Reviewed by Angela Sheddan, DNP, FNP-BC
Written by Our Editorial Team
When it comes to skin, we all get dealt different cards. Some people can use almost every skin care product under the sun without any issues, while others get dry skin and itching after using a regular bar of soap.
The good news is that if you’re one of the many guys out there with sensitive skin (there are lots of us, you know), the right combination of good habits and skin care products can help you keep your skin in great condition without having to deal with itching and irritation.
Below, we discuss specific factors that can lead to sensitive skin, as well as the right skin care products to help you treat it.
We also share ways to help your sensitive skin stay calm, relaxed and healthy.
Sensitive skin is extremely common. In fact, according to data published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine, between 50 and 60 percent of men and 60 to 70 percent of women are affected by some degree of sensitive skin.
Unlike many other skin issues, sensitive skin usually isn’t viewed as a disease or condition with its own specific treatment. However, some skin conditions can lead to sensitive or easily irritated skin.
These include eczema (atopic dermatitis), irritant or allergic contact dermatitis, urticaria (hives) and rosacea.
Sometimes, basic things such as letting your skin become too dry can also cause it to become cracked, itchy and more sensitive than normal.
In some cases, sensitive skin is caused by irritating ingredients in skin care products.
Some skin care ingredients, such as topical exfoliants, can affect your skin’s barrier function and contribute to increased skin sensitivity.
While sensitive skin can be frustrating to deal with, the good news is that it’s usually possible to get relief by making some small changes to your skin care habits.
Here are 12 techniques and lifestyle changes to help treat sensitive skin and prevent issues such as itching, dryness and discomfort.
While taking a long, hot bath might help relax you, it can dry out your skin and make it more prone to irritation.
Try to limit your time in the shower or bath to five to 10 minutes. Instead of using hot water, use warm water.
Make sure to keep the bathroom door closed while you bathe, as this can help trap humidity in the bathroom and prevent your skin from becoming overly dried out.
Moisturizer works by trapping moisture in your skin, preventing it from becoming dry and easily irritated.
If you have sensitive skin, it’s important to moisturize whenever you feel your skin becoming dry and flaky.
It’s especially important to moisturize during the winter, or if you use acne treatments or other products that can make your skin dry and irritated.
In addition to preventing dryness, moisturizing also helps to make fine lines, wrinkles and other signs of skin aging less visible.
To get the best results from moisturizer, apply it immediately after you dry your skin following a bath or shower. This helps trap surface moisture inside your skin and keep it hydrated during the day.
Many skin care products contain artificial fragrances, some of which are made with ingredients that can cause irritation.
You’ll often find these in products designed to reduce body odor, such as deodorant soaps and body washes.
If your skin gets itchy and irritated after using these products, try switching to hygiene and skin care products labeled “fragrance-free.”
These products are made with ingredients that are less likely to cause itching, irritation or dryness.
Unfortunately, while retinoids are great at treating wrinkles and preventing acne breakouts, they can dry out your skin and cause irritation, especially during the first few weeks of use.
For example, tretinoin — one of the most popular topical retinoids — is known to cause blistering, swelling, crusting, dryness, burning and peeling of the skin, as well as changes in your skin tone and texture.
Similarly, alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs) such as glycolic and salicylic acid can cause skin irritation, making them best avoided if you have naturally sensitive skin.
If you need to use these products to treat acne, make sure to moisturize after you use them.
To stop acne breakouts, choose a non-comedogenic, oil-free facial moisturizer that’s formulated to prevent clogged pores.
In addition to retinoids and hydroxy acids, many products used in over-the-counter acne creams and cleansers can also irritate your skin.
For example, benzoyl peroxide — a popular ingredient in facial cleansers — can cause tingling or stinging, dry skin, peeling and other side effects.
If you’re prone to acne, look for a gentle facial cleanser that won’t dry or irritate your skin.
Check each product’s label for terms like “non-irritating” and “for sensitive skin types” before you make any purchases.
Many ointments and skin creams are made using ingredients that are less irritating than those in lotions and other products.
