Dealing with sensitive skin can be a daily chore, especially if everyday skincare products leave your skin feeling irritated or cause something worse, like an itchy rash. Sadly, having sensitive skin means that you’ll always have to be a bit more selective with your skincare product choices, but once you understand what you’re looking for – and what to avoid – the task will become less of a hassle.
The following ingredients should always be avoided when shopping for sensitive skincare products:
Glycolic acid. Glycolic acid is a member of the alpha hydroxy acid family. These acids are derived from foods such as citrus fruits, sugar cane, and apples. When used in skincare products, glycolic acid is a powerful exfoliator that unclogs pores and leaves skin smoother and firmer – however, it can be extremely harsh for sensitive skin. Instead, try lactic acid, an ingredient derived from sour milk.
Chemical sunscreen ingredients. Not all sunscreens are created equal. Mineral sunscreens, which contain “physical” ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are ideal for sensitive skin. Unlike typical sunscreen ingredients that are absorbed into the skin, mineral formulas stay on the skin’s surface, providing superior protection without the irritation.
Retinoids. These vitamin A derivatives are hailed as one of the best ways to treat signs of premature aging and achieve smoother, healthier skin. Unfortunately, they are often too aggressive for sensitive complexions. Skip the prescription-strength retinoids and opt for a very mild over-the-counter retinol formula; look for one specifically targeted for sensitive skin.
Benzoyl peroxide. Unfortunately, many acne treatments will leave skin looking worse than the acne blemishes themselves. Benzoyl peroxide is a common ingredient found in acne treatment products, but it’s suited for oilier, more resilient complexions. Instead, try a lower-strength salicylic acid formula, which will gently unclog pores and smooth out the skin – ideal for aging complexions as well.
Artificial fragrances or coloring. When it comes to sensitive complexions, less is more. Your best bet is to choose simple products that don’t include additives like fragrances or artificial coloring – especially if you have a condition like eczema or rosacea. Most products without additives will specify on the label, but be wary of products that say “unscented;” oftentimes this only means that the company has added another ingredient to mask the product’s actual smell. “Fragrance-free” products are common; also look for hypoallergenic, preservative-free or products without synthetic dyes, sulfates or parabens, which can also cause reactions in some individuals.