7 Ingredients People with Sensitive Skin Must Avoid

Natasha Burton

sensitive skin

For people with sensitive skin, finding beauty products is often a huge challenge — and can require a lot of trial and error. Discovering a product that won’t make your skin go crazy feels a lot like finding the holy grail.

To take some of the guesswork out of choosing the right products for temperamental skin, we chatted with dermatologist Dr. Vermén Verallo-Rowell about the seven ingredients you need to look for on beauty labels. Follow these tips and never have buyer’s remorse again (well, with beauty products, anyway).

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1. Scents: Added fragrances can often mean potential allergens or irritants to the skin, particularly sensitive skin, and especially fragrance-sensitive skin. Fewer ingredients associated with scent or perfume are best, or look for products with natural fragrance instead.

2. Preservatives: These too are potential allergens or irritants to the skin. One chemical in particular to avoid is methylisothiazolinone, which actually has an allergic reaction rate of 10 percent, versus the typical 1-2 percent. 

3. Colorant: These are another source for potential allergens or irritants to the skin. Dyes actually rank among the top allergens — look for products with no added coloring.

4. Phthalates: A study done in New York strongly suggested the association of neural and psychological problems (scary) with this material, which is commonly used to make the containers of beauty products and sometimes found in the products themselves. Phthalates have also been known to cause hay fever, rhinitis, allergy, wheezing and asthma, as well as irritate the skin.

MORE: 10 Questions You Should Be Asking Your Dermatologists

5. Comedogens: Comedogenic ingredients — found in makeup, sunscreens and other skin products — may produce comedones (blackheads) or acne in adults who use them. Among these are: Acetylated Lanolin Alcohol, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, and Potassium Chloride.

6. Amioda-Amine Surfactants: Some of the newer washing ingredients don’t contain known irritant sodium lauryl sulfate but many have surfactants instead, which are allergens. Examples of these include: Cocamidopropylbetaine, Dimethylaminopropylamine, Oleamidopropyldimethylamine, and Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine.

7. Lots of words you can’t pronounce: As a general rule, less is always more when it comes to beauty products. Look for products with shorter formulations of ingredients— the shorter the list, the more likely it is that it won’t make your skin freak out.

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