Is It Sensitive Skin or Something Else? – A Visual Guide to Facial Skin Irritation

Rashes suck, don’t they? You know what? Rashes and anything that blemishes your skin sucks pretty hard. However, what it does to your face is pretty bad, but adding on to that is the frustration that you don’t know what is going on and you need to shell out the cash for a dermatologist to tell you. While if you are having other symptoms like trouble breathing, excessive sweating, or pain, you need to see a doctor, but if you aren’t having symptoms other than skin irritation, why not try to identify it yourself before spending money?

If you are here, likely you think the cause might be that your skin is sensitive to makeup, but there are so many other things that can cause redness and other blemishes. So let’s go through your options.

Acne and Acne Excoriee


If you have fought the battle with acne, you are likely familiar with what it looks like. However, if you are still having red splotches like an acne outbreak, but with no actual acne bumps, this is called acne excoriee. It’s not dangerous, just frustrating.

Actinic Cheilitis


The term Cheilitis is a sweeping term used to cover any lip inflammation. Most commonly, it is used as the medical term for good, old-fashioned chapped lips. However, Actinic Cheilitis is actually the medical term used to describe a scaly rash that appears from too much sun exposure. It is commonly called farmer’s or sailor’s lip because it happens most commonly to those two professions.

Cold Sores


Ah, yes. While this form of oral herpes is still pretty embarrassing, if people were honest, you would find that most people have had a cold sore in their life, likely getting it from their parents as a child. You will note cold sores by the eventual yellow or red crust that they form. Don’t pick at them, and since it is extremely contagious, don’t share kisses or drinks. Luckily, in this case, there is a lot of great products out there that can clear them up quickly before they get too crazy.



This condition is started with dry skin. It starts with intense itching, gets worse when you scratch it, and can eventually get infected. If you have allergies, you also run an increased risk of eczema breakout, but the exact cause is still unknown. Everything from chemicals in your makeup to the heat can trigger it.



This is more common in other areas of the body, but folliculitis is caused by a hair follicle, likely one that has been shaved or plucked, growing in wrong and getting lodged in the skin. It then gets infected. This can become confused with a pimple since it can get filled with pus. However, if you don’t remove the hair from whence it has grown, it will just keep coming back and getting worse.



Skin darkening is often a worry when using cosmetics as well as skin lighteners. However, skin darkening, or melasma, is often very common during pregnancy. Typically, it is a response to the increased estrogen in your body. This also means it can happen if you use birth control as well.



Occasionally called “adult acne,” rosacea is common among people ages 30 to 60. What causes this chronic inflammation is unknown, but it features intense blushing, acne-like bumps, enlarged pores, and skin thickening (though usually only in men). For those who experience this around the eyes, it may also come with a burning or gritty feeling.

Seborrheic Dermatitis


Seborrhea looks not completely unlike an acne breakout, but as it goes on, it starts to differentiate. Often if you use acne treatments they won’t help either. In its beginning stages, Seborrhea looks like redness with bumps, but the separating factor is that it begins to flake. Typically, it manifests on the scalp and is easily confused with dandruff. However, oil-rich areas are also often affected. If your redness is flaking, scaly, as well as red and itchy, this could be a cause.

Contact Dermatitis (From Exposure to Cosmetics/Allergens)


If you believe you have sensitive skin that is irritated by cosmetics either from chemicals, ingredients or just because of allergies, then contact dermatitis is what you are looking for. This is usually used for allergies, but it is also a sweeping term used to describe any skin irritation that occurs because something came in contact with your skin. If it is just sensitivity, you will get some redness, burning, and probably a bit of itching until it is thoroughly cleared off your skin. If it is an allergy, you will get all the above and several other potential symptoms like hives and swelling. The irritation may even persist for a while after the cosmetic has been cleared away, but antihistamines can help speed that up.