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Irritated Skin on Face: What Should I Do?

Irritated Skin on Face: What Should I Do?

Having irritated skin on your face can impact your physical comfort level and cause you to feel self-conscious about your appearance. 

We're sharing our tips for how to help soothe symptoms and keep your skin looking and feeling its best — even when irritated and uncomfortable. 

What are the signs and symptoms of skin irritation?

No two cases of skin irritation are the same. However, familiarizing yourself with the common signs and symptoms may help you better understand the actual cause of irritation.

Here’s a list of some of the most common signs and symptoms of skin irritation to look out for:

  • Blistering
  • Bumps on the skin
  • Redness
  • Flaking
  • General skin discomfort
  • Itchiness
  • Dry skin
  • More sensitive skin
  • Peeling
  • Scaly patches
  • Skin cracking
  • Skin tightness
  • Oily skin

What causes skin irritation?

There is no single cause of skin irritation. However, just like there are a few common signs and symptoms of skin irritation, there are a few common causes, too. 


Allergens are everywhere, from the air you breathe to the laundry detergents you wash your clothes in. You can even suddenly develop an allergy to a product or substance you’ve been using without problems for a significant amount of time. 

Allergies to components you come into external contact with (contact dermatitis) can appear as simple and benign as slightly irritated skin. However, if left untreated, these minor allergic reactions can become much more significant, leading to itching, hives and potentially severe damage to your skin barrier.

A damaged skin barrier

The skin barrier isn’t something most people pay much attention to. However, when it isn’t functioning properly, the results can be visible all over your face.

The skin barrier (your stratum corneum) is the outermost layer of your epidermis. It has two essential responsibilities: protecting the skin from external factors and retaining moisture within the skin. 

When damaged, the skin barrier is far less effective at protecting the skin and keeping it hydrated. This lack of protection leaves your skin far more vulnerable and susceptible to irritation.

Colder weather

When cold weather hits, a variety of things change in our lives — our skin included. When the temperatures dip far enough, inevitably, we’ll have to turn on our indoor heating. As helpful as that is for our comfort levels, it can cause your skin to dry out. 

Going outside unprotected can also be a risk, depending on where you live. Your skin can react negatively to cold, dry wind, especially when exposed to it for extended periods.

Skin conditions

One final possibility for what may be causing skin irritation is a skin condition. While these conditions must be diagnosed and managed by a skin care provider and can show up in different ways, they’re important to consider if you’re noticing recurrent skin irritation. 

Eczema, psoriasis, rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis are all frequent offenders. Other health conditions — like chickenpox and shingles — can also present with scaly areas on the skin. 

The vast majority of skin conditions don’t involve the entire face at the same time, as most show up as patches on the skin. 

Are there any potential long-term complications of skin irritation?

Everyone experiences skin irritation occasionally, whether it’s from brushing up against poison ivy or eating spicy foods, and it’s often not much more than a minor inconvenience that’s easily resolved with over-the-counter hydrocortisone or aloe vera. However, when left unaddressed and untreated, skin irritation can negatively impact your skin in the long term. 

Physically, if your skin irritation shows up as blisters, bumps or itching, you may have a difficult time not scratching at it. While that may provide temporary relief, chronically picking or itching the skin can cause permanent scarring that can be difficult to reverse. 

But the impact of long-term skin irritation doesn’t stop at the physical level. When your appearance is negatively affected, it can also impact your confidence. 

What can you do about irritated skin on the face?

If your skin is irritated, it may be tempting to start throwing everything at it and see what sticks. However, it's more effective to start slowly so you can target the cause of the irritation and find the right solutions. 

If you experience any new or different skin irritation, our advanced practice providers are here for you. Our team of NPs and PAs takes the time to understand your unique skin needs and provide custom product and treatment recommendations. 

Take a close look at your skin care routine

Although a supportive skin care routine is crucial for optimal skin health and wellness, certain ingredients may be a potential cause of skin irritation. It all comes down to choosing the best products to give your specific skin type exactly what it needs to thrive — especially regarding your skin barrier.

When skin irritation on your face appears, closely examine every skin care product (cleanser, toner, moisturizer and sunscreen). As you do that, it’s also vital to go back to basics with your skin care routine.

Consider switching to our Gentle Soothing Cleanser for your daily face-washing needs. It's designed to be gentle on irritated skin and effectively remove impurities. You can use it to safely clean your face twice daily and skip any potentially abrasive exfoliants (like alpha-hydroxy acids and retinol) and products with artificial fragrances and dyes. 

Finish your skin care routine using a simple but supportive moisturizer. A hydrating moisturizer with lipids and ceramides supports moisture retention and keeps the bonds between your skin cells strong. 

Dehydrated skin is far more prone to skin irritation, sunburns and environmental factors. Even when scaling back your routine, use sunscreen to reduce your UV radiation and exposure. Sun protection is essential even in the winter and is one of the easiest ways to protect your skin from premature signs of aging.

Once your skin has healed and returned to normal, you can slowly add your previous skin care products to your routine. We recommend doing this one product at a time, so you can more quickly and accurately determine whether they may be causing your skin irritation. 

Take a break from your makeup routine

While it may be tempting to cover up skin irritation with foundation, your skin will benefit from a break.

Even non-comedogenic makeup products can play a role in not allowing the skin to breathe like it needs to. Your focus should be on supporting the skin as it heals and not hiding the evidence. 

It may feel unusual or uncomfortable to use only moisturizer and a little mascara for a few days, but your skin will ultimately thank you by revealing its healthiest, most beautiful version yet. 

Invest in a humidifier

If your skin gets more irritated in the winter, especially after your indoor heat comes on for the season, it may be beneficial to invest in a humidifier. The skin needs a relatively high amount of humidity to experience optimal health and wellness, and indoor heating systems naturally pull that moisture out of the air.

Over time, the lack of moisture in the air can take its toll on your skin and leave it more vulnerable to dryness and skin irritation. Humidifiers help to add moisture back into the air and, in turn, benefit your skin.

Peer review

This article was medically reviewed by Chelsie Rogers, PA-C, a board-certified physician assistant with 6 years of experience in cosmetic dermatology.

In summary...

If you have irritated skin on your face, it’s crucial that you take it seriously. The next time you notice tight, dry or itchy skin, take a step back to determine what may be triggering it. 

We'd love to help you find the right routine to support your skin's unique needs. Book a consultation with one of our advanced practice providers to get started! 


Skin Irritation - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics

Mechanisms and new approaches for risk assessment. 1. Skin irritation | PubMed

Microbiota and maintenance of skin barrier function | Science

Bioactive Compounds for Skin Health: A Review | PMC


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