Caring for your skin may not be as easy these days as it was in olden times. With so many products to choose from, even stocking up your beauty cabinet can become quite a daunting task.
The matter becomes even more challenging if you have sensitive skin.
If your skin becomes red and irritated easily, your choice of skincare products may not be a straightforward one. While conventional skincare products may work for normal skin, some of their typical ingredients must never be used in sensitive skin products as those may trigger nasty flare-ups.
While trial-and-error is a typical method used to figure out what works for you, it shouldn’t be your only basis if you have sensitive skin. You also need to know which ingredients are more likely to cause unpleasant effects and avoid those altogether.
Don’t know where to begin? Below are six ingredients not recommended for sensitive skin:
Retinol is an ingredient known to increase collagen production, curb acne problems, and improve skin tone. However, it could also trigger peeling and redness and can be particularly harsh on sensitive skin.
Still, if you need to get the same results without the side effects, you can choose products that contain bakuchiol instead.
This natural retinol alternative is a plant extract derived from the Psoralea corylifolia plant. Also known as the “babchi” plant, this herb has a long list of uses, from traditional ayurvedic medicine to modern science.
Studies show that bakuchiol has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties. It also functions the same way as retinol when used on the skin: boosting cell turnover and improving collagen production. As a result, the ingredient can help reduce signs of skin aging, including laxity, wrinkles, fine lines, and overall photodamage.
Dermatologists in Dubai (and across the world) consider salicylic acid as acne’s biggest enemy because it targets blackheads and whiteheads, dissolves gunk in the pores, and reduces redness in pimples. However, this ingredient is not recommended for sensitive skin as it can also lead to irritation and dryness.
If your skin gets irritated easily, consider using products with witch hazel instead.
This natural herb extract offers exceptional soothing, cleansing, and healing effects for the skin. It also unclogs pores by removing excess oil and getting rid of acne-causing bacteria – just like salicylic acid, but gentler.
Still, this alternative doesn’t have the same power salicylic acid does, so you may need to apply products with witch hazel twice daily. It can also come with soothing ingredients like aloe, jojoba seed extract, and rosewater if it is used as a toner.
Alcohol is added to skincare products because of its ability to eradicate acne-causing bacteria that linger on the skin surface. This is probably why many still swear by alcohol-based cleansers and anti-acne products to alleviate breakouts.
It is also quite popular for its fast de-greasing effect, making it much more appealing to people with oily skin. This is why some creams and toners designed for oily skin have a quick-dry finish.
But that may not always be a good thing, as sapping moisture from the epidermis can lead to itchy, irritated, and uncomfortable skin. This has led to the rise of alcohol-free skincare products.
Take note many products labeled “alcohol-free” don’t necessarily have zero alcohol content. The label simply indicates that the product does not contain ethyl alcohol, per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The product may still contain alcohol — albeit the beneficial kind, like fatty alcohols cetyl, cetearyl, and stearyl. These alcohols are derived from fats and are used as emulsifiers and thickeners for most moisturizers and cleansing lotions.
Since these alcohols aid in locking moisture into the skin, they provide an additional barrier against skin dehydration, making them preferred ingredients for dry and sensitive skin.
Speaking of moisturizers, coconut oil is one of the most sought-after active ingredients that help make the skin supple and younger-looking. It also protects the hair and complexion, thanks to the number of fatty acids and antioxidants it contains.
Unfortunately, coconut oil isn’t ideal for certain skin types, including sensitive skin.
Scoring four on the comedogenicity scale, coconut oil is deemed a pore-blocking ingredient. This means that it can worsen inflammation for people who are prone to breakouts and have severely dry skin.
A good alternative you can try is jojoba oil. This ingredient offers maximum hydration and can boost the skin’s moisture retention capabilities. It is also structurally similar to human sebum, making it more compatible for most skin types than other oils.
Of course, too much of anything isn’t good, even with jojoba oil. Experts recommend you stick to using a few drops at night or in the morning and evening during cooler seasons.
Hyaluronic acid – commonly represented by the letters “HA” in skincare product labels – is known to hold moisture weighing 1,000 times as much as its own weight. This is why the ingredient is found in a wide range of products, from lip balms to skin moisturizers.
But while the ingredient itself doesn’t cause skin sensitivity, it can contribute to irritation for some people with already sensitive skin. This is because it boosts the penetration rate for other ingredients, which could lead to skin irritation.
Of course, you still need something to replace it to keep your sensitive skin moisturized.
The solution? Squalane oil. Experts recommend this substance because it attracts water but not in the same area, so it can decrease the chances of skin irritation.
Another safe alternative is ceramide-3 – a heavy-duty hydrator that helps build and repair the skin barrier.
Both ceramide-3 and squalane can be used as moisturizers applied in the morning and evening following active treatment products like a vitamin C serum or topical prescription medicine.
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)
Alpha hydroxy acids such as lactic, glycolic, and malic acids are typically used in products that promise pore reduction, skin brightening, and toning. However, these acids may also lead to irritation, especially for more reactive skin types. They also increase sun sensitivity for all types of skin.
The good news is that you can replace these with products that contain polyhydroxy acids. These milder acids offer similar results without the same sun sensitivity that results from AHAs.
Polyhydroxy acids have bigger molecules than AHAs, which means they only work on the outermost layer of skin. In fact, they are gentle enough even when used by people with eczema or rosacea.
Choose skincare products wisely
Because the skin is the largest organ in the body, it is exposed and highly susceptible to ingredients that can lead to adverse reactions and damage.
Protect it well with the right kind of skincare product for your skin type and avoid any product with ingredients known to be too harsh for sensitive skin.