When and how sensitive is your skin? What are the signs?

My skin changes rapidly with the season or weather. 0 1 2

My face itches when I’m around a lot of dust. 0 1 2

Dryness, dead skin cells, and other skin problems don’t improve very easily. 0 1 2

My face reddens easily, and doesn’t calm down very easily. 0 1 2

My skin doesn’t adapt very well. 0 1 2

When I’m under stress, my skin becomes dry, accumulates dead skin cells, or develops other skin problems. 0 1 2

If I eat too much greasy or other skin irritating foods, my skin becomes dry, accumulates dead skin cells, or develops other skin problems. 0 1 2

I’ve broken out after switching cosmetic products. 0 1 2

I develop acne or other skin problems when I use cosmetic products with lots of oily or sebum components. 0 1 2

My skin stings and becomes red when I use cosmetic products with alcohol. 0 1 2


I didn’t know I had sensitive skin!

Evaluate how your skin reacted to each of the factors on the left. Section 1 is regarding your sensitivity to the environment, Section 2 is regarding your natural tendency, Section 3 is regarding stress, and Section 4 is sensitivity to cosmetics. Each person differs in the cause of their skin’s sensitivity, and this simple test will help you find out what your skin is sensitive to.

The combined score from each section will serve as an index that shows how sensitive your skin is. If your score is 4 points or less, your skin is not sensitive. From 5-9 points, you are slightly sensitive. From 10-13 points, your skin is sensitive. At 14 points or higher, your skin is highly sensitive. Were you confident about your skin condition, but was surprised by an unexpectedly high score? You’re not alone. IOPE Lab asked this question to 500 women between 20-39 in Korea, and we were surprised by the results.

About 90% of survey respondents said their skin was sensitive.*

*Based on the sensitivity indicator survey results (Online Research, n=500)

The greatest vulnerability in life identified

Let’s examine the results of IOPE Lab’s survey on 500 women between 20-39 years of age in Korea. 93% of respondents said their skin was sensitive, and this meant they thought “sensitive skin” referred to having a sensitive reaction to external stimulation regardless of their skin type, such as dry skin, oily skin, normal skin, or combination skin. To these women, sensitive skin wasn’t just limited to skin problems, but also lowered their self-esteem.

“It’s like dirt on white clothes. It doesn’t just come off even if you bleach it.” (OO Kang, 26 years old, model) The struggles of 32 women with sensitive skin were recorded in an in-depth interview by IOPE Lab. All of these women constantly struggled with the embarrassment of their visible skin symptoms, the massive amount of time and effort required in selecting cosmetic products, and having to apply medicine-like products with no fragrance or color.

11% very sensitive + 40% sensitive + 42% slightly sensitive

93% sensitive.

*Based on the sensitivity indicator survey results (Online Research, n=500)

“People with healthy skin don’t get pimples regardless of what products they use or from the wind blowing in their faces. My skin is like glass. It feels like it’ll break when someone touches it.” OO Kim (32 years old, college student)

“It’s a lifelong task. Since my skin is so sensitive, I can’t just use any product I want and I always think twice before buying a product. I know that I’ll just have to live like this forever.” OO Kwon (24 years old, student)

Why does skin become sensitive in the first place?

Regarding the 4 causes of sensitive skin - habits, genetic factors, environmental factors, and cosmetic products - consumers responded as follows:


49% Stress, 37% Lack of sleep

Genetic Factors

10% Lack of skin’s adaptability, 18% Thin skin


39% Change in season and weather, 33% Cold wind

Cosmetic Products

37% Change in cosmetic products, 25% Oily ingredients, oiliness

*Based on the sensitivity indicator survey results (online research, n=500) and an in-depth interview on 4 groups of women in their 20s-30s with sensitive skin.

The Solution to Sensitive Skin

If your skin is sensitive, even buying a toner is done carefully. That’s because you have to meticulously consider whether the product contains any harmful ingredients, if it provides enough moisture throughout the day, if it causes acne, or if it can quickly soothe your sensitive skin. Finding a product that can calm your skin, which always feels like a volcano that’s about erupt, is a delicate task.

What do you consider when buying cosmetics?

Reliability of Internet Searchs ★★★☆☆

When you enter a search term, the results include basic information of the product, but they’re also full of reviews from people who have actually tried out the product. This information becomes the main standard when selecting a cosmetic product. However, forums or communities that share similar concerns may be highly reliable, but since there are a considerable number of blogs that are advertisements or commercial reviews, you must read them with care.

Reliability of Beauty Applications ★★★★★

“Hwahae” is a beauty application that allows users to see whether or not a product contains ingredients that may irritate skin such as dimethicone, parabens, or alcohol. It serves as a pillar of information that is trusted by people with sensitive skin. In addition, you can search through reviews written by people with similar skin types, and Hwahae offers suggestions on products that match your skin condition or age.

Reliability of YouTube ★★★☆☆

Videos made by beauty YouTubers, such as Hanbyul, Director Pi, MinGarden, Calary Girl, or Cosmetics Reader, who review products and intuitively show their effects, are guides for people with sensitive skin. Because they provide practical beauty tips and consult people about their skin problems, the list of subscribers grow daily.

Reliability of Recommendations from Beauty Professionals ★★★☆☆

We sometimes ask for the opinions of doctors, pharmacists, beauty brand employees, or friends, who may understand sensitive skin better than we do. This is because we can get a detailed explanation on the current condition of our skin and the products first-hand.

