Meri Meri
2 years ago

Why some products irritate your skin and some not

This website has helped me a lot. One curiosity: I thought the brand L’Occitane de Provance was a very delicate brand for people with sensitive skin. When I read this brand on your web, most products are “irritancy high. “ I don’t understand all the ingredients, but I think it makes those products irritable combinations of chemicals ingredients. Can you give me some information about what some products irritate your skin, and some do not? I appreciate the answer. This area is exciting. Thanks for helping me a lot.

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Thank you Meri! It's a complicated topic, but hopefully I can help a bit!

Ingredients with the highest irritation risk are actually mostly of plant origin - a lot of fragrant compounds are common irritants and allergens (they are in essential oils, flower extracts etc. or in the fragrance mixture added to products and labelled as "parfum" on the ingredient list). These compounds (for example, limonene that is in natural and synthetic citrus cents) can penetrate the skin barrier and our immune cells in the skin detect it as a potential threat and start an inflammation response. The risk of irritation is higher if the skin barrier is weaker (for example, when the skin is dry, when we exfoliate or wash it too much, or when we suffer from a skin condition like atopic dermatitis).

Some preservatives (mostly formaldehyde-releasing ones) are also common allergens and irritants.

Also harsh cleansing agents (for example Soduim Lauryl Sulfate, soaps) disrupt the skin barrier and lead to irritation. That's why traditional soaps are not recommended for cleansing the skin. Unfortunately, some surfactants that are mild for most people can cause irritation in others. This is the case for some coconut-derived cleansing ingredients like Cocamidopropyl Betaine.

Some effective skincare ingredients also have a high irritation risk. For example, retinol frequently leads to irritation, especially when a person just starting using them. (Luckily, for most people the irritation goes away after 1-2 month of using a retinol), high concentration of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) can also be irritating.

Also, the more we exposed to a chemical (it doesn't matter if it's a natural or synthetic origin), the higher the risk of irritation or allergic reaction to it is. This is one of the possible reasons why women tend to suffer more from irritant reactions and sensitive skin compared to men (women on average use more skincare products than men).


You explain yourself very well, thanks a lot. Is there on the market a skincare product that never ever can irritate your skin? I thought solid skincare were the answer because they don’t contain water ( good for the environment) and the ingredients in it are more efficient because they don’t need preservatives.

Please, tell me if I can help you in some way because you help a lot with your answers. Take care of yourself.


Thank you so much! You being part of our little community and sharing your honest reviews and skincare experiences is already very helpful! And asking questions is helpful too - because other people here might have the same questions but are too shy to ask! :)

In terms of products that are almost certain not to irritate your skin, it's probably pure vaseline and mineral oil (the options without fragrance and without any other ingredients). They don't need preservatives because they are oils, and there no reported cases of sensitivity to them. Sunflower seed oil, coconut oil (unless it's gone bad of course!) is also very unlikely to trigger an irritation.

Solid vs water based products don't really have a difference in terms of irritation potential, it all depends on the ingredients. Yes, it's true that solid products can be preservative-free, and it reduces the irritation risk, but they can still contain other irritants. A lot of solid products on the market contain fragrance of natural or synthetic origin, and it's already an irritation risk. And the issue with solid products it that it is easier to end up with a more concentrated products once you add water, and this can make the irritation risk higher.

I personally think that responsible consumption and minimalistic skincare routines are the best both in terms of environmental friendliness and skin benefit. For example, it's possible to have a very effective anti-aging routine with just 4 products: a moisturizing sunscreen, cleanser, a serum with a potent active (for example, a retinoid or vitamin c), and a moisturizer without SPF. If we buy these products in larger packaging, it helps to reduce the packaging and transportation impact. An average routine of an active skincare consumer contains 7-8 products, so this is already a huge reduction from the environmental standpoint, even if the products are water-based. Also, not buying organic skincare products and products with high content of plant extracts decreases the environmental impact (it takes a lot of farming land and resources to grow plants, especially organically, and one needs a lot of plants to produce a tiny bit of an extract. I think it takes more than a hectar of land per year to produce 10 kg of non-organic lavender essential oil. At the same time, "non-natural" skincare ingredients tend to be more efficient because they often use byproducts of other industries and more efficient source material like sugar cane).