Your skin naturally adjusts and protects itself from the elements. Your skin’s outer layers include what is known as the horny layer, which can include dead skin cells and oils. This is part of your skin’s normal functions, as the oils keep you skin moist and flexible, and the dead cells act as protective armour for the living cells beneath. Many factors are constantly adjusted by your body to ensure your skin is healthy and working to protect you from external problems. If this balance is compromised, several things can happen. In some cases, your skin becomes vulnerable to the elements, and can dry out or suffer damage much more easily than normal. In other cases, it is your skin’s own attempt to fix the imbalance that can cause problems, leading to swell, irritation, and oiliness. For some people, this can happen much more easily than in others, for a variety of different reasons. If you have sensitive skin, it can be a nightmare to try and determine what went wrong, and how to fix it.Sensitive skin Skin’s natural barrier is compromisedWhen skin is compromised, water loss is caused and irritants are able to penetrate skinAnywhere on body, most obvious on face Symptoms of sensitive skin Sensitive skin can manifest in a number of ways. The most common is dryness, with patches of skin becoming slightly rough and tender to the touch, and occasionally flaking as skin cells die off and fall away. Scaly skin can also happen, with rough patches becoming visibly cracked. Redness and swelling are also common, as shiny skin in severe cases. The skin can also feel tight due to moisture loss, or itchy. In cases where pores have been damaged or blocked, prickling and burning might also occur. Causes of sensitive skin In order to successfully treat sensitive skin, identifying and understanding the cause is the first step. Sensitive skin can be caused by a number of things. Overexposure to sunlight is a common cause, as is windburn and dry weather. Illness can cause the body to weaken, and upset the balance of your skin.Allergies to ingredients in food, makeup, or skincare products can also cause sensitive skin, and care should be taken to identify the offending items.Diet and lifestyle can affect your skin too, with unhealthy eating and habits such as late nights, low amounts of sleep, overexposure to air conditioning, and smoking all having negative effects on skin health.Stress can lead to skin problems, as can hormone imbalances caused by puberty, menopause, or medication.Makeup can cause problems. Overuse of cosmetics can cause skin problems, and many makeup cleansers can also cause issues if overused.Aging also causes skin problems, as the body’s ability to regulate and look after itself degrades.Skincare regimens and products can also be the problem, even if you are not allergic to their contents. Soaps and moisturizers alter the balance of you skin, and in some cases either strip away healthy oils without adequately replacing them, or cause your skin to overproduce oils to counteract the loss. This can lead to a vicious cycle where washing only causes skin to become more oil, necessitating more washin, and so on.SunIngredients in cosmetics and cleansers How to treat sensitive skin The correct treatment for you will vary based on exactly what is causing your skin to become sensitive. In the case of sun or weather damage, take precautions to protect yourself in future by using sunscreen. In the case of food, lifestyle, stress or hormone related sensitive skin issues, try to determine what is causing your problems and change it. See a doctor, nutritionist, or skin care professional if you need help with this.If you think you might be allergic to something in your skincare products, try switching to hypoallergenic brands, and take note of the ingredients in the products you use. If you find some common ingredients in the products that cause you trouble, try buying products that do not include those ingredients in the future.If makeup is the problem, try finding a brand specially for sensitive skin, or change how often and how you wear makeup.When the issue is skincare products themselves, the solution can be a bit trickier. One option is to go “cold turkey”, and try to break the cycle of washing and overproduction of oils. This may take a few days or a week to balance out. Once that is done, try using milder products, and adjust your regimen until you find an amount that works for you.