As you’re comparing night creams, ointments and other products, look for hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, jojoba oil and shea butter.
Even good old-fashioned petroleum jelly can keep your skin hydrated while minimizing irritation.
Not sure which cream to use at night? Our Goodnight Wrinkle Night Cream is formulated with all skin types in mind, from sensitive to dry and oily.
If your skin gets dry, cracked and itchy, one of the best things you can do to keep it in good condition is to use a humidifier at home.
Using a humidifier boosts your home’s ambient humidity level, allowing your skin to take in more moisture.
If you often wake up with skin that’s dry and irritated, use a portable humidifier while you sleep to create a skin-friendly environment in your bedroom.
Many people with sensitive skin experience itching, redness and other reactions from certain products but not others.
When dermatologists check for the cause of an allergic reaction, they use something called a patch test.
This involves applying a small amount of allergens to your skin, then checking to see which ones produce a reaction.
If you’re prone to acne breakouts, itching or other side effects from certain skin care products, you can try a similar type of test at home by applying a small amount of each product to your arm or abdomen before using them on your face.
This way, you’ll be able to check for irritation in a location that isn’t so obvious before applying new products to your face, hands or other visible areas.
Not only can sun exposure cause premature skin aging, but it can also leave your skin feeling sunburned, sore and irritated.
When sunburn gets really bad, it can even cause blistering — a serious annoyance if you have skin that’s naturally sensitive.
To keep your skin protected, use an SPF 30+, broad-spectrum sunscreen whenever you spend time outdoors.
Make it a habit to apply sunscreen before leaving the house whenever you see the sun shining; your skin will thank you.
Lots of common household products, such as dishwashing liquid and other cleaning solutions, can leave your skin feeling dry, itchy and irritated.
To avoid developing irritated skin on your hands and arms, keep a pair of rubber gloves beside the sink, bath and other surfaces that you clean often.
Make sure to rinse your hands after you use cleaning products to remove any leftover chemicals that could irritate your skin.
It’s not just skin care products that can cause irritation; sometimes, innocent-seeming products such as soap and laundry detergent can also affect your skin.
If you often get irritated patches of skin on your body, one thing that might help is switching from a regular laundry detergent to one that has a less irritating formula.
Look for “hypoallergenic” or “for sensitive skin” on the label when you’re comparing laundry detergents or fabric softeners.
If you still get irritated skin, try reducing the amount of detergent you use.
Follow the instructions provided with the detergent and avoid using too much, as it could contribute to itchiness and dry skin when you wear your clothes.
It’s common to develop itchy, red skin after shaving. Making a few small changes to the way that you shave can stop this from happening.
To avoid post-shave irritation, start by wetting your skin with warm water and applying a foaming shaving cream that’s formulated for sensitive skin.
Before you shave, let the cream sit so that it can properly soften your skin and hair.
When you shave, move your razor in the direction that your hair grows.
After you finish shaving, use cold water to rinse your skin and close your hair follicles, then apply moisturizer to prevent any unwanted dryness.
To keep your razor free of bacteria, store it in a dry location in between shaves.
It’s best to throw away disposable razors after they start to lose their sharpness, as using a dull blade may cause your skin to become irritated and uncomfortable. Our "what does aftershave do" guide is another helpful source of information.
With the right combination of habits and skin care products, avoiding irritation is usually possible even if you have sensitive, delicate skin.
However, if your skin still becomes irritated easily after making changes to your habits and skin care routine, it’s best to talk to a healthcare provider.
A healthcare provider can test you for allergies and skin conditions that may contribute to your skin’s sensitivity.
In some cases, they may prescribe medication to prevent itching, redness and other common symptoms of sensitive skin.
We have another article that you can read to learn how to reduce redness on your face here.
Sensitive skin can be a major source of frustration. However, small changes to your habits and skin care routine can often help you avoid redness, itching, dryness and other sensitive skin issues.
When these don’t work, a quick visit with a healthcare provider can give you expert advice and answers.
It’s also possible to access customized skin care online with our range of men’s skin care products.
You can also learn more about caring for your skin in our full guide to expertly building a men’s skin care routine.