How Sensitive Ingredients Affect Your Skin

serum for sensitive skin

Written by - Vaishnavi Gopal

We cannot highlight this enough: sensitising, harsh, abrasive, and fragrant ingredients are extremely harmful to the skin. Daily use of skincare products containing sensitising ingredients is a major way we unknowingly harm our skin!

Sensitizing ingredients are so bad because they can cause visible problems that you wouldn't notice if you switched to non-irritating products that contain ingredients that replenish and soothe skin. 

We can teach you what to avoid so you can reclaim your beautiful skin, which has been in retreat due to the daily beating it receives when you use products containing sensitising ingredients!

Sensitizing ingredients can aggravate oily skin and breakouts.

Skin that is oily and prone to breakouts is especially vulnerable to the effects of sensitising ingredients. When inappropriate ingredients (see list below) irritate the skin's surface, a chain reaction can occur that aggravates oily skin, potentially leading to more breakouts.

 Oily, breakout-prone skin becomes worse if you don't treat it gently. All you want is to control the breakouts and clogged pores caused by excess oil, but the wrong products can make this impossible.

Alcohol (denatured or SD) is always one of the worst ingredients we see in skincare products, followed by fragrances. Surprisingly, fragrance, whether natural or synthetic, can be sensitising. Essential oils are frequently touted as being beneficial to the skin, but research shows that this is not the case. Alcohol and fragrance-free products are the first steps toward providing the gentle care required by all skin types, especially oily or breakout-prone skin.

Sensitizing Ingredients Can Make Dry Skin Worse

A sensitizing component can be highly irritating to dry skin just as it can to any other type of skin. However, instead of becoming oilier, skin becomes drier, appears flaky, and sometimes appears dull and dehydrated. We're sure nobody wants to put that in their skincare products!

Sensitizing ingredients (including denatured alcohol and fragrance) dehydrate the skin's surface quickly, resulting in tight, drawn skin. Sensitizing, drying ingredients can deplete the skin's surface of the replenishing ingredients it needs to stay smooth, supple, and hydrated after extended use. Switching to non-irritating products can make a visible difference, often overnight if you have dry, flaky, dehydrated skin!

All Skin Types, Be Gentle!

The best way to achieve and keep beautiful skin is to treat it gently! As a result, the skin is maintained smooth and radiant, the skin is better able to protect itself from environmental damage, excess oil is reduced, and pores are minimized.

We know you will notice a dramatic improvement in your skin if you avoid products with problematic ingredients. As part of this list, you should also avoid pulling or tugging at your skin, a habit that can hasten skin ageing, not scrubbing or abrading your skin, not using hot water, and avoid anything that tingles your skin.

Here are some things to avoid…

Here are some tips to keep in mind when selecting skincare products at the store and using them at home:

  • Excessively abrasive scrubs (such as those containing aluminium oxide crystals, walnut shells, fruit pits, or pumice)
  • Toners with known sensitizers, such as denatured or SD alcohol, peppermint, menthol, and witch hazel
  • Scrub mitts and loofahs
  • Face masks containing essential oils and polyvinyl alcohol
  • Unless the brand offers an ultra-soft brush head for sensitive skin, avoid using facial cleansing brushes.
  • Regardless of the claims, bar soaps and bar cleansers are simply too drying.
  • Any product that has a strong, faint scent, whether the fragrance is natural or synthetic.
  • Cold or hot water (lukewarm is ideal)
  • Steaming or icing the skin
  • Picking at skin

Common Irritating Ingredients to Avoid

  • Ammonia
  • Arnica
  • Balm mint
  • Balsam
  • Bergamot
  • Camphor
  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus juices and oils
  • Clove
  • Clover blossom
  • Coriander
  • Essential oils
  • Eucalyptus
  • Eugenol
  • Fennel oil
  • Fir needle
  • Fragrance (natural or synthetic)
  • Geranium
  • Grapefruit
  • Horsetail
  • Isoeugenol
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Lemongrass
  • Lime
  • Linalool
  • Melissa (lemon balm)
  • Menthol
  • Menthoxypropanediol
  • Menthyl lactate
  • Mint
  • Oak bark
  • Orange
  • Papaya
  • Parfum
  • Peppermint
  • Rose oil
  • Sandalwood oil
  • Sodium C14-16 olefin sulfate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • TEA-lauryl sulfate
  • Thyme
  • Wintergreen
  • Witch hazel
  • Ylang-ylang


  1. Zukiewicz-Sobczak WA, Adamczuk P, Wróblewska P, et al. Allergy to selected cosmetic ingredients. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2013;30(5):307-310. doi:10.5114/pdia.2013.38360

3.Bondi CA, Marks JL, Wroblewski LB, Raatikainen HS, Lenox SR, Gebhardt KE. Human and environmental toxicity of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS): evidence for safe use in household cleaning products. Environ Health Insights. 2015;9:27-32. doi:10.4137/EHI.S31765