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Why is my skin sensitive to touch all of a sudden?

Learn about possible causes and when to seek medical advice when you’re dealing with an unexpected skin change.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Nov 10, 2023 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Jessica Mefford, NP
Woman with Sensitive Skin
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Nov 10, 2023 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Jessica Mefford, NP
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

In this article

First, let’s identify sensitive skin
More

Sudden skin sensitivity can be perplexing. One moment, you’re going about your routine as normal, and the next, your skin feels overly tender to even the lightest touch. That abrupt shift can spark a flurry of questions: Why is this happening? What could have triggered it? Is it a symptom of a more serious condition? 

Curology’s licensed dermatology providers are here to share what they know—so you can make good decisions for your skin. Let’s look at the various factors that can cause your skin to become sensitive to touch, from medical conditions to skin irritation or allergic reactions.

First, let’s identify sensitive skin

So what does it actually mean to have “sensitive skin?” The term gets thrown around a lot, but there are specific symptoms that indicate whether your skin falls into this category. We’re talking about symptoms like tightness, stinging, burning, tingling, pain, and, yes, the ever-annoying itchiness. 

Feel these often? There is a chance you may have sensitive skin. 

And notably, the International Forum for the Study of Itch (IFSI) even classifies sensitive skin as a syndrome. So it’s not just a casual term but an actual condition that deserves continued research.¹

Possible reasons your skin may have become suddenly sensitive to touch 

If your skin suddenly becomes sensitive to touch, this may happen for all sorts of reasons—anything from allergies to other skin conditions could be the culprits. 

Allergic reactions

One possible reason for skin sensitivity is an allergic reaction. Allergies may be a predisposition to why your skin reacts visibly, whether it’s itchiness, redness, or sensitivity.² So if your skin suddenly becomes more sensitive, consider whether allergies could be taking center stage. 

Dermatitis and skin infections

Do you have a history of atopic dermatitis, psoriasisacne, or rosacea? If so, your skin may be more inclined to be sensitive. Conditions like these may make your skin extra sensitive to touch or even more sensitive to certain products.³ So, if you’re already dealing with one of these conditions, watch for increased sensitivity.

Sun exposure

While sunny days are great for beach visits and picnics, the sun isn’t always your skin’s best friend—especially if you’re prone to sensitivity. If you’ve got lighter skin and are sensitive to the sun, you’re more likely to experience sunburn compared to those with skin that tans well.⁴ 

But that's not all. Sun exposure, particularly to UVB radiation, can make your skin hypersensitive to touch and temperature.⁵ Even 24 hours after getting hit by UVA radiation, you might notice a significant uptick in sensitivity to things like touch and heat.⁶

So if you love soaking up the sun, be extra cautious. Your skin might just be more sensitive than you think, and no one wants to deal with the aftermath of sun exposure gone wrong.

Certain health issues

Your health, including hormone levels, may play a significant role in how sensitive your skin is. Ladies, you might have already noticed this—your skin sometimes feels on a rollercoaster, especially during that time of the month. About 42% of premenopausal women report increased skin sensitivity before and during their menstrual cycle.⁷ And don’t think menopause gives you a free pass; almost 32% of peri- and postmenopausal women also experience heightened skin sensitivity.⁸ 

Interestingly, where you feel this sensitivity can change too. Premenopausal women often report their faces being more sensitive, while peri- and postmenopausal women tend to find their feet more sensitive.⁹ 

And hey, it’s not just hormones; conditions like obesity, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases are also linked to sensitive skin.¹⁰ So, if you’ve got a health condition, it’s worth considering how it might be affecting your skin.

Helping your sensitive skin 

Fortunately, there are ways to manage your sensitive skin symptoms. The first step is identifying what’s triggering your skin’s sensitivity. Could be allergies, something in your environment, or—let’s be honest here—that makeup foundation you just can’t get enough of.¹¹

Let's talk about cosmetics for a second. They're often the primary culprits behind our skin woes. Why? Well, many of them contain irritating substances that can cause skin irritation. In addition, it is important to keep your skin’s pH at around 5.5 as this is the level that keeps your skin barrier healthy and hydrated.¹²

When the skin’s barrier is disrupted, substances can penetrate your skin more easily, sparking inflammation and releasing cytokines—those little proteins that signal your immune system to jump into action.¹³

If your sensitive skin is due to an underlying health condition, treating that condition should be your main priority. However, understanding your triggers and maintaining that golden 5.5 pH are a few ways to calmer, happier skin.

Speak to a dermatology provider 

A dermatology provider can help you identify what’s causing your skin to react. Is it allergies? Environmental factors? Or perhaps an underlying health condition? They’ve got the tools and know-how to get to the bottom of it.

