Ingredient dos and don’ts for sensitive skin


Tired of flare-ups? It’s time to update your beauty cupboard

Beauty Crew Editor / May 24 2018

If you suffer from sensitive skin, the thought of adding new products to your morning and night skin care routine probably terrifies you more than most people can understand. Skin flare-ups, rashes, breakouts and any other kind of reaction are not something you want to risk. 

Which is why it pays to know which ingredients will be great for your skin (think: soothing, calming), and which ones are best to avoid (i.e. the culprits that just don’t agree with sensitive skin types). 

While there is an incredibly substantial list for both, we know you don’t have all day, so we’ve picked a handful of the best and worst ingredients to use if you have sensitive skin. 

Ingredients your sensitive skin will love

Centella asiatica
If you haven’t heard much about this soothing ingredient, you’re about to. One of the latest trending ingredients to emerge from Korea, centella asiatica extract is a plant-based ingredient that’s actually been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to heal, repair and calm skin. Fun fact: It’s also been known to be a pretty powerful anti-ager, making it a great ingredient to look out for if you want to fight wrinkles sans a potential skin flare-up.

The antioxidant-rich ingredient is also known as Asiatic acid, hydrocotyl or gotu kola, and you’d usually find it in a type of moisturiser called cica cream.

Try it in: L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Centella Repair Anti-Wrinkle Face Cream. Hypoallergenic, dermatologist tested and gentle on sensitive skin, this is the first repairing anti-ageing moisturiser from L’Oréal Paris. While it works to reduce and prevent the signs of ageing by boosting the synthesis of collagen and accelerating skin renewal, you can also expect the luxurious cream to work hard to hydrate, repair and strengthen the skin barrier, leaving skin more supple and smooth. And of course, soothed and comforted.

While you may be more familiar with chamomile as a nurturing herbal tea, those with sensitive skin may be intrigued to hear about its abilities to comfort and heal skin. On top of that, it’s got some impressive anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits, so those dealing with acne, eczema and burns may find it particularly appealing. Keep a look out for an ingredient called ‘bisabolol’ in your skin care products, as this is a chamomile extract.
Try it in: REN Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Gel

Goat’s milk

While the thought of this natural ingredient may be off-putting for some, the benefits for sensitive skin far outweigh whatever your opinions may be. A vitamin-rich ingredient that almost matches the natural pH of human skin, goat’s milk is as soothing as it is nourishing. It’ll help protect skin on a daily basis and it can also calm skin that’s had a reaction.
Try it in: Tonymoly Naturalth Goat Milk Moisture Toner

Ingredients to avoid using on sensitive skin

We just want to clarify that these ingredients aren’t necessarily bad ingredients overall, they just may be irritating for those who have skin sensitivities, so it’s best for delicate skin types to avoid them. Normal skin types are less likely to experience the same adverse reactions.

Chemical sunscreens
Sun protection is a non-negotiable, but we can understand if some formulations have you feeling hesitant about applying it daily. You see, some chemical sunscreens are not great for sensitive skin and can cause allergic reactions or inflammation. Oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid), avobenzone and cinnamates are some of the chemical sunscreen ingredients you should look out for (and avoid). The best sun protection formulations for sensitive skin types to use are ones that have physical sunscreen blockers, like zinc and titanium dioxide.

Physical scrubs
Walnut shells and apricot kernels may seem like natural ingredients that your skin can handle, but in reality the granules can be too harsh and the abrasiveness can leave your skin a little worse for wear. Your safest option is to look for chemical exfoliants like fruit enzymes or beta hydroxy acids and alpha hydroxy acids (at lower concentrations!). 

Benzoyl peroxide
A common ingredient used in acne-fighting products, benzoyl peroxide is one that may be a bit too strong for sensitive skin. Given the way it works to deal with pimples is to dry them out, it’s easy to see why skin prone to inflammation and irritation may be better off avoiding this moisture-stripping ingredient. It should be noted, however, that sensitive skin can tolerate smaller concentrations of benzoyl peroxide, so if you’re looking to clear your acne-prone skin, look for the lowest percentage you can find.

Skin looking a little red after a flare-up? Here's what you'll need if you're looking go hide redness!

Do you have any tips for ingredients to use and avoid when it comes to sensitive skin? Please share in the comments section below.

Main image credit: Getty

Carli was BEAUTYcrew’s Editor from launch in 2016 until May 2020. You can find her words right here on BEAUTYcrew, and previously on beautyheaven.