Sensitive Skin – Avoid These Ingredients

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Sensitive skin is a vicious cycle. Constantly plagued by skin problems such as redness, dryness, itchiness, enlarged pores and acne you run to the nearest beauty counter or drug store to fill your cart with healthy skin secrets, every jar and bottle promising to put an end to your sensitive skin woes.

sensitive skin

But, it’s an exercise in trial and error because all those lotions and potions just might make your sensitive skin even worse. Before you conduct another science experiment healthy skin secrets on your skin, check out these ingredients to skip in your lotions and moisturizers.


Is there anything nicer than opening a new bottle of lotion and being greeted by a light, fresh scent? When it comes to hunting for beauty products, most shoppers use their nose as much as their eyes. Most of those lovely healthy skin secrets, perfume-like scents come courtesy of harsh chemicals which can further irritate sensitive skin.

The good news is fragrances don’t add anything beneficial to skin care products so you won’t be missing out by skipping the scent. Don’t rely on your nose to tell you which products are truly fragrance-free; be sure to scan the label for ingredients such as phthalates, which are used to stabilize synthetic scents. However, if you just can’t resist a sweet-smelling product, opt for one using real plant extracts or essential oils, they tend to be gentler.


One of the most common beauty product ingredients can also be the most damaging to sensitive skin. Alcohol, which is often found in toners and creams, allow products to dry quickly on the skin, which makes them convenient to use. Alcohol also allows beneficial ingredients, such as vitamin C to absorb into the skin because it cuts through the skins natural oils.

While that sounds helpful, without it’s natural oils skin dries out and is prone to irritation. This is another case where it pays to read the label carefully because alcohol may hide behind many names including ethyl alcohol and isopropyl.


When skin is itchy, dry, red and in desperate need of a moisturizer, oil sounds like the key to success. However, many petroleum and mineral oil-based ingredients can clog pores, cause acne flare ups and lead to allergic reactions. Paraffin, propylene glycol, and butylene glycol are among the worst offenders. Sometimes you get what you pay for and this may be one of them. Because petroleum-based oils are cheap, many value-priced products rely on them for hydration. To keep sensitive skin hydrated and comfortable, look for oil-free products or lotions and moisturizers that contain natural plant oils.


When it’s time to scrub up, nothing feels as clean as a foamy lather. However, most foaming face washes, soaps, shampoos and bubble baths contain large amounts of sulfate. This key ingredient is responsible for creating suds but also removes skin’s natural, protective oils. Once these oils are gone the skin goes into overtime producing more, often resulting in overly oily skin. In addition, many people are allergic to sulfate. The good news is, many products are now available in sulfate-free versions. Otherwise, stick to a cream-based, non-foaming cleanser.


Exfoliation is one of the healthy skin secrets to healthy skin; however, overdoing it can mean further irritating sensitive skin. Glycolic acid is one of the most popular exfoliation ingredients and may be helpful for excessively oily skin but sensitive skin calls for something gentler. Scrubs touting ground nut and fruit pits, such as apricot, are also hits in the beauty aisle but are too much for sensitive skin. Instead, slough away dead skin cells a few times a week using a cream cleanser and a soft washcloth.

Take care of your sensitive skin by adhering to these considerations. Organic and vegan products are becoming increasingly popular and affordable and truly are the best skin care products for all skin types.

Dr. Cheryl Lee Eberting is a board certified dermatologist who has dedicated her career to research and treatment of skin ailments. She blogs regularly at