What Causes Sensitive Skin?

It’s not what you think

Sensitive skin is acknowledged as one of the five different types of skin. What it has in common with the others – normal, oily, dry and combination – are the lengths to which skincare brands will go to provide you with ‘solutions’ to its symptoms.

Skincare products will often gloss over the true cause of skin sensitivity in favour of cancelling out its associated itchiness, irritated skin and dry skin. In fact, it may surprise some of you to learn that skin irritation occurs as a result of allergic reactions due to sustained damage to your gut lining.

I’m Jen Adams, a skin facialist and nutritional therapist with several years of experience in my chosen fields. Due to seeing client in my Skin Health Clinic, I know there is much more to treating sensitive skin than applying ‘miracle’ products and sticking to a regular skin care routine.

Whilst these things can be valuable, they can only be truly effective if considered alongside our metabolic health.

Nutrition Advice for What Causes Sensitive Skin

Our skin health is influenced by three essential metabolic pathways: our blood sugar levels, liver function and the gut microbiome. A clear understanding of how these three important pathways determine the quality and condition of our skin cells will enable you to see skin reaction as an allergic response and a result of the dietary decisions that you make, not your skin type.

By taking active steps to address the root causes of your skin reactions – what you eat, drink and what skin care ingredients from over the counter creams you put on your skin – you will be able to get to grips with what irritate sensitive skin and put systems in place to better manage the underlying condition and inflamed skin.

There are many ways to balance your skin naturally, and my advice should always be followed in partnership with a regular skincare routine that protects your skin’s barrier and does not contain harsh chemicals.

In this article, I want to explain what might be preventing you from dealing with sensitive skin symptoms appropriately. Along the way, you will gain some valuable advice to improve the health of your skin and develop an understanding of how the metabolic pathways can trigger your skin irritation and dry skin. 

What About Skin Care Products For Sensitive Skin?

Sensitive skin, which acts as an umbrella term for conditions such as eczema, contact dermatitis, rosacea, hives and several other complaints, originates in the gut.

Interestingly, instead of doing what is necessary to fix our gut-based problems, many people choose to invest in life-changing skin care products. This is a practice fuelled by skincare brands eager to fill their pockets. And whilst it can be argued that these products can sometimes limit or manage the worst symptoms of skin dryness, they can also do quite the opposite. Instead, attention should be paid to what’s actually going on in our bodies and environmental factors when addressing the root cause.

Skin Advice For People With Sensitive Skin


The main learning points to understanding what causes sensitivity skin are:

  1. Gut dysbiosis
  2. Consumption of fake foods
  3. Immune reaction to common foods

As a consequence, you will experience the following symptoms:

  • Red, dry skin, easily irritated, itchy, scaly skin, broken skin barrier,
  • Bloating and pain caused by a gut health imbalance
  • Food intolerances and allergies

What Really Causes Sensitive Skin?

More often than not, the foods that we eat can cause disruption in the gut lining. This is called gut dysbiosis. The inflammatory response creates cytokines that take up residence here can cause lasting damage.

What this leads to is an immune system response that recognises the chemicals found in your food and facial creams as harmful, leading the body to take action against these perceived threats. As a result, redness, irritation and swelling can make themselves known and conditions such as eczema and rosacea will be triggered.

Poor gut health will normally begin with bloating after meals and culminate in crippling pain. Managing this discomfort with over-the-counter medication will create a further underlying condition such as pH imbalance in your gut and causes an inflammatory response in the gut lining. It’s a vicious cycle.

Additionally, when our gut lining has been compromised, food will leak through the stomach and into the blood. This is a common trigger of food intolerance allergies, which may present themselves on the skin. It can also cause arthritis and osteoporosis in the long term.

Nutrition Advice For Sensitive Skin

The best advice for reducing sensitive skin is to stop consuming substances that compromise your gut health. These include artificial sweeteners, sugar substitutes and trans fats that can be found in foods such as pastries and cookies. I refer to these foods collectively as ‘fake foods’. You should abstain from them at all costs if you struggle with atopic dermatitis or scaly patches.

Once you have removed the fake foods from your diet, in order to restore the gut microbiome and strengthen the gut lining, my advice is to incorporate prebiotics into your diet. Doing so will create a gut environment in which good bacteria can thrive. Some examples of prebiotic foods include mushrooms, oats, beans, berries, cabbages and garlic.

Prebiotics are not to be confused with probiotics or yoghurt drinks, which may not be as helpful to your gut health as their producers claim as they are full of fake food ingredients, mainly aspartame and preservatives. Even those that say no added sugars on the packet contain chemicals and ingredients that can cause gut irritation.

Eliminating gut-rotting sugars and sweeteners from your diet will improve your natural immune response in your gut lining and it’s by removing these triggers that sensitive skin can be properly managed. If there are any foods that create bloating and pain in your gut, remove them from your diet for 14 days, and then re-introduce them.

If the symptoms reappear, then it’s more likely you are intolerant to this food. You can take further tests to confirm this, but remove this food from your diet and your sensitive skin will begin to improve. You can repeat this process with various foods.

The most common culprits to sensitive skin are cow’s milk, gluten and soy. 

By eliminating these foods you can improve your microbiome, strengthen your immune system and reduce the sensitivity of your skin.

The three most effective ways to improve your gut health are: 

  1. Avoid fake foods
  2. Incorporate prebiotics into your diet
  3. Remove food intolerances for 14 days [Consult healthcare professional first]

In summary, if you follow the above steps, you’ll be sure to notice a difference when it comes to your skin health. Enjoying prebiotics rather than sweetened probiotics and removing any food that makes you bloat after eating will reduce your sensitivity to different skin products, leaving you feeling not only more confident but healthy and nourished too.

Start Your Journey Towards Better Skin Health

In conclusion, when searching for a solution to sensitive skin, think about what might be causing it. Flare-ups can rarely be ascribed to what is happening outside of your body.

By looking after your gut and eating foods that don’t affect how it functions, the inflammation associated with sensitive skin conditions will be eliminated. All without the need to invest in high-end beauty products that aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Sensitive skin is just one example of how our body can make us aware of how our diet can affect our skin health. 

By looking deeper into your metabolic health, you will unlock the secrets to enjoying a lifetime of clear, glowing and radiant skin.