The reasons why sensitive skin issues have become so common and 
what we can do about them

For many of us, sensitive skin is ‘the new normal’. Across the globe, an increasing number of people are dealing with issues related to sensitive skin, ranging from minor breakouts and irritations through to more serious conditions like severe acne, eczema, rosacea, dermatitis, and psoriasis. 

Astonishingly, 71% of all adults now identify as having sensitive skin, a jump of 55% in little more than two decades.

Below, we explore some of the factors that have led to this precipitous rise and what we can we do to help ease flare ups and keep our skin calm and healthy instead.

Four reasons why our skin has become so sensitive... and what we can do about it.

  1. Loss of Biodiversity 

  • The Problem:
  • The catastrophic loss of biodiversity in ecosystems across the world might not be the first thing that comes to mind when trying to understand why our skin has become so sensitive, but it is important. That’s because the guardian of our skin’s health - our skin microbiome - is dependent on a diverse community of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, to function properly. Take away that community, or change it in some way, and the delicate balance of our skin microbiome is compromised. 

    There is increasing evidence that this is exactly what is happening to our microbiome now. As we shape our natural environment to our will, disrupting and destroying natural ecosystems that have been in place for millennia, and exposing ourselves instead to pollutants, chemicals, and artificial environments, we are indirectly – and negatively - influencing our skin microbiome, making it less resilient and thus more susceptible to skin disorders and diseases. 

    • Steps We Can Take:
    • Support sustainable agriculture and organic farming practices that help promote biodiversity, soil health, and ecosystem resilience.
    • Support or donate to initiatives and groups who work to clean up or revive vital ecosystems 
    • If you have a garden or lawn, practice sustainable gardening practices and maybe even look to reduce your lawn area, replacing it with native plants, wildflowers, or edible plants.
    • As much as possible, avoid using products which are known to hurt the environment, including herbicides, pesticides, aerosols, chemical cleaning agents, and any products which come with excessive plastic packaging.
    • Reduce, reuse, recycle (especially when it comes to single use plastics!)
    • Help raise awareness about the importance of biodiversity by educating others and by being an advocate for change

    1. Our Gut/Skin Nexus

    • The Problem:

    Recent research demonstrates that our gut and our skin are interconnected. They talk to each other, and the health of one is at least partly dependent on the health of the other. If our gut is under stress, or not functioning properly, then this can manifest in skin conditions that we’d rather avoid.

    Unfortunately, our modern diet is too often lacking in the nutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants) that our skin requires for good health. Add in our over-exposure to highly processed foods, refined sugars, synthetic additives, and unhealthy fats, and it’s clear why our gut is under increasing stress, leading to systemic inflammation and/or impaired nutrient absorption, both of which can contribute to skin conditions like acne, eczema, and rosacea.

    Additionally, our hectic lifestyle means that we often forget to hydrate adequately, resulting in dull, tired, or even prematurely aging skin.

    Excessive alcohol consumption is another concern, and has been linked to increased risk, and incidences, of rosacea.

    • Steps We Can Take:
    • Eating a balanced diet is crucial, especially one that is nutrient rich and includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and fermented foods. These foods provide essential nutrients, fiber, antioxidants, and beneficial bacteria that support gut health and skin integrity.
    • Incorporating prebiotic- and probiotic-rich foods into our diet is also important. Prebiotic foods such as garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, bananas, and whole grains help nourish beneficial gut bacteria, whilst probiotic foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha introduce beneficial bacteria into the gut and promote microbial diversity.
    • Staying hydrated, especially by drinking plenty of water throughout the day, helps to support digestive function. Proper hydration also helps flush toxins from the body, promotes nutrient absorption, and keeps our skin hydrated and supple.
    • For the sake of our general health, as well as the health of our skin, we should do what we can to reduce consumption of processed foods, refined sugars, unhealthy fats, and artificial additives, all of which can promote inflammation and disrupt gut health. Further, it helps to watch our intake of alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods, as these can also exacerbate skin conditions and gastrointestinal symptoms.
    • Finally, we can support healthy digestion (and a healthy gut) by eating mindfully, chewing food thoroughly, and avoiding overeating. Incorporating digestive aids such as digestive enzymes, apple cider vinegar, or ginger into our daily routines can also aid digestion and reduce bloating or discomfort.

    1. Our Mind/Skin Nexus 

  • The Problem:
  • Our mind and our skin are interconnected every bit as much as our skin and our gut. The health of one can affect the health of the other, both for good and bad. 

