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Your Ultimate Guide to Sensitive Skin

Whether you experience occasional sensitivity to skincare products or have persistent redness and dryness, learn how to care for sensitive skin. At Kiehl’s, our chemists are committed to formulating skincare products for sensitive skin. In developing our formulas, we take care to select ingredients known to be efficacious yet gentle. Beyond developing skincare suitable for sensitive skin, we take our commitment one step further by testing our portfolio on panels of 50% sensitive skin. Discover more about the signs of skin sensitivity and how you can care for and strengthen sensitive skin.

What is Sensitive Skin?

Sensitive skin is often referred to as sensitivity to factors including weather, the environment and even topical skincare products. While sensitive skin varies from person to person, many people report that they have skin that is sensitive, reactive, irritable or intolerant. Women and men are equally affected by sensitive skin, but women may be more likely to notice sensitivity as they often use a wider range of skincare products. Often characterized by skin redness and dryness, sensitive skin may not always show visible signs of distress but can also be attributed to feelings of discomfort. These feelings and characteristics may be more prominent in particular regions of the skin, and even in specific areas of the face.

What Causes Sensitive Skin?

While there is not a clear understanding of what causes someone to have sensitive skin, it can be aggravated by various internal and external factors. Learn more about some of these aggressors and how they could be affecting your skin.


Extremely cold temperatures, excessive heat and high winds can all cause skin to feel dry, irritated or uncomfortable. As seasons change, sensitive skin may be affected by changing conditions.

UV Rays

Even on mild or cloudy days, UVA and UVB rays can cause damage to skin’s barrier. For sensitive skin types that may already have a compromised skin barrier, this damage can cause skin’s barrier to be even more susceptible to external aggressors and more likely to experience discomfort.


Various pollutants can also cause visible signs of sensitivity or feelings of discomfort. Free radicals found in pollutants can cause oxidation which may lead to early signs of aging. Especially in cities and areas with high pollution, it is important to use anti-pollution and antioxidant skincare products daily to help protect and defend skin.


Stress can affect skin and may cause dryness, redness, or other signs of discomfort in certain areas. Taking time to unwind and relax may help your skin minimize distress and discomfort.


Sleep is an essential component in skin renewal and a lack of sleep can decrease the skin barrier’s opportunity to repair itself. Ensure to make time to rest and sleep so your skin can repair itself overnight.


Eating a healthy, nutritious diet helps skin feel and look its best. Choose meals rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to help promote healthy-looking skin.

Temperature Changes

Extreme temperature changes, air conditioning and long flights can also aggravate skin. If you experience discomfort, you may find that you need to adjust your skincare routine when traveling, or whenever skin is feeling dry or uncomfortable.


Very hot water may cause skin to feel dry and sensitive. Additionally, hard water, with a higher mineral content, can be harsh for sensitive skin.

What are Common Characteristics of Sensitive Skin?

Sensitive skin can be characterized by visible signs of sensitivity like skin redness and dryness as well as feelings of discomfort. These signs are often related to a compromised skin barrier function which can cause skin to be more susceptible to aggressors. A disrupted skin barrier often causes excess water loss and may result in skin becoming dehydrated. A healthy barrier helps skin retain moisture to help prevent dryness and feelings of discomfort while also strengthening skin’s defenses against external aggressors.

How Do You Care for Sensitive Skin?

Whether you experience outward signs of sensitive skin or only have occasional discomfort, it is important to care for these concerns while also helping to strengthen skin’s barrier. Nurture and moisturize dry skin with hydrating serums, moisturizers or face masks to help balance and soothe. Formulas that can help reduce visible skin redness are another way to help calm these effects. In addition to helping to relieve visible signs of sensitive skin, look for products that can help strengthen and repair skin’s barrier for a healthier appearance over time.

How Do You Help Protect Sensitive Skin?

In addition to soothing and strengthening the skin barrier, it is important to help protect skin from external aggressors. A daily sunscreen is a must-have for any skin type, including sensitive skin. Help defend your skin from UV rays – even on a cloudy day – to help keep skin looking and feeling healthy. Look for a formula that also provides pollution protection to defend against free radicals and other potential irritants. You may also want to try a mineral sunscreen for sensitive skin that provides SPF protection in a lightweight formula.

What are the Best Products for Sensitive Skin?

In caring for sensitive skin, look for formulas with carefully chosen ingredients and products that are formulated to be gentle. A no-rinse facial cleanser can be a gentle way to cleanse skin. Look for creams and moisturizers with a rich texture to comfort and soothe skin and find formulas that absorb easily without excess rubbing. If you experience visible skin redness or excessive dryness, ensure that you are using a moisturizer for sensitive skin that will provide hydration while also helping to strengthen and repair skin’s barrier.

With our expertise in sensitive skin, Kiehl’s chemists formulate efficacious products with carefully selected ingredients in concentrations that are still suitable for sensitive skin.Treat your skin to a targeted formula or begin a sensitive skincare routine to help calm, soothe and care for your skin.

Expert Tip

“It is important to look for non-abrasive formulas that help repair and strengthen skin’s barrier function. Additionally, use products specifically formulated for sensitive skin and avoid ingredients that are known to be skin irritants or potential allergens.”

– Dr. Megan O’Brien, Kiehl’s Consulting Dermatologist

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