For the best skincare routine that won't irritate even the most sensitive skin with ingredients like gluten and triclosan, look for these beauty products.
“Clean beauty” has become a buzzy term, but here's the thing: Many people assume anything that has "all-natural" on the label is uniformly safe for sensitive skin, and that's not the case. "They can still contain botanicals and fragrances, which can worsen irritation for some," points out Marisa Garshick, MD, an NYC-based dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College.
While clean skincare might mean different things to different people depending on your skin's sensitivity, you’re probably not looking for beauty products packed with ingredients that will irritate your skin and cause redness, dryness, itchiness, or pain. So look carefully at the ingredients in your beauty products rather than relying solely on labels like “hypoallergenic,” which can be misleading. In fact, according to a recent study published in JAMA Dermatology, 83 percent of products considered "hypoallergenic" contained at least one common allergen ingredient.
There's little regulation when it comes to certain common statements made on beauty product labels, like "dermatologist recommended" and "hypoallergenic," and the FDA doesn't have a standard or set of protocols a cosmetics company would need to take before making such claims.
The best skincare products for sensitive skin should leave allergens like gluten, synthetic fragrances, and triclosan on the cutting room floor. Dr. Garshick also lists "parabens, propylene glycol (which was actually named the Allergen of the Year from the American Contact Dermatitis Society due to increasing awareness of its role in irritating skin), and lanolin" as skincare ingredients you'll want to avoid.
"Other things to look for in the label include tocopherol and various formaldehyde releases such as DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea among others and other preservatives such as methylisothiazolinone," she added.
The most common skin irritant is fragrance, Dr. Garshick says. "If someone comes in with sensitive skin, that would be be first ingredient I would advise them to avoid. If they are still sensitive, that’s when avoiding some other ingredients can be helpful."
While the ingredients mentioned above aren’t guaranteed to cause your skin issues, if you’re looking to spring clean your skincare routine, here are some of the best beauty products to revamp your regimen with fewer questionable ingredients.
For Makeup Remover
Start with micellar water—long touted by French skincare experts as the secret to flawless skin—to get off your makeup and general grime from the day.
As dermatologist Dr. Mona Gohara explained to Real Simple, “I like micellar water as part of a double cleanse. It gets rid of the big stuff like makeup, oil, and dirt. While the gentle non-soap cleanser takes care of the nitty-gritty grime hiding deep in the pores."
Try Garnier's SkinActive Micellar Cleansing water, which is formed without the use of propylene glycol like some other micellar waters.
To buy: $6.69; Target.com.
For Face Wash and Toner
Board-certified dermatologist and founder of his namesake skincare company Dr. Dennis Gross makes multi-tasking products to "prevent, correct, and protect" the skin.
He pays close attention to ingredient details to make sure his products deliver maximum results in gentler ways, with a focus on maintaining the skin's natural pH balance.
To buy: $32; Sephora.com.
Some of Brandless' products contain fragrance, so if that's your ingredient of woe, make sure you're reading the bottles. Brandless' Facial Lotion, however, does not add fragrance and is an affordable moisturizer option for sensitive skin. Many of Brandless' products, including cleaning supplies and snacks, are also gluten free. So, if you're looking to avoid gluten in all walks of life, this can be your go-to brand.
The buy: $3; Brandless.com.
For Eye Cream
La-Roche Posay is one of those brands that sticks out in drug stores for its glossier bottles and steeper price points than those of its shelf counterparts—but if you have sensitive skin, it's worth looking into the brand. The brand's products tend to steer clear of common allergens, which is especially ideal for the thinner and more sensitive skin around your eyes.
To buy: $33.99; Target.com.
I live by a famous quote that goes, "The sun is not your friend." —My mom.
Seriously, though, everyone should know by now that you're supposed to be wearing broad-spectrum SPF every day because THE SUN IS NOT YOUR FRIEND.
"For sunscreens," Dr. Garshick explains, "Those with sensitive skin should look for physical blockers, which are those that contain zinc or titanium, as opposed to chemical blockers, specifically oxybenzone, which can cause an allergic reaction in certain individuals."
She recommends Vanicream as a reliable beauty-brand crutch for those with sensitive skin.
To buy: $12.55; Walgreens.