*Based on an in-depth interview with 4 groups of women in their 20s-30s with sensitive skin

“When I find out about a new product, I open a beauty app. If it has 10 bad ingredients, I pass on it. If it has about 3 of them, I check if they are ones that have irrtated my skin before, then decide on whether or not to purchase it.”

OO Min (27 years old, college student)

What type of skin is sensitive skin?


The majority of people with sensitive skin who responded to IOPE Lab’s survey focused on symptoms such as dryness and the itchiness following dryness. Many of them also responded that they often experience serious acne because of cosmetics. To resolve these issues, they focused on the type of cosmetics, its ingredients, and effects in order to eliminate the symptoms that arise.

“It gets worse during the winter. My skin is thin, so when the air is cold outside but hot inside because of the heater, my skin gets even drier.” OO Kim (21 years old, student)

“My acne gets worse when I travel overseas or when I visit my hometown. It settles down after about a month, but when I return back to Seoul after my vacation, I have to go through that all over again.” OO Hong (26 years old, student)

With sensitive skin comes a preference for minimalism

“I started simplifying my skincare routine. I heard it’s bad to do too many things on sensitive skin. On days when I have more acne, I just apply cream maybe once a week before I go to bed.” (OO Chung, 24 years old, student) The aesthetics of minimalism also apply to sensitive skin. This is because the most common response was that when you have sensitive skin, you tend to single out the products you absolutely need, and minimize your skincare routine. This shows that many people have experienced that adding more products seems to traumatize your skin.

I only use the necessary products among the products I use every day. 45.4%

I add a problem solving product to the products I use daily. 23.1%

I purchase new products that are mild and highly stable. 18.5%

I don’t apply anything when my skin is stable. 9.2%

I use cosmetics that were prescribed or recommended by the hospital. 3.8%

*Based on a survey for a sensitive skin study on women in their 20s in Korea (online research, n=938)


However, beauty influencers seem to think differently. The skin’s lack of adaptability may be at fault, but beauty influencers believed an incorrect beauty routine is the main cause of our skin’s sensitivity. It’s not the products, but our incorrect beauty habits that often break down our skin’s barrier! That’s why these influencers say it is more important to find the fundamental cause and solution rather than focusing on the symptoms.

“According to doctors or in the academic world, sensitive skin is defined as skin that reacts easily to external stimulation due to a decrease in the functions of the skin’s barrier.” IOPE Lab Researcher Eun-Bi Ko

“Sensitive skin is a state where our skin is unhealthy and its barrier has grown weak. And incorrect habits are just the cherry on top for weak skin.” Beauty Director Hyeon-Jeong Pi

As stress persists, our mind and body suffers in terms of health. The same goes for your skin. It becomes weaker and weaker.” YouTube Creator Hanbyul


“We must develop a discerning eye that can find the real in the deluge of fakes.” Beauty Director Hyeon-Jeong Pi

Back when there weren’t specific categories for beauty products as there are now, we chose and used products based on simple standards. As long as your skin wasn’t innately bad or weak, almost nobody considered themselves as having sensitive skin. However, because there is so much more information and different types of cosmetic products today, I wonder if that has actually weakened our skin. You might even say we end up misusing products in order to differentiate those that are good or bad for our skin. If we want to protect our skin by finding truly good products in this generation of fakes, we have find the right focus for ourselves.

What products are absolutely necessary for sensitive skin?






Strained skin





Season Transition







Makeup Base CC Cream









BB Cream

Cica Cream

“You have to give up on products with fragrance or textures because you want to avoid any potential problems. Since there aren’t very many additives, the products tend to be highly viscous and thick, and they sometime smell like plastic, and that makes me sad.” OO Seo (30 years old, housewife)

Cica Cream

The most popular trending item that cares for damaged skin that has grown rough from dryness. Cica cream is the most popular item of today, known to treat sensitive skin conditions when skin is damaged from dryness or when skin is irritated. It restores your skin back to a state of health.


It guards your skin that has lost its balance. If your skin is sensitive, this serves as proof that the balance in your skin has been broken. Even if you skip on serums or ampoules, you must wear a cream that supplies enough moisture to your skin. The key is how long hydration lasts, and how long the refreshing texture lasts without feeling sticky.


The debris that remains on your skin after cleansing your skin can become a cause of sensitivity, so it’s important to use a powerful cleanser. Products that can keep my skin moist and healthy without feeling strained even after deep cleansing is #1 on my shopping list.


Since this is the first step of toning irritated skin during the 3-minute golden time after cleansing, using a toner that can quickly rehydrate the skin is very important. Make sure to avoid products that contain alcohol at all costs!


Nothing is better than a mask when it comes to a quick way to soothe your skin when it is intensely dry or stinging and in dire need of special care. But since masks make direct contact with your skin for at least 15 minutes, it’s important to select a gentle formula immersed in a sheet made of 100% natural material.

BB Cream

No more redness! While you cannot give up on naturally derived ingredients that let your skin breathe instead of suffocating it, I prefer base products that can provide natural coverage over the redness in my face. It’s even better if it has physical UV ray protection that reflects UV rays instead of absorbing them.

“The most important standard when selecting cosmetic products is their ingredients. Since I tend to react more strongly to alcohol, I automatically stay away from anything that contains alcohol.”

OO Min (27 years old, college student)