Asiam woman touching her arm

Skin care for sensitive skin is free of most allergens commonly found in beauty and personal care products. These ingredients, while widely used, can trigger irritation and allergic reactions in some people. A trigger for one may be perfectly harmless to another, and the gravity of their effects can vary from person to person. Here are some ingredients to watch out for if you have sensitive skin.

Common Triggers in Products

Some products — soaps, cleansers, serums, toners, moisturizers, etc. — can cause allergic reactions in some people. These allergies can develop at any time, even in adulthood, so vigilance and product knowledge help when avoiding triggers. Knowing which ingredients usually cause these reactions can equip you to make safer choices, especially if you have .

  1. Fragrance – As it turns out, fragrance-free and unscented are not the same. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, fragrance-free means the product does not include perfume or any scents. On the other hand, unscented means the product contains chemicals that mask the aroma of other ingredients.
  2. Parabens – Parabens are preservatives used in most cosmetics and personal care products to protect them against microorganisms. According to E.U. and U.S. regulations, they are generally safe to use, but many people can find them irritating on the skin.
  3. Essential Oils – Essential oils can irritate the skin. Some are more concerning than others. Citrus oils, for example, are phototoxic and can burn if exposed to UV light. If you have sensitive and broken skin (yes, including acne), avoid products with essential oils, even if they are diluted in a carrier oil or lotion.
  4. Alcohol – Various forms of alcohol are used in skincare products to achieve a particular consistency or as a preservative. Most people can tolerate it without a problem. However, people with sensitive skin may experience , breakouts, or even itching. It should not be the main ingredient and should appear lower on the list.
  5. Natural Rubber (Latex) - Many cosmetic products such as body paints, theatrical makeup, and eyelash glues have natural rubbers, such as latex. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it should be listed as is on the ingredients list. If you are among the 4.3% of people globally with a latex allergy (Journal of Asthma and Allergy, 2020), start looking for alternatives.
  6. Metals -According to the American Journal of Biomedical Science and Research (2019), cosmetic product use exposes people to metals that accumulate in the body over time. Lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, nickel, cobalt, antimony, and chromium are especially toxic and banned from being used in beauty products. 
  7. Dyes or Color Additives – Dyes can trigger contact dermatitis, which is why box dyes encourage users to perform a before applying it to the hair. You can also find these colorings in certain products in the form of p-phenylenediamine and coal-tar. 

Allergic Reactions and What to Do

The U.S. FDA notes that it’s not enough to just look for “hypoallergenic” on the packaging. If you know you’re prone to irritation and allergies, always check the ingredients list for your no-no's and other possible triggers. Immediately go for , such as Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash and Baby Dove Sensitive Moisture Lotion, which are mild enough for use on baby skin. But remain vigilant with skin care for sensitive skin and always read the labels regardless.

At the end of the day, skin care for sensitive skin only covers products that you are not allergic to. Personal care is, after all, personal.