Odylique: Allergy, Intolerance, or Irritation? What's Making Your Skin So Sensitive?

Dealing with sensitive skin? We know it's a tricky topic, so we asked the sensitive skin experts over at Odylique Organic Skincare to explain the three causes of sensitivity: allergies, intolerance, or irritation.

They also share their advice on the best way to care for your sensitive skin and how natural skincare can help ease your symptoms.

What is sensitive skin?

Lots of us believe we may have sensitive skin, but very few of us understand why.

Part of the journey to building Odylique came from founder Margaret's determination to help with her daughter's eczema-prone skin so we’ve done a lot of work understanding the different triggers behind skin sensitivity.

Sensitive skin is defined as skin that is reactive to a variety of challenges. Symptoms might include:

  • Redness
  • Dryness
  • Tight skin
  • Peeling
  • Soreness
  • Areas of spots
  • Scaling

In general, there are three key causes that lead to sensitive skin:


This is a severe reaction to either an environmental aggressor or something you’ve eaten or put on the skin.

This can be life threatening, may emerge at any time and can appear on the skin as sore patches, redness, flushing or sores. It happens when the immune system reacts to a stimulus as though it’s a threat.

Hair dye can cause allergies, as can fragrance.


This means that your skin may be reactive to certain ingredients. If you have a skin condition like Eczema or Rosacea, you may find you’re sensitive to many more ingredients, as your skin is fragile, and the balance is harder to sustain.

Anyone with a reactive skin condition is likely to experience intolerance to one or many ingredients in skincare.

Intolerances differ to allergies in that your immune system isn’t activated but it will cause discomfort in your body and on your skin. For example, having rosacea doesn’t mean you’re allergic to skincare, but your skin will be very intolerant of ingredients like fragrances.


Skin irritation can be caused in a number of ways; through contact dermatitis, so for example getting a rash from your watch or washing powder.

You may find a certain type of fragrance irritates your skin, or fabrics can cause it to become sensitive.

If you’re exposed regularly to weather like lots of sun, rain or wind, you can develop sensitive skin.

Often ingredients in mainstream makeup and skincare ranges can cause irritation with long term use – we’ll explore those later in this piece.

Understanding how these challenges work together in your body is an important part of the puzzle.

For example, you may have a lactose intolerance, leading to eczema-like symptoms. You may then find that acid-based exfoliants are too harsh for your skin, leading to a worsening of your condition.

If your skin wasn’t already affected by the eczema from the intolerance, the acids would be fine. But the triggers often work together, so it can be tricky to get to the root cause.

Why Odylique believe organic and natural skincare is best for sensitive skin

Certified organic skincare (like that assessed by the Soil Association) cannot contain certain ingredients known to cause and worsen skin sensitivity. This includes:

  • Phthalates

A synthetic ingredient added to make plastics more flexible. Can be found in shower gels, moisturisers and conditioners.

In 2021, Russ Hauser, Frederick Lee Hisaw Professor of Reproductive Physiology and professor of environmental and occupational epidemiology at Harvard published a study demonstrating the impact of maternal exposure to phthalates on neurobiology.

Studies also found they have an androgenic impact on testosterone.

  • SleS

SleS – or sodium laureth sulphate – is a foaming agent used in detergents like shampoo, face wash and shower gels. It can cause skin irritation, disrupt the skin's biome and lead to irritation and soreness. It’s especially important to avoid it if you have eczema, rosacea or any skin condition.

  • Parabens

Parabens are chemical preservatives used to extend the life of your skincare products. The concern with these, as outlined by PhD senior scientist, Tash Stoiber, is that they are known endocrine disruptors, causing hormone issues and interrupting fertility.

  • GMO Ingredients

Genetically modified organisms (GMO) ingredients are ingredients created in a lab by scientists. You may find them in moisturisers and anti-ageing skincare. They are believed to create irritation and may lead to acne and skin challenges.

Whilst the FDA have marked them as safe, organic associations and GreenPeace have spoken out to say that there isn’t enough evidence to support this.

  • Synthetic colours, dyes, or fragrances

In a study published online in 2016, scientists found that synthetic fragrances lead not only to migraines and breathing issues, but also skin irritation, inflammation and allergies.

Alongside the risks posed by commercial skincare ingredients, the benefits of certified organic ingredients are significant:

Research carried out by Amodio M and Kader A (2007), University of California and Fauriel J, Bellon S, Pienet D, and Amiot MJ (2007), shows that organically grown fruit has significantly higher levels of polyphenols – the powerful antioxidants that help protect the skin against free radical damage – than non-organic.

Odylique's skincare is made without harsh chemical preservatives. Odylique use natural techniques instead, which don’t disrupt the skin’s natural protective biome and help to support balance.

We use less allergens, so our skincare is naturally less likely to cause reactivity. For example, we don’t use artificial fragrance.

Our ingredients are grown without herbicides, pesticides, and GMOs - so you get a higher concentration of benefits, without any earth damage.

How to use your skincare to help your sensitive skin

1. Avoid over-exfoliating sensitive skin

Exfoliants might be manual, like face scrubs, or chemical, like glycolic acid. If your skin is sensitive, you need to be careful – you can over-exfoiliate your skin, and there might be a better, more gentle approach you can try. If you want to encourage cell turnover, try instead using a very gentle cleanser such as Odylique Purifying Lemon & Tea Tree Wash 200ml that won’t strip the skin’s natural oils, with an organic cotton flannel to remove old skin cells.

2. Embrace emollients for dry skin conditions

Emollients are super-rich moisturisers that also work as barrier creams. Odylique Ultra Rich Balm 175g is a great option as it’s fragrance-free. You want a balm rich enough to protect your skin from irritation and keep the dry skin and tight feeling at bay, without feeling heavy on your skin.

3. Look for pH-balanced ingredients in sensitive skincare

If you prefer foaming or soap-based ingredients (honey and oat soap link), make sure they’re PH balanced to 5.5, rich in oils to keep the skin from drying and gentle ingredients that aren’t too astringent or acid on the skin. Try Odylique Honey & Oatmeal Cleansing Bar 100g which is pH-balanced and contains antibacterial, soothing ingredients.

4. Go fragrance-free for sensitive skin

All our fragrances are natural, but many of our Odylique products have no fragrance at all, other than fragrances that are naturally present in the ingredients, as sensitive skins just doesn't take well to them. Deodorants such as Odylique Citrus Natural Deodorant 70ml, certain soothing balms and many others have no additional scent.

5. Spritz to cool irritated skin

Instead of harsh astringent toners, if you need a second cleanse stage, want to fix your makeup or cool and hydrate your skin throughout the day, look for a tonic with rose otto essential oil - like Odylique's Calming Rose Super Tonic 50ml.

Packed with antioxidant polyphenols and phytonutrients, it's highly effective at uplifting your senses, stimulating cell regeneration and calming redness of the most sensitive skin.

Finally, on days when your skin is really sore, it's often best to leave it alone - other than distilled water (tap has minerals that can annoy your skin) and a gentle moisturiser to prevent cracking like Odylique Ultra Rich Balm 175g.

Shop Odylique's award-winning skincare at medino, perfect for sensitive skin, mature skin, dry skin conditions and more. Natural, effective and organic, Odylique's products are as good for you as they are for the environment.