source: American Academy of Dermatology].
Too much sun exposure can damage the surface of the skin and aggravate sensitivities. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or more when you're going to be out in the sun for longer than 15 minutes. In addition to sun, hot, dry air is a particular problem in the winter when many of us have the heater going all day long. Don't overheat your home, and use a humidifier during the winter, even in moister climates.
Heat from the sun and dry air are common culprits, but even hot water in the shower or bath can inflame the skin. Bathing too often can strip the skin of its natural protective oils, letting irritants in.
Smoking doesn't do anybody any favors, least of all those of us with sensitive skin. It bothers skin by drying out its top layer and introducing all kinds of toxins. If you need help quitting, here's a helpful Web site.
Now that you know what NOT to do, here are a few tips to help your sensitive skin heal. First, be sure you follow a good skin-care regimen that includes cleansing, moisturizing and applying sunscreen. Moisturize skin within three minutes of cleansing it.
Another key to lessening sensitivity is to shave in the shower, or just afterward, when your skin is well hydrated, hair is softened and pores are open. This makes shaving easier, as does letting shaving cream stay on your face for at least a minute. Using a sharp blade to shave helps minimize the number of potentially irritating strokes you need for proper hair removal [source: Gillette].
How do you figure out which products to use? Read on to learn how to choose skin-care products that will soothe rather than irritate.