Hypersensitive skin: what it is

why we have it and how to take care of it

Products for the care of hypersensitive skin should include a low number of ingredients.

Hypersensitive skin is skin that over-reacts, that is reacts more strongly than sensitive skin and shows increased fragility due to environmental factors.

It shows mostly in women and occurs especially in the face, because skin there is more exposed to environmental agents, especially skin around the nose and the lips, in the cheeks and cheekbones.

Hypersensitive skin has not been sensitised (become allergic), but is rather a "constitutional" condition and with symptoms that are mostly subjective and not visible on the the outside.

How do I tell I have hypersensitive skin?

Skin hypersensitivity shows with burning, itch or tingling, irritation, the feeling that your "skin is tight ", with symptoms that can be rather strong at times, and with skin dryness also being quite common (link articolo Pelle secca e molto secca).

Sometimes it shows as a temporary skin redness – perhaps triggered by changes to the weather (cold, wind) - or permanent redness that can lead to rosacea, a condition where a blueish mesh of damaged capillaries shows through skin permanently.

People with very fair skin and fragile capillaries often have hypersensitive skin.

Since skin sensitivity is increasing dramatically in industrialised countries, tests have been developed to recognise sensitive skin. The most used is the stinging test (prick test) which involves the application of a substance capable of tingling skin, usually lactic acid, on the nasolabial folds. A few minutes after the application, the individuals undergoing the test must report the intensity of the tingling feeling, using a numerical score. This test is also useful for selecting volunteers with sensitive skin to be enrolled in special tests that evaluate the tolerability of cosmetics specifically developed for sensitive skin.

What are the causes?

Hypersensitive skin is mostly a constitutional condition, although some external factors can be considered as triggers or otherwise factors that can aggravate the condition.

The main conditions of skin hypersensitivity appear to be two:

  1. a lack of efficiency of the outermost layer of the epidermis, which leads to a thinned and less compact skin barrier, which turns skin extremely vulnerable to aggression by external factors, as well as more prone to dehydration
  2. the hyperactivity of nerve fibers in skin, which react faster and in a more more extreme manner to stimuli, thereby amplifying the sensations of tingling and tight skin. Recent studies have specifically highlighted the alteration of the activity of certain receptors in skin, called vanilloid receptors.

Occasional situations of strong dehydration and skin fragility can lead to hypersensitivity.

In addition, a number of factors are identified as triggers or aggravating factors, such as:

  • sharp temperature changes
  • dry and/or windy weather
  • sun rays
  • air pollution
  • taking certain drugs
  • use of harsh cleansers and unsuitable cosmetics
  • contact and continuous friction with metals and fabrics
  • hormonal changes (menstrual cycle, pregnancy, menopause)

Further reading:
Sensitive skin
Dry and very dry skin

How can I take care of hypersensitive skin?

Hypersensitive skin can greatly benefit from a daily routine that is respectful of its fragility, capable of strengthening skin defences and reducing discomfort feelings.

It is very important to use specifically formulated products which guarantee:

  • a limited number of selected ingredients
  • soothing and replenishing effects
  • high tolerability

Cleansing skin

Hypersensitive skin must not be frequently washed with water that is too hot and it is better to avoid washes based on harsh surfactants.

Pick non-foaming cleansers, also ones that do not require rinsing with water, for instance a gel-texture cleansing water or an emulsion-based product to cleanse and remove make-up from skin without stripping it.

Should redness occur, it may also be helpful to use a soothing product to give instant relief.


Treatments for hypersensitive skin should ensure high protection and a replenishing effect, to support the natural hydration mechanisms, counter harsh environmental agents and improve the barrier function of skin, and should also be very well tolerated by skin.

Pick a cream that protects and strengthens skin with a low number of ingredients, that is perfume-free and has active ingredients that can strengthen the defences of skin, support skin-repair mechanisms and protect from the stress induced by harsh external factors.


Makeup can be a problem for sensitive and hypersensitive skin, especially due to a number of components that makeup may include and also because of the low quality of the products.

Hence, it is of great importance to pick makeup that is formulated with selected ingredients that are also controlled accurately and specifically to check heavy metal content, such as nickel, chromium, cobalt, which may lead to contact allergies.

If you wish to learn more on this subject, read our article: What problems does makeup cause in sensitive skin.

Want to learn more?

Ask a question to our experts

All BioNike products of the TRIDERM, DEFENCE and PROXERA ranges are developed to reduce the risks of intolerance and are suitable for sensitive skin. Such products are, in fact nickel-tested, preservatives-free, perfume-free (or having an allergen-free perfume), gluten-free and manufactured ​​with carefully selected and controlled ingredients.

In any case, we recommend that you consult your pharmacist and/or dermatologist, who will be able to recommend what is best for your skin.

Did you know it?

BioNike has developed a range of products specifically made to suit the daily care of hypersensitive skin: DEFENCE TOLERANCE, including, for instance, the Soothing droplets and the ultra-protective and reinforcing base cream.
This range features a BioNike patent: Beta-Glucan/L-Carnosine, an association of ingredients that is very effective in rebalancing and potentiating skin defences and in protecting skin from dehydration and redness.