But that's not all. Once they figure out what's happening, they can whip up a personalized treatment plan tailored just for you, complete with skincare recommendations. This is medical guidance we're talking about, so it's not just about managing symptoms but also about improving the overall health of your skin.

The sooner you get professional help, the better. Early intervention can prevent complications and ensure you’re giving your skin the proper care it deserves. 

Target your skin concerns with Curology

Are you struggling with your skin and figuring out where to turn? It may be time to target your skin concerns with a personalized approach. Curology offers tailored skincare solutions designed by dermatology providers to address your unique needs. Whether it’s acne, anti-aging, or rosacea, you’ll get a treatment plan that works for you. 

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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Why wait to start the journey towards skin you’ve always dreamed of? Start your personalized skincare journey* with Curology today.

FAQs

What does it mean when your skin hurts when touched?

When your skin hurts to the touch, it could indicate various underlying issues. These might range from nerve damage and inflammation to specific skin conditions like dermatitis or sunburn. It is important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan tailored to your situation.

Why does my skin hurt to touch, but nothing is there?

If your skin is sensitive to touch, but there are no visible signs like redness or rash, the cause might be nerve-related. Conditions like neuropathic pain are a possibility.¹⁴ The best course of action is to consult a medical professional. They can provide an accurate diagnosis and guide you toward the proper treatment.

What illness causes sensitivity to touch?

Sensitivity to touch can be caused by various illnesses and dermatological conditions like acne or dermatitis. If you’re experiencing this symptom, it’s important to consult with a medical professional. They can conduct evaluations to pinpoint the cause and offer an appropriate treatment plan.

How does sun exposure affect skin sensitivity?

Extended sun exposure, especially to UVB radiation, can heighten your skin's sensitivity to touch and temperature. Even post 24 hours of UVA radiation exposure, you may experience increased sensitivity to elements like touch and heat. If you enjoy the sun, it's crucial to take precautions to prevent sun-induced skin sensitivity.

How do health conditions influence skin sensitivity?

Certain health conditions, including hormone fluctuations, can intensify skin sensitivity. For instance, 42% of premenopausal women experience heightened skin sensitivity around their menstrual cycle. Other conditions like diabetes, obesity, and autoimmune diseases are also associated with sensitive skin. Recognizing the impact of these conditions can help in managing skin sensitivity better.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework, so you don’t have to:

  1. Wollenberg, A. and Giménez-Arnau, A. Sensitive skin: A relevant syndrome, be aware. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. (April 2022).

  2. Chen, L. and Zheng, J. Does sensitive skin represent a skin condition or manifestations of other disorders? J Cosmet Dermatol. (July 2021).

  3. Chen, L. and Zheng, J. Does sensitive skin represent a skin condition or manifestations of other disorders? J Cosmet Dermatol. Ibid.

  4. Kelly, D.A., et al. Sensitivity to Sunburn Is Associated with Susceptibility to Ultraviolet Radiation-Induced Suppression of Cutaneous Cell-Mediated Immunity. J Exp Med. (2000, February 7).

  5. Lopes, D.M., et al. Ultraviolet Radiation on the Skin: A Painful Experience? CNS Neurosci Ther. (2015, August 30).

  6. Lopes, D.M., et al. Ultraviolet Radiation on the Skin: A Painful Experience? CNS Neurosci Ther. Ibid.

  7. Falcone, D., et al. Sensitive skin and the influence of female hormone fluctuations: results from a cross-sectional digital survey in the Dutch population. Eur J Dermatol. (2017, February 1).

  8. Falcone, D., et al. Sensitive skin and the influence of female hormone fluctuations: results from a cross-sectional digital survey in the Dutch population. Eur J Dermatol. Ibid.

  9. Falcone, D., et al. Sensitive skin and the influence of female hormone fluctuations: results from a cross-sectional digital survey in the Dutch population. Eur J Dermatol. Ibid.

  10. Chen, L. and Zheng, J. Does sensitive skin represent a skin condition or manifestations of other disorders? J Cosmet Dermatol. (July 2021).

  11. Duarte, I., et al. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. An Bras Dermatol. (July-August 2017).

  12. Duarte, I., et al. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. An Bras Dermatol. Ibid.

  13. Duarte, I., et al. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. An Bras Dermatol. Ibid.

  14. Stucky, CL. and Mikesell,AR. Cutaneous pain in disorders affecting peripheral nerves. Neurosci Lett. (2021, November 20)

Jessica Lee is a certified Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She received her Master in Nursing from Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, CA.

*Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. Results may vary.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
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Curology Team

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Jessica Mefford, NP

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