    Sadly, we live in an age where incidences of stress, mental health issues, and insomnia are all spiralling in number. That’s a concern not only for our emotional and physical wellbeing, but also the health of our skin. 

    As our mind/skin nexus comes under increasing pressure, concerns in one area often feed into the other, creating – in some cases – a negative loop that can be difficult to escape.


    By way of example, chronic stress causes elevated cortisol levels, something that can trigger a host of different skin issues, including:

    • impaired barrier function
    • altered skin microbiome
    • inflammation
    • excessive oil production
    • inability to retain moisture
    • delayed wound healing

    Any, or all, of these outcomes have consequences for our skin, ranging from dryness and dullness, through to breakouts, rashes, premature aging, and more serious conditions like severe acne, psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis.

    • Steps We Can Take:
    • Practicing stress management techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or tai chi can reduce stress levels, helping ward off inflammation, hormonal imbalances, and skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
    • We all know this, but aiming for quality sleep by establishing a regular sleep schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, and optimizing our sleep environment, is essential. A good night’s rest is great for our mind and our body, and vital for skin repair, regeneration, and hormone regulation.
    • Regular exercise promotes blood circulation, lymphatic drainage, and the release of endorphins, which can improve mood and reduce stress levels. Exercise also supports healthy skin by promoting collagen production and cellular renewal.
    • Cultivating mindfulness and self-awareness through practices such as meditation, journaling, or gratitude exercises can help reduce negative thought patterns, improve emotional resilience, and promote a positive outlook on life – all essential prerequisites for healthy, happy skin.
    • It helps us (in all sorts of ways) to foster meaningful social connections with friends, family, and community members. Strong social support networks provide a sense of belonging, reduce feelings of isolation, and buffer against stress.
    • Prioritizing self-care activities that nurture our mind, body, and spirit is vital. We should all look for ways we can nourish our sense of self and discover joy, whether it's spending time in nature, practicing hobbies, or pampering ourselves with skincare rituals.

    1. Toxic Overload 

    • The Problem:

    We’ve written thousands of words about toxic overload before, so we won’t labor the point here, except to note that never in history has life been more burdensome for our skin. From the synthetic personal care products we put on our faces, bodies, and hair, through the many (many) chemicals we’re exposed to in our homes and offices, to the pollutants we encounter every time we step outside, our skin is continuously fighting off the effects of toxic overload. 

    It’s a difficult battle; one so prevalent in our lives that perhaps the most surprising result of all is that only 71% of us report as having sensitive skin, not all of us.

    • Steps We Can Take:
    • It’s impossible to avoid environmental toxins entirely, but we can take steps to limit our exposure. These steps include:
    1. avoiding areas with heavy traffic as much as possible. 
    2. using natural air purifiers and ventilation systems (including open windows and doors!) to minimize exposure to indoor air pollutants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), cigarette smoke, and mould. 
    3. choosing natural cleaning products, paints, and furnishings to reduce exposure to indoor chemicals and off-gassing.
    4. filtering tap water to remove contaminants like heavy metals, chlorine, and pesticides that can negatively impact skin health.
    • Whilst a small amount of sunlight every day is good for us, helping to replenish stores of vitamin D, we do need to limit our exposure to harmful UV rays during the heat of the day. We can do this by applying broad-spectrum sunscreen (we strongly recommend using a natural sunscreen whenever you can!), by wearing protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses to shield our skin, and by seeking shade during peak sun hours (10 am to 4 pm).
    • When it comes to our beauty and personal care regimes, we can all benefit by going natural! Using natural beauty products helps reduce exposure to items containing harsh chemicals, fragrances, dyes, and preservatives that can irritate or sensitize the skin. Even better, they provide a host of antioxidants, natural ceramides, oils, vitamins, and other nutrients to help protect the skin barrier and ward off the worst effects of pollution and other environmental stressors. 

    Our skin loves organic and natural. The skin microbiome has evolved over thousands of years in concert with Mother Nature, and if we want to truly care for it, and help avoid toxic overload, then a gentle, restorative, organic skincare and makeup routine is the way to go. 

    Ultimately, there’s no single step or simple answer to addressing sensitive skin issues. They are part and parcel of living in our modern, chemical-laden, and polluted age. By adopting a holistic approach to our wellbeing and skincare, we can, though, help mitigate the reasons behind the rise (and rise) of sensitive skin, and hopefully achieve the kind of healthy, happy skin we all want for ourselves.

    This blog post was written for educational purposes only. It is not designed to diagnose, treat or cure. For individual health concerns, The Organic Skin Co. recommends that you consult with a relevant health professional.