Skin Care

Ingredients That Irritate Sensitive Skin

Woman scratching

One of the most common questions that skincare experts are faced with is how to properly care for sensitive skin. Those with sensitive skin will surely tell you that taking proper care can be quite the struggle; new products are always triggering flare-ups, and you may even begin to mistrust the products that are labeled for sensitive skin. By this point, you probably feel like a scientist of sorts while you read through the list of ingredients on the package label and guess which ingredients will and won’t cause a flare-up. To take the weight off your shoulders we’ve consulted with a board-certified dermatologist who filled us in on the ingredients that may be worth avoiding due to their track record to irritate sensitive skin—lucky for you, we’ve put all these ingredients into an easy to follow guide so you know exactly which ingredients to avoid!

There’s a reason that so many products are available sans fragrance: because it’s known to disturb the natural function of the skin! Keep this in mind the next time you’re tempted to purchase the on-trend hand lotion that is noticeable from across the room. The reason scented products wreak havoc on the skin is because the formulations of the fragrance promote inflammation while weakening the central skin layers. One thing to keep in mind is it that synthetic fragrance is more likely to cause an upset than that of a natural aroma.

Surprised about this one? We were! Believe it or not, this ultra-common ingredient is the most likely to cause flare-ups among many sensitive skinned folks. Alcohol can be found in anything from toners, creams, and makeup products, to any type of product with a “quick dry” element. Although these fast-drying products can save you time when getting ready, the alcohol tends to discount the skin’s moisture and pH levels, which will leave your skin feeling tight, dry, itchy, and simply uncomfortable.


Here we’re talking about products such as long lasting makeup, artificial tanner, and hair color. A dye that is common among products like those listed is paraphenylenediamine (often listed as PPD). When PPD causes a reaction, you’ll notice a red rash and/or burning sensation of the skin. If this sounds familiar, do a quick scan of the ingredients in the products you commonly used. If you notice that PPD is included in the list, swap it for a new product. Also, you may find comfort by switching to products made with fewer ingredients; PPD is almost always left out of “natural” or “organic” formulas, which makes them a safe bet.

The two very common ingredients that you should avoid are ammonium lauryl sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate. The problem is that these ingredients are in everything from our hair care to face wash and even toothpaste; it is the sulfate in these products that gives them the foamy lather we love so much. However, when you consider that this lather is extremely harsh, stripping oils, drying the skin, and even contributing to rashes and acne breakouts, it may not be worth the bubbles.  You’ve probably noticed the demand for sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner for a few years now. The good news is that there are now many sulfate-free skin and body products making their way to the market that may be exactly what you’ve been looking for.

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