10 Ingredients to Avoid if You Have Sensitive Skin

Some days, I think I might be the queen of sensitive skin. Even the smallest things can cause my face to flare up into a red, itchy mess.

Sound like I’m being dramatic? I’m not.

If you’ve ever dealt with conditions like rosacea or eczema (or just deal with rash-prone skin in general) you’ll know what I’m talking about.

It’s because of this sensitivity that I watch the ingredients labels on my makeup and skincare products like a hawk. Knowing whatto look out for couldsave you from a nasty reaction you’d have liked to avoid.

Here are the 10 common culpritsthat I watch out for in particular!

10 Ingredients to Avoid if You Have Sensitive Skin

potential skin irritants

Buying a cosmetic product labeled “hypoallergenic” or “dermatologist tested” never guarantees that its trouble-free.

So, rather than relying on misleading labeling, jot down these common culprits and check the list next time you’re shopping for products:

1) Methylisothiazolinone (MI)

This one’s a doozy! In fact, this ingredient is so common in beauty products that I remember memorizing the word off the back of my shampoo bottle when I was 7-years-old.

Methylisothiazolinone (MI) is a common preservative that has been named the cause of one of the worst allergy outbreaks in history. In fact, 10 percent of patients test positive for an allergy to MI.

2) Bismuth Oxychloride

Bismuth Oxychloride has been known to cause redness, itching and stinging! If you’ve ever had an issue with mineral makeup, this is likely the culprit.

3) Petrochemicals

Petrochemicals are ingredients derived from petroleum. Liquid paraffin and mineral oil fall into this category. Petroleum-derived products are designed to create an oily layer over the skin, to prevent moisture from escaping. (Vaseline is one such product.)

But these ingredients can also cause a build-up of product, causing bacteria to grow and ultimately block pores. No thank you!

4) Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)

Sodium lauryl sulphate (and its sister: (SLES) Sodium Laureth Sulfate) is commonly used in shampoos and cleaning products as a foaming agent, and easily upsets the protective layer of oils on the skin. Still, it’s used in products recommended for people with eczema. A little counter-intuitive don’t you think?

5) Phthalates

Commonly listed as dinbuytl phthalate or DBP, this is a plasticizing ingredient used to increase pliability in nail polish. Unfortunately, phthalates are a carcinogen, plus a possible cause of birth defects, allergic reactions and eczema.

Europe banned these. Why keep them?

Related: 12 Non-Toxic Nail Polish Brands

potential skin irritants (1)

6) Triclosan

Triclosan is an antibacterial agent often found in hand sanitizers and antibacterial soaps. However, this ingredient has a reputation for inflaming itchy rashes on the hands, so I’d suggest steering clear.

7) Fragrances

Fragrance is easily the number one cause of contact dermatitis (the fancy name for skin reactions to irritating ingredients). In fact, the term “fragrance” can actually hold under its umbrella a number of nasty ingredients that can cause rashes, red or brown streaks called berloque dermatitis and more.

Look for products that are labeled “fragrance-free,” not just “unscented.” Sometimes “unscented” means the product still contains a masking fragrance, designed to hide unpleasant, chemical odors.

8) Formaldehyde

Thought formaldehyde was a thing of the past? Not so. In fact, the most common cause of eyelid dermatitis is formaldehyde in nail polish. Most popular nail polish brands feature preservative ingredients that release formaldehyde upon use. Look for names like “imidazolidinyl urea” or “quaternium 15.”

9) Cinnamic Acid

You don’t need to be afraid of all acids in beauty products; however, cinnamic is one you should definitely keep your eye on. A tartar-fighting ingredient in toothpaste, cinnamic acid can be the cause of itchy rashes around the lips and mouth. No thank you!

10) Essential Oils

Yes, yes I know – I was surprised too! See, essential oils are veryconcentrated substances. And while they can do amazing work when used inhomemade cleaning solutions or remedies for illness, their safe use on the skin is a little more of a contentious issue.

If you have normal, ‘strong’ skin, you may be able to use essential oils like tea tree oil without concern. However, those of us in the sensitive category should be wary!

Keep an out out for oils in the citrus family in particular.

Already facing contact dermatitis? Check out this post on How to Calm a Topical Allergic Reaction to help soothe it.


Jerome S
Jerome Sabout a year ago


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Marcin J
Marcin Jabout a year ago


Nellie K Adaba
Nellie K Adabaabout a year ago


Dennis Hall
Dennis Hallabout a year ago

Thank you.

Margie F
Margie FOURIEabout a year ago

Most of the above I cant even pronounce and if I can pronounce it, I dont use it.

Danuta W
Danuta Wabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing this info

Telica R
Telica Rabout a year ago

Thank you

natasha s
Past Member about a year ago


Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiranabout a year ago