Ingredients to Use and Avoid if You Have Sensitive Skin

While some people are blessed with normal skin that works well with most beauty products, others have oily, dry, combination or sensitive skin. Not having normal skin doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a healthy, beautiful complexion; you just have to be more careful when choosing products. If you haven’t determined which skin type you belong to, this article by our Beauty Editor will help.

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As a long-term sufferer of sensitive skin, I’ve learned the following rules the hard way:

1. Don’t take anything that says “for sensitive skin,” “cosmeceutical” or “hypoallergenic” at face value. There’s no governance in using these terms. “Dermatologically tested” only means it has been tested on human skin and the test subjects may have a different skin type than yours.
2. A product that’s natural or organic isn’t necessarily hypoallergenic. For instance, some essential oils are organic but comedogenic, meaning they can clog pores and cause breakouts.
3. Look into the ingredient list. That’s why this article is here!
4. Less is more. The fewer the ingredients, the lesser the chance of having irritants.
5. Patch test on the neck. Always test the product on an area near your face for a few days before incorporating it into your regimen.

Here are some common ingredients you should avoid if you have sensitive skin:

Ingredients to Avoid

Products from PURITO are free from PEG, ethanol, parabens, mineral oil,
artificial dyes and fragrance and phthalein.

Alcohol removes excess sebum and dirt from clogged pores, but too much can dry out the skin. Usually, the higher up an ingredient is listed on an ingredients list, the greater its presence in the product. So if alcohol is listed fifth or above, you’ll have to be careful. Some types of alcohols to avoid include denatured, isopropyl or SD alcohol. Nonetheless, some fatty alcohols like cetyl, stearyl and cetearyl alcohol serve to stabilize other ingredients and rarely cause irritation.

While the label may list “fragrance” as a single ingredient, it can include a few hundred chemical or botanical constituents. Look for products that are labelled “fragrance-free” instead of just “unscented,” as the latter means the product can still contain a masking fragrance to hide unpleasant odors.

Like fragrances, artificial colorings can make a product more attractive. However, artificial colorings can contain harsh chemicals or even tar and toxic metal salts. They deposit toxins in your body, block pores and increase the risk of breakouts. Look out for the letters FD&C or D&C followed by a name or number.

Mineral Oil
Mineral oil is a by-product in the distillation of petroleum to produce gasoline. It can be contaminated with toxins, clog pores and increase acne and blackhead formation.

An eco-conscious brand from the AMOREPACIFIC group, primera keeps
its products free from parabens, artificial pigments and fragrances.

Essential Oils
Essential oils (e.g., lavender, coconut, rosehip and tea tree oils) are highly concentrated plant extracts that can irritate skin. Citrus oils can especially cause irritation. These types of oils are best diluted with another liquid, preferably a carrier oil (e.g., olive, sunflower and jojoba oils). A few drops of essential oils are enough to obtain the desired results.

A foaming agent that can be found in shampoos and cleansers, sulfates can upset the skin’s oil protective layer. Many cosmetic companies have switched to natural alternatives like glucosides and betaines.

Physical Exfoliators
Refrain from using physical exfoliators like walnut shells, sugar and salt. Instead, use chemical exfoliators like fruit acids or natural clay masks such as bentonite and kaolin. AHAs and BHAs are common chemical exfoliators but a popular alternative is PHA which causes less photosensitivity. Exfoliate twice a week at most.

I put this as the last because the use of parabens is still controversial. Parabens are man-made preservatives that lengthen the shelf life of a product and inhibit fungal and bacterial growth. Although many products use “paraben-free” as a selling point, parabens don’t usually cause irritation. They’re considered an ingredient to avoid because they can accelerate premature aging. They also mimic estrogen, and when exposed to estrogen for a long period of time, the risk of breast cancer can increase. Safe alternatives to parabens are still limited, unless you want your products to go unpreserved (and hence lack protection from fungus and bacteria).

NAKEUP FACE’s PHA Water Tox Ampoule uses PHA to gently exfoliate.

Ingredients to Use

Below are some ingredients that help soothe sensitive skin:

One of the trendiest skin care ingredients centella asiatica, a.k.a. cica, has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to heal and calm skin. It also helps to fight wrinkles.

Aloe Vera
Packed with vitamins, minerals and amino acids, aloe vera has been trusted for generations to treat sunburns as well as soothe and hydrate skin.

Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid is found naturally in the body and helps draw water to the skin’s external layers. However, it alone isn’t enough to keep skin hydrated. Our skin is protected by a hydrolipid film made from water and oil. Hence, it’s best to follow your HA serum with a face oil made from carrier oils for maximum hydration.

iUNIK’s Propolis Vitamin Synergy Serum contains extracts from propolis, honey and centella
for anti-inflammatory benefits. It’s also free from alcohol and artificial fragrances.

Honey is a mild antibacterial ingredient that holds onto water to moisturize skin.

Oats are a natural exfoliator and are known for their soothing properties when treating eczema. Mix oats, honey and banana for a great DIY mask!