What Ingredients Should I Avoid If I Have Sensitive Skin?

If you have sensitive skin, you know all too well the struggle of finding skincare products that won’t leave your face red, irritated, and itchy. With so many different ingredients out there, it can be overwhelming to figure out which ones are triggering your skin sensitivities. Thankfully, you’re in the right place! In this article, we’ll discuss some common ingredients that you should steer clear of if you have sensitive skin, helping you make informed decisions and keep your skin happy and healthy. So, let’s get started on our journey to finding the perfect skincare routine tailored to your needs!


Sensitive skin can be easily irritated by synthetic fragrances commonly found in skincare and cosmetic products. These fragrances are often made up of a combination of chemicals that can cause reactions such as redness, itching, and even inflammation. It’s important to look for products that are labeled fragrance-free or have natural, plant-based essential oils instead. Essential oils can provide a gentle scent without causing irritation, but it’s still best to do a patch test before using a product with essential oils to ensure compatibility with your skin.

Harsh Cleansing Agents

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS), and ammonium laureth sulfate (ALES) are common cleansing agents found in many personal care products, including cleansers and shampoos. While they effectively remove dirt and oil, they can also strip away the natural oils that protect the skin, leaving it feeling dry, tight, and irritated. If you have sensitive skin, it’s best to opt for products that are sulfate-free or use milder alternatives such as coconut-derived cleansers or gentle surfactants.

What Ingredients Should I Avoid If I Have Sensitive Skin?


Preservatives are necessary to prevent the growth of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms in skincare products. However, certain preservatives can be harsh and irritating, especially for sensitive skin. Parabens, formaldehyde, and diazolidinyl urea are examples of preservatives that can trigger allergic reactions and sensitivities. Look for products that are labeled paraben-free and opt for naturally derived preservatives or those with gentle alternatives like phenoxyethanol or benzyl alcohol.


Alcohol is commonly used in skincare products as a solvent or as part of a formula to help products dry quickly. However, certain alcohols, such as denatured alcohol, SD alcohol, and ethanol, can be drying and irritating to sensitive skin. These alcohols can disrupt the skin’s natural moisture balance and lead to redness, peeling, and discomfort. If you have sensitive skin, it’s best to avoid products that list these alcohols high up in the ingredient list and opt for alcohol-free alternatives or products that contain fatty alcohols like cetyl alcohol or stearyl alcohol.

What Ingredients Should I Avoid If I Have Sensitive Skin?

Artificial Colors

Artificial colors, specifically FD&C dyes, are often used to enhance the visual appeal of skincare and cosmetic products. However, these dyes can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions, especially for individuals with sensitive skin. Yellow 5 (Tartrazine) and Red 40 (Allura Red) are examples of artificial colors that have been known to cause adverse reactions. When choosing products, particularly those that will be in direct contact with your skin, it’s wise to opt for products that are free of artificial colors or use natural pigments derived from plants or minerals.


Silicones, such as dimethicone and cyclomethicone, are commonly used in skincare and cosmetic products for their ability to provide a smooth texture and create a barrier on the skin. While some people with sensitive skin may find silicones to be well-tolerated, others can experience clogged pores, breakouts, or a suffocating feeling due to the occlusive nature of these ingredients. If you have sensitive skin, it may be beneficial to avoid products that contain high concentrations of silicones, especially if you are prone to acne or clogged pores.

What Ingredients Should I Avoid If I Have Sensitive Skin?

Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is a commonly used ingredient in skincare products due to its occlusive properties and ability to lock in moisture. However, it is derived from petroleum and can be too heavy for some individuals with sensitive skin. Moreover, it may create a barrier that prevents the skin from breathing and can potentially clog pores, leading to breakouts. It’s recommended to opt for lighter, non-comedogenic oils like jojoba oil or argan oil if you have sensitive skin and are looking for a moisturizing ingredient.

Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens, such as oxybenzone and avobenzone, work by absorbing UV rays and converting them into heat energy. However, these ingredients can be potential irritants for sensitive skin. Oxybenzone, in particular, has raised concerns about its potential hormonal disruption. If you have sensitive skin, it’s advisable to look for physical sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, as they work by forming a protective barrier on the skin’s surface without penetrating the skin.


Exfoliating the skin can help remove dead skin cells and improve overall skin texture. However, certain exfoliants can be too harsh for sensitive skin, causing redness, irritation, and even micro-tears in the skin’s surface. Physical exfoliants, such as scrubs or brushes with rough bristles, can be too abrasive, while chemical exfoliants like alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) can be too potent for sensitive skin. If you have sensitive skin, it’s best to opt for gentler exfoliation methods, such as enzymatic exfoliants or using a soft washcloth.

Certain Acids

Glycolic acid and salicylic acid are commonly found in skincare products targeted towards various skin concerns, including acne and uneven skin tone. While these acids can be effective in addressing these issues, they can also be too harsh for individuals with sensitive skin. Glycolic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), can be too irritating and cause redness and peeling. Salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), can be drying and may exacerbate sensitivity. If you have sensitive skin, it’s best to exercise caution when using products containing these acids and start with low concentrations or seek milder alternatives, such as lactic acid or niacinamide.