Have Sensitive Skin? Avoid These 4 Skincare Ingredients

The skincare journey can be an exciting one for those of us who are skincare-obsessed, especially with the plethora of new skincare products entering the market faster than we can ever use up the existing stash in our beauty drawers. The anticipation that builds up as we watch our favourite beauty gurus on YouTube rave about the latest innovation that claims to transform our skin, the feeling of joy when we finally get our hands on the new product, and the forced patience we have in seeing whether it really lives up to its potential — only a true skincare lover is willing to go through this emotional ride.

Unfortunately, skincare experiments are a no-go for those with sensitive skin. Unless the risk of breakouts, rashes or itchiness does not put you off from welcoming a new product with open arms, sensitive skin sufferers are limited in their quest to find the next best thing in skincare.


The Ingredients You Should Avoid

However, this does not mean you should allow your sensitive skin to prevent you from delving into the seemingly endless supply of new skincare innovations. The important thing is ensuring beforehand if a new product will cause an adverse reaction on your skin, which can be done by checking its ingredients.

You might see this step as a hassle but for the sake of your sensitive skin, it is a necessary step to lower your risk of experiencing an adverse skin reaction. The next time you are keen to try out a new skincare product, look out for the following ingredients to find out if it will be suitable for your skin:


Fragrance is one component of a skincare product that most commonly triggers an adverse reaction in those with sensitive skin. Whether it is naturally derived or produced by a chemical ingredient, fragrance can result in various skin flare-ups such as rashes and itchiness. Despite being a common skin irritant, many companies still include this ingredient in their skincare products merely for the fact that customers are attracted to nice-smelling products. Apart from being a powerful purchasing influence, fragrance is also added to mask the overall unpleasant scent of a product as well as the industrial smell of its packaging. Unfortunately, this means products that are fragrance-free are less easily available in the market. Another important point to note: products labelled as “unscented” does not equate to it being fragrance-free. Products labelled as “fragrance-free” might still have a scent naturally produced by the ingredients, but no extra ingredients were added to create an artificial smell. Meanwhile, products labelled as “unscented” means that other ingredients were added to eliminate the product’s strong odour.


Preservatives are usually added to skincare products that contain water as the addition of water increases the risk of mould and bacteria developing in the end product. The preservatives ensure that the water remains stable and therefore, prolonging the product’s shelf life. Some examples of preservatives commonly added to skincare products are parabens, organic acids and certain types of alcohol. In small amounts, preservatives are not known to pose significant health hazards. However, for people with sensitive skin, preservatives can trigger an adverse reaction. This is particularly for those with an existing skin condition such as psoriasis and eczema — there is a risk of the preservatives exacerbating these conditions.

Essential Oils

All-natural skincare products are frequently sought after by those who are averse to the widespread use of chemicals in their skincare. These products are also the preferred options for those who are afflicted by sensitive skin due to the assumption that if an ingredient is natural, it should not cause any irritation on the skin. On the contrary, this is not necessarily the case for every natural ingredient. Certain essential oils, for example, can be irritating to those with sensitive skin, especially if they are found in high concentrations in skincare products. They can lead to skin issues such as an increase in breakouts, itchiness or contact dermatitis. One group of essential oils sensitive skin sufferers should be wary of are those in the citrus family such as lemon, orange and bergamot. If you are using pure essential oils in your skincare routine, be sure to dilute it first before applying it onto your skin to allow your skin to adjust to the essential oil.


Sulphates such as sodium laureth sulphate and sodium lauryl sulphate are used in various skincare products as a foaming agent. Despite being a common skincare ingredient, sulphates are known to disrupt the oils that form the protective layer of your skin by drying them out. This is why sensitive skin sufferers tend to experience extreme dryness and itchiness when they use products that contain sulphates. The lack of oil on the skin lowers its level of hydration, thus triggering these side effects. To avoid products containing sulphates, look out for those labelled specifically as “sulphate-free”. You can also opt for products in cream, gel or oil textures, instead of those in foaming formulations.