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What causes sensitive skin and how can we treat it?

Last Updated: 04/29/2024


Sensitive skin in a broad term for which there are many definitions. Some people experience sensitivity to their skin because of genetic and hereditary factors, (for example, people with particularly fair skin can often experience sensitivity to the sun and other elements), skin sensitivity can be attributed to food allergens or intolerances or sensitive skin cause be caused by misuse or overuse of products and ingredients that the skin receives as aggravating or abrading. While the exact causes of sensitive skin are largely unknown, when it comes to skin care there are a number of agreed upon ingredients and other factors that people who experience sensitive skin, symptoms of which may include dryness, redness, irritated or inflamed skin, should avoid whenever possible.

A woman applying Saje moisturizer to her face

A non-exhaustive list of ingredients commonly found in skin care products and other cosmetics like makeup that can be deemed not suitable for sensitive skin include artificial fragrances, as many ingredients are not disclosed which makes it difficult to pinpoint what exactly is causing the sensitivity, harsh physical exfoliators like scrubs or chemical exfoliants like acids, sodium lauryl sulfates or SLS and alcohols, many of which are too astringent and can cause dryness or flaking. 


What are some of the tell tale signs you may be prone to sensitive skin? Your skin may react quickly when being introduced to a new skin care product or cosmetic, even including common household products like soaps, cleaning products and laundry detergents. Most people who identify as having sensitive skin also experience redness of some sort, whether it’s flushed skin, blushing, red bumps or a rash-like texture on the skin.

If your skin feels itchy or tight, particularly after cleansing, you might have sensitive skin. Stinging, burning, rashing and even breaking out can sometimes be linked to skin sensitivity. Though this list is also non-exhaustive in terms of symptoms, if you’re nodding in agreement as you read through these common ailments in those with sensitive skin, you might be on the list.


When it comes to treating the already delicate skin on your face, skin sensitivities add a whole new dimension to the way in which you will want to care for and treat your skin. Being careful to avoid as many of the ingredients listed above as possible, you may also want to consider introducing new products slowly - one by one - to ensure you’re able to have a clearer understanding of products or ingredients you may react to.

Two of the most gentle and skin-nourishing products we offer at Saje are our Rose Mist and our Sensitive Elixir. We like to use Rose Mist as everything from a hair, skin and body refresher to a toner post-cleanse and even a pillow and bedding mist in a pinch. Rose is known in aromatherapy for it’s moisturizing, skin-softening and emotionally supportive properties, making it the ideal floral spritz for sensitive skin. The Sensitive Elixir is a treatment-style product, intended to be the last step in your skincare routine. Skin that often feels dry and easily irritated will welcome this delicate, nurturing blend of essential oils that will protect even the most sensitive types, formulated with balancing geranium, soothing roman chamomile and gentle lavender, all in a base of antioxidant rich rosehip, grapeseed and evening primrose carrier oils.


Though sometimes less prevalent than the symptoms of skin sensitivity that can show up on the face, reactions on the chest, arms and legs are not uncommon. Itchy, flaky, extremely dry and sensitive skin can feel uncomfortable and unsightly, which is why it’s important to nourish your skin regularly, particularly after exposure to the elements like cold weather, sun and wind and after bathing or showering, particularly if you’re using overly hot water.

Two options you have for adding moisture to your skin are lotion and body butter. Lotion is typically a thinner formula than body butter as it has a higher water content in the formula, whereas body butter is the thickest, richest hydration you can provide for your skin. Our favorites are Lavender & Friends body lotion and Carrot body butter respectively. We reach for this floral, soothing and balancing lotion, made with aloe vera leaf juice and vitamin E to support skin’s natural ability to retain moisture and lavender, geranium and clary sage essential oils for promoting well-being and calm for the skin. We reach for Carrot body butter when our skin is in need of the most supportive hydration, like in the wintertime or after sun exposure. The base is made from three butters, cocoa seed, mango seed and shea, all formulated for softness and suppleness alongside supportive and nurturing essential oils of patchouli, carrot and roman chamomile.


As mentioned earlier, common household products can be hidden dangers when it comes to causing skin reactions and sensitivity. Because these products are necessary as part of our daily routines, our suggestion is to make the swap to natural products that offer better-for-you and better-for-the-environment ingredients and packaging.

For everyday handwashing, we’re big fans of our foaming hand soaps. We offer four different scent options to choose from, zesty and citrusy Liquid Sunshine, cooling and tingling Tingle Mint, cleansing and deodorizing Clean Hands and balancing and floral Lavender & Friends. These foaming hand soaps are made from richly nourishing and skin moisturizing coconut, sunflower and castor oils with different essential oils to cleanse and refresh while still being gentle on your skin.

Another swap we encourage making is removing any artificial air fresheners, be it sprays or plug-ins, and replacing them with diffusers and diffuser blends. Diffusers and 100% pure essential oils are a quick and easy way to scent your home according to your preference with the added bonus of diffusers create negative ions to refresh your air and help elevate your overall well-being. Our current favorite diffuser is called the Aroma Om offered in a luxurious white ceramic. The unit can run for 3-6 hours with a continuous or intermittent setting and also offers an optional LED light feature. Paired with a cleansing, freshening diffuser blend like Deep Breath, your home will smell beautiful and you’ll know you’re supporting your skin by eliminating harmful artificial fragrances.


Apart from products you use directly on your skin or in your environment, we’ve compiled a few helpful lifestyle tips you can try out to see whether or not these have a positive impact on lessening your skin sensitivities.

  1. Cease use of any artificially fragranced products like household cleaners, dish soaps and laundry detergents. The latter can be especially irritating to sensitive skin as your clothes will be in direct contact with your body. Washing sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers in unscented detergent is also a good idea.
  2. Use as few of products as you can at a time. If you’re experiencing sensitive skin, now might not be the time to test out a 10-step skincare routine. Choose products with clean, natural ingredients - as few of them as possible.
  3. Keep showers short and efficient. For many people with sensitive skin, hot water is harsh and paired with items like washcloths and loofahs, is a recipe for a flare up. Try warm to cool water and concentrate products on the areas of the body that need cleansing the most.
Invest in your skin. It’s going to represent you for a very long time.
Contributor & Editor
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