woman testing lotion on sensitive skin

Skincare products are supposed to keep your skin feeling soft and looking fresh and healthy. But for people with sensitive skin, the products meant to help your skin can actually make it look and feel worse. Most skin care products contain a large number of chemicals and ingredients to smell good, look good, and be effective. Certain ingredients can lead to rashes, irritation, or more serious reactions in people with sensitive skin. Greeley dermatology doctors can provide personalized treatment options and recommendations of the best skincare products for your skin type. One of the best ways to help sensitive skin is to avoid products that have certain ingredients. Here are five common irritants to sensitive skin to avoid in skincare products.


One of the most common ingredients that can trigger a reaction is any kind of fragrance. A product could smell great in the container, but the chemicals that create that scent can cause serious irritation when the product goes on the skin. Synthetic fragrances are made of chemicals, which can easily irritate sensitive skin. And because companies aren’t required to list the many chemicals that are combined to create the fragrance, it’s often impossible to pinpoint exactly which chemical is causing the reaction. Avoid products that claim to have any sort of scent. In some cases, even products labeled “unscented” may have a fragrance to cover up the chemical smell. Look for products labeled “fragrance-free” or “without perfume.”


Another common irritant is dye. Even small amounts of chemical dye to add color or cover the natural color of a product can irritate sensitive skin. Dyes aren’t necessary to the quality of the product and are typically made up of multiple chemicals that can cause redness and clog pores. Dyes are common in products like lotions and body washes, so look for products that are labeled “dye-free.” Hair dye can also cause irritation in sensitive skin and should be avoided because of the large amounts of chemicals in most products.


Parabens are preservatives commonly used in a wide variety of skincare products. They allow products to have a longer shelf life, but they can also be absorbed into the skin and cause a variety of health issues. Parabens can cause irritation in sensitive skin. Look for products that are labeled “paraben-free,” especially in lotions, moisturizers, and makeup. The good news is that many people, including those without sensitive skin, are avoiding parabens, so more products are removing the ingredient.


Sulfates are a type of detergent that are included in many cleansing skincare products, including soap and body wash. Sulfates tend to be too harsh for sensitive skin and can dry it out. Sulfates in shampoo can also cause skin irritation around the hairline and neck. Look for gentler options that are sulfate-free, which include most natural or organic options. Sulfates are typically one of the most common ingredients in cleansing products, so they should be towards the top of the list of ingredients, which makes it easy to know what to avoid.

Essential Oils

Many people view essential oils as a safe choice because they are typically all-natural. However, essential oils contain allergens that can irritate sensitive skin. Some products contain diluted essential oils, but in products with a higher concentration of essential oils, such as acne treatments, the ingredient can be too strong. Common irritants include tea tree, mint, lavender, and citrus oils in highly concentrated doses. Most essential oils are listed individually, so some people with sensitive skin can isolate exactly which oil causes problems and avoid just that specific ingredient.

Paying attention to these five skincare ingredients to avoid for sensitive skin can help keep your skin healthy and comfortable. A general rule of thumb is to look for products that have the fewest ingredients possible to lower your chance of a reaction or irritation. For specialized recommendations and sensitive skin options, be sure to visit your local dermatologist.

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