Sensitive skin is as unique as the person who has it. What works well for me may not work well for you, and vice versa. However, there are some common ingredients that can cause problems for many people with sensitive skin. It's important to know what these ingredients are so that you can avoid them!
Fragrance is the most common allergen in cosmetics, according to a study by the American Academy of Dermatology. It's also one of the most difficult ingredients to avoid since it is often hidden under different names on product labels. Fragrance can cause allergic reactions, skin irritation and dryness, according to research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH). Some fragrances can also irritate your lungs if you inhale them or get them in your eyes.
A 2017 report from the Environmental Working Group found that 68 percent of products tested contained fragrance chemicals linked to allergies and asthma, as well as hormone disruption and cancer. These chemicals include phthalates (phthalate-free products are available) and synthetic musks including galaxolide, tonalide and musk ketone.*
Parabens are preservatives used in many cosmetics and personal care products. Parabens can be easily absorbed through the skin and may cause skin irritation. When you see "paraben" or "methyl paraben" listed as an ingredient on a product, it means that there is some of the chemical in the product, but it may not be present at a high enough level for you to notice any negative effects.
The best way to avoid parabens altogether is to choose products that are labeled "paraben free" or "paraben-free." This means they have been tested and proven to contain less than 0.01% parabens by weight in their ingredients.
BHA, BHT and Propyl Gallate (PG):
BHA, BHT and PG are some of the most common preservatives used in personal care products. They're also some of the most common irritants—and they've been linked to cancer in animals.
BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are antioxidants that keep your cosmetics fresh and shelf-stable. They can be found in a wide range of products like shampoos, moisturizers, lipsticks and mascara.
PG (propylene glycol) is another such antioxidant: it works by preventing bacteria from growing on your skin or lip gloss tubes at room temperature instead of being stored at freezing temperatures (which would kill them). It's also used as a solvent for other ingredients like fragrance oils, so if you see "fragrance" listed on an ingredient list followed by "perfume" or "parfum," there's likely PG hiding somewhere in there too!
Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives and Trolamine Salicylate (TS):
Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives are a common ingredient in personal care products such as shampoo, conditioner and body wash. These chemicals release formaldehyde into the air and onto your skin. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers it to be a probable human carcinogen that causes severe allergic reactions in some people.
Formaldehyde is used in many cosmetics as well as other household products, although it's not required by law to list on ingredient labels.
Methylisothiazolinone and Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MIT/MCI):
Methylisothiazolinone and Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MIT/MCI)
These preservatives are used in a lot of products, including baby wipes and shampoos. They’re known to be formaldehyde releasers, which can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions. They also irritate the eyes and lungs.
The good news is that these chemicals are banned in cosmetics and personal care products in Europe. However, there is no such restriction on their use in the United States. If you have sensitive skin and don’t know what to look for when choosing a moisturizer or soap, you may want to avoid these ingredients.
With the right information, you can easily avoid most harsh ingredients.
With the right information, it's easy to avoid most harsh ingredients. There are many options available and you can find products that are safe for your skin.
With the right knowledge, you will be able to find safe, effective skincare products that work for your unique skin type.
The first step is to know what you are looking for. There are many resources available online and in print that can help you find safe, effective skincare products that work for your unique skin type.
You can avoid harsh ingredients by reading the label and asking your dermatologist and keeping an open mind. If you do have sensitive skin, try to keep things simple by using gentle cleansers and moisturizers that don’t contain any added fragrance or scents. Check out our specially curated Gentle Collection.