Got Sensitive Skin? Here Are The Ingredients You Should Avoid (And What To Get Instead)

Don’t (literally) irritate your sensitive skin
BY Sarah Lim
| Last updated Sep, 2022
ingredients to avoid for sensitive skin

Does it seem like all the best glow-giving ingredients are also the most aggressive? It seems like almost every skincare ingredient has something in it that “irritates your skin”, leaving it red, tight, dry, or even causing breakouts. And, there’s an urge for you to know which skincare ingredients to avoid for sensitive skin.

Fortunately, skincare manufacturers are becoming more aware of the prevalence of sensitive skin and making their products more inclusive as a result. It turns out you don’t need harsh ingredients to see a positive effect on your skin. Instead, gentler ingredients can be better for many skin types, leaving you with healthy, glowing skin.

Sensitive skin is different from other skin types because it can be more reactive. People with dry skin using a product that’s not for them may just experience more dehydrated skin. Whereas people with sensitive skin may experience a rash, stinging, or even breakouts due to using the wrong products.

So what are the ingredients to avoid for sensitive skin, and which are going to benefit YOU? We’ve got the scoop here!

Skincare Ingredients To Avoid For Sensitive Skin

While everyone’s skin is different, these are some of the most common ingredients to avoid for sensitive skin.


While alcohol isn’t always bad in skincare, it’s responsible for drying and making sensitive skin worse. Many people who have dry skin also have sensitive skin, making it essential to avoid overly drying ingredients. You may want to consider avoiding alcohol in YOUR skincare products. If it’s one of the key ingredients in the product, it may cause your skin to sting, burn or compromise its natural protective barrier function.



You’ll find formaldehyde as a preservative in skincare products, and it may not affect skin at low concentrations. But if you have sensitive skin, it may be worth it to avoid it altogether. What’s worse is that the skin can actually absorb formaldehyde, which can lead to skin irritation and even allergic reactions.



The fragrance is a tricky ingredient as you can find in many skincare products and can make the formula smells amazing. The problem? Fragrance is a term that includes over 3,000 different chemicals, and the worst part is that companies don’t have to disclose which ingredients they use. While some of these fragrance compounds are naturally derived from essential oils, others are synthetic and even carcinogenic. A growing number of people are sensitive to fragrances in products. So it’s worth avoiding products with this ingredient, which may also be called “parfum” on a label.



This ingredient is used in formulas that companies advertise as brightening. However, it can also be a skin irritant, especially when people use it in combination with other skincare ingredients, including retinoic acid, a form of retinol. If your skin is of sensitive type, be sure to check the label on products that claim to brighten skin, as they may end up “causing irritation“.

Polyethylene Glycol

Polyethylene Glycol

Used as a thickener in some skincare formulas, polyethylene glycol has also been linked to skin breakouts and eczema. It is especially important to know if you have sensitive skin or are prone to eczema or breakouts.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

Sometimes referred to as SLS, you can often find sodium lauryl sulfate in skincare cleansers, thanks to its foaming action. However, SLS can have an extremely drying effect on the skin and even increase transepidermal water loss. Transepidermal water loss is when your skin’s natural barrier is disrupted, and your skin loses moisture when it shouldn’t, which can lead to premature skin aging and further skin irritation.

Chemicals in Chemical Sunscreen

Chemicals in Chemical Sunscreen

If YOUR skin is of a sensitive type, you may also be sensitive to the chemicals in chemical sunscreens, such as oxybenzone and avobenzone, the former of which is known to cause contact dermatitis. However, remember that everyone’s skin is unique. If you find that you react to chemical sunscreen—with skin redness, burning, stinging, or breakouts—you may want to consider physical sunscreen (which uses zinc oxide or titanium oxide) instead.

Best Ingredients To Look For In Sensitive Skincare Products

Not all skincare ingredients are harmful. And although there are ingredients to avoid for sensitive skin, there are also ingredients that can help you have your best complexion yet. The following are some calming yet effective ingredients that sensitive skin types can benefit from!

• Aloe


Immensely soothing, aloe isn’t just good for burns—it’s an excellent ingredient for sensitive skin and can be found in moisturizers, sunscreens, and serums.

• Calendula


This cute yellow flower can help tired, fatigued skin and you can find it in toners, moisturizers, and eye creams.

• Chamomile


Great for calming sensitive skin, chamomile can be found in a variety of skincare products.

• Natural Oils

Natural Oils

Skin-friendly oils such as jojoba, sunflower, and argan oil can help protect and nourish sensitive skin. These oils can also have an anti-aging effect on the skin, which is an extra bonus.

• Niacinamide


Also known as vitamin B3, niacinamide is anti-inflammatory and is an excellent pick if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin. You can find it in moisturizers, eye creams, and serums.

• Rose


Rosewater can be calming for sensitive skin and smells fantastic. It makes an excellent natural toner if you’re sensitive to other ingredients in toners.

• Tea


Green and white tea can be soothing allies for sensitive skin and also have anti-aging effects thanks to their antioxidants; You’ll find tea in moisturizers, eye creams, and even sunscreen.

As you can see, purer ingredients tend to work better for sensitive skin types as opposed to synthetic or harsh chemicals. Therefore, when choosing new products, check the label to see if the product contains any ingredients to avoid for sensitive skin or these beneficial ones instead!

Download The FREE Checklist On The No-No Skincare Ingredients To Always Avoid!

Have YOU downloaded our free checklist for ingredients to avoid for all skin types yet? Be sure to be too careful when it comes to your skincare. Have you found that you react to any ingredients, or have you found any ingredients helpful? Let us know in the comments below!

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