We are currently facing the coldest months of the year, which means things are feeling especially dry lately. Constant exposure to dry air—be it from the whipping winds outside or the blasting heat of your radiator—draws moisture away from your skin, making it more likely for your skin barrier to get compromised.
As you might recall, your skin barrier is made up of the outermost layer of skin cells (aka the stratum corneum), plus various lipids that hold those cells together. You can think of the skin barrier as a brick wall: The cells are the bricks, and the lipids are the mortar. Together they act as a protective barrier, so when your skin barrier is damaged, other irritants can get in. This can lead to a host of issues from redness and stinging to itching and flaking.
One ingredient that's known for being especially irritating is fragrance.
Whether they’re manmade or all natural (via essential oils and/or plant extracts), fragrance can trigger a reaction for those with sensitive skin or compromised skin barriers, so if you’re feeling more inflamed that usual, you might want to switch over to fragrance-free products (and scale back on any overly abrasive or oil-stripping products while you’re at it).