When you have sensitive skin, it's not just about finding products that are natural or 'green beauty'. It's about finding products that are made with natural, healthy ingredients that aren't going to inflame your skin.
While that looks different for everyone, there are a couple of ingredients that I can easily say should be avoided for people with sensitive skin.
Disclaimer: This is based on my many years of personal experience with sensitive skin. Your sensitive skin may be completely different, and have different reactions to these ingredients, and that is 100% okay.
While most natural products don't contain synthetic fragrance, some do, and if you have sensitive skin, it's so important to avoid. Not only can the scent be obnoxious, but the fragrance can react with your skin, causing irritation and redness.
2. High Concentrations of Essential Oils
I love using essential oils in my skincare rituals. But if you have sensitive skin, you'll want to avoid very high concentrations. While essential oils are super useful, they are truly powerful plant compounds that should be used with respect and caution.
They're more than safe at low doses, but if you're using products with very high concentrations they can irritate your sensitive skin.
To be on the safe side, look for skincare companies that are knowledgeable about essential oils, and formulate their products with the chemistry of the ingredients in mind. Right now I'm thinking about Meow Meow Tweet, whose co-founder has a background in chemistry, but other brands like Woodlot are more than aware of the power of essential oils as they work with them day in and day out.
3. Physical Exfoliants
This is a toughie because we all NEED to exfoliate. Exfoliating is amazing for your skin, so it really is a crucial part of your skincare ritual.
That being said, it's best to avoid harsh physical exfoliants. Please avoid sugar and salt completely - the crystal structure creates tiny lacerations in your delicate skin, not only causing irritation, but making it easy for bacteria to enter and cause more issues (like acne).
I also avoid oats and grains, as I find they're also too harsh, and they create a lot of redness, and sometimes they even hurt to use.
There's only two physical exfoliants I use - the Cocokind Organic Sea Moss Exfoliator, and the Andalou Naturals Konjac Sponges. The konjac sponges aren't as effective as the Cocokind exfoliator, so I tend to use the Cocokind option as my main weekly exfoliator, and the Andalou sponges as a mid week maintenance exfoliation.
4. Activated Charcoal
Okay I know this is going to cause some controversy. But I find activated charcoal is just too intense for sensitive skin, especially for dry AND sensitive skin.
It works well for acne prone skin by pulling out dirt and oil to clarify your skin.
But when you've got dry and / or sensitive skin, it can be a little too intense, as it can remove the oils your skin desperately needs for moisture. And when your skin isn't moisturized, it's more susceptible to damage and irritation.
While I use activated charcoal in my homemade toothpaste, and as a food poisoning remedy, I try to avoid it in skincare - especially homemade treatments. I've found store bought options are better formulated so the charcoal won't be as irritating.
5. Whatever your skin is irritated by
Go figure right? When you have sensitive skin, there will be weird things your skin is irritated by. For me, it's jojoba oil and rose, which is weird and annoying, because they're in a lot of natural products.
You'll know your skin is irritated if it's red, inflamed, hot, itchy, or imbalanced. What does imbalanced mean? If your skin is suddenly shifting in skin types - maybe it's becoming very dry very quickly (and it's not Winter) or you're breaking out when you've never broken out before.
It's so important to always listen to your skin. Yes, a product may be a cult favourite, but if it burns, or makes your skin red, it's not for you. And that's okay - there are always other products out there.
One last piece of advice is to only try one new product at a time. Give yourself at least a week (preferably two or three) before you try another new product. That way if you have irritation you'll know what's causing it.
How do you manage your sensitive skin? Are there ingredients you avoid?