If You Have Sensitive Skin, Make Sure To Avoid These Ingredients In Your Skincare

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Before you start your skincare journey, one of the smartest things to do is figure out your skin type. That way, you can treat your skin based on its needs and get the best results. You must have heard of skin types such as normal, oily, dry, combination, mature, and sensitive (via WebMD). It's also possible to have a combination of two skin types at once, such as your skin could be oily in some parts and sensitive in others. Another thing is that skin types can also change with age, geography, or health issues.

Sensitive skin comes with its own set of problems. Board-certified dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank told Byrdie, "Sensitized skin is skin that has 'become' sensitive as a response to something, such as a skincare product or treatment. Sensitive skin can be an ongoing condition caused by a treatment, age, or biological skin disorder." While there are misconceptions regarding diagnosing sensitive skin since redness, burning and dryness could also be caused by other factors, celebrity facialist and esthetician Kerry Benjamin told the outlet, "If you have a sensitivity to topical ingredients, you will likely know pretty instantly." Though ingredients like Centella asiatica are great for sensitive skin, allergies and certain products can worsen sensitive skin. Therefore, avoiding ingredients in skincare products is vital to alleviate and heal those issues. Once you know you have sensitive skin, here are some ingredients you should avoid.

1. Essential Oils

Certain essential oils like citrus and vanilla can have aromatherapy benefits, but they might not be the best option if you have sensitive skin. San Francisco skincare specialist Kristina Holey told The New York Times, "Some constituents of certain essential oils, like those in bergamot, are transformed into chemicals and enzymes when exposed to sunlight, which can induce a photo-allergic response." She realized that after investigating the matter, as many of her patients reported inflammation.

Lavender oil can help relax people, but it's pretty intense. Board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner told Marie Claire, "Any amount of contact with an allergen, like lavender oil, can be too much for a susceptible person." It might not cause irritation if diluted correctly, but it could often cause your sensitive skin to react negatively. Dr. Zeichner added that it's wise to do a patch test to see how your skin reacts before diving into it. The last thing you want is for the essential oils to have an adverse reaction on your skin, making your already sensitive skin worse.

Try squalane if you're looking for an oil safe to use on sensitive skin. Ryan Turner, M.D., founder of Turner Dermatology, told Byrdie (via Turner Dermatology), "Those with dry, irritated, or sensitive skin will see the most effect from squalane oil, but we can all benefit from this superstar skincare ingredient." Dr. Turner added that this oil helps with redness and inflammation. The Ordinary's 100% Plant-Derived Squalane is an affordable pick if you want to check it out.

2. Chemical sunscreen

You probably know how important sunscreen is, even if you're not in a regular habit of wearing it every day. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, sunscreen can protect you from skin cancer and premature signs of aging. Depending on the ingredients used, there are two types of sunscreens: physical and chemical. Physical sunscreen reflects the sun's rays and stays on the skin's surface, while chemical sunscreens absorb the UV rays. Certain sunscreens irritate sensitive skin, and that doesn't mean you should skip sunscreen but be mindful about avoiding certain ingredients in sunscreen. Chemical sunscreens use active ingredients like avobenzone, octinoxate, and oxybenzone for sun protection.

New York City-based dermatologist Shari Marchbein told Allure, "People with sensitive skin can have a hard time finding sunscreens, as most are made with chemical UV blockers that can cause stinging, burning, irritation, and redness when applied to the skin." Instead, opt for physical or mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, as Ever/Body's supervising physician, Joel Lamm, M.D., said they can be "a gentler option for sensitive skin." We love MISSHA Sun Milk SPF 50+ because this mineral formula blends well, dries quickly, and is water- and sweat-resistant. It has helichrysum flower water to calm redness and irritation caused by heat.

3. Harsh Exfoliants

Exfoliating your skin is a great way to get rid of dead skin, unclog pores, and combat dullness. While exfoliators do a great job, they can backfire on sensitive skin if they're too harsh — causing your skin to get redder and more irritated. It's not that sensitive skin folks can never exfoliate, but they must be mindful of the ingredients (like in their sunscreen) and how often to use them. Similarly, there are two types of exfoliants, and they are physical and chemical. In this case, a chemical exfoliant might be the way to go for sensitive skin. "Chemical exfoliants very gently dissolve the 'glue' that's holding dead cells on, causing them to fall off, and uncovering brighter, fresher skin," dermatologist Neal Schultz told The Healthy.

Shari Marchbein, M.D., assistant professor of clinical dermatology at NYU School of Medicine, told SELF, "Because people with sensitive or dry skin are more prone to redness, burning, flaking, and irritation from these treatments, it's important to use them less frequently and use lower strengths than someone with oily skin or combination skin may be able to use." She recommends Estée Lauder Perfectionist Pro Instant Resurfacing Peel because this chemical exfoliant has a combination of alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids and could be "a gentler exfoliation option for sensitive-skin types if physical scrubs feel too harsh." Just start with once or twice a week to see how it feels on your skin before increasing frequency.

4. Sodium Lauryl Sulfates

Before we go too scientific on you, let's talk about what sodium lauryl sulfates (SLS) are, which are more common than you might think. According to American Cleaning Institute, SLS is a surfactant with various purposes, but it's often used in skincare to clean better. If you've noticed products like soaps, cleaners and shampoos make a foamy lather, it's because of SLS. You've probably heard of sulfate-free shampoos that are considered a better option for colored hair as they won't strip the color as regular shampoos. The same goes for SLS in skincare, as it can strip your natural oils because it can make you squeaky clean, which isn't great for your skin barrier.

Instead, opt for a sulfate-free cleanser or soap to reduce irritation if you have sensitive skin. We're fans of Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser as it's formulated without any common irritants like soap, sulfates, dyes, fragrances, or parabens so its perfect for sensitive skin.

5. Alcohol (but not all of it)

A glass of wine might help you relax but overindulging in alcohol isn't beneficial for your skin. Similarly, alcohol in skincare isn't great for sensitive skin though it's in many skincare products. According to Dr. Shuting Hu, a cosmetic chemist, evaporative solvent alcohols (such as SD alcohol 40, ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, and denatured alcohol) is best not to use on the face because she said, "These are, for the most part, drying and potentially damaging for many skin types, particularly anyone with dry or sensitive skin or who has rosacea," (via HelloGiggles). Per Dr. Onyeka Obioha, a Beverly Hills-based board-certified dermatologist, there are types of alcohol (such as cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, and cetearyl alcohol) that won't irritate your skin; therefore, its key to know what kinds of alcohol are safe for sensitive skin.

Skincare expert Renee Rouleau told Byrdie that not all alcohol is evil, but evaporative solvent alcohols can dehydrate your skin, and that's not what sensitive skin needs. "They are acceptable when used in spot treatments since the goal is to dry up the infection, and alcohol can do that," Rouleau added. When in doubt, check with your dermatologist to see if an ingredient is safe for your skin.