Does your sensitive skin react to common skin care ingredients? You may have always assumed that the issue was your skin itself, but the truth is that you could actually be using harsh ingredients that would cause most skin to react!
You see, the unfortunate fact is that many skin care brands utilize ingredients that are “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS, even though they might cause a reaction in most skin types. The GRAS headline is very broad and includes essentially everything that won’t just melt your skin off.
Rather than settle for sub-par ingredients that do more harm than good, be choosy with your products and scan the ingredients list before purchasing. To give you a leg up, here are two of the most commonly used harsh skin care ingredients, and some gentler and more beneficial alternatives.
Sodium laureth/lauryl sulfate
This common cleansing and foaming agent goes by sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, or simply SLS. It is in almost all of the shampoos, face washes, body soaps, toothpastes (and more) at your local big box store.
The problem with SLS is that it is a known irritant, causing irritation in the eyes and on the skin. It is also believed that SLS can cause more irritation after extended use.
To give you an idea of just how harsh SLS is, ponder this: SLS is commonly used in industrial floor cleaners in places such as auto mechanic shops. Is that something you want in your hair and on your skin? Never!
Furthermore, many products containing SLS have been found to be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which is a “probable human carcinogen” and is classified in California as a cancer-causing agent. The FDA encourages companies to remove this contaminant, though it is not required by law, which is an issue in and of itself.
Now that SLS’ ugliness has been revealed, what can you use instead? Well, the short answer is…Almost anything! There are so many gentler, natural cleansing agents out there that you basically have pick of the litter.
Personally, I love a coconut cleanser which uses coconut-derived cleansing agents and oils. Another great choice is castile soap, a vegetable-based soap which provides gentle cleansing and a rich lather.
Benzoyl peroxide, or BP, is a very common acne treatment. Found in every type of acne skin care product, from cleansers to spot treatments, benzoyl peroxide is used without a second thought by millions of acne sufferers. BP is also sometimes used in non-acne treatments, though it is most commonly seen in products intended for acne.
However, BP is exceedingly harsh and has a long list of possible adverse effects, including skin burning, itching, peeling, dryness, swelling, and redness. BP is also a powerful bleaching agent which has the potential to lighten certain areas of the skin, as well as bleach stain your clothes, sheets, and towels.
The adverse effects of BP are, of course, experienced mainly by those with more sensitive skin types, though the effects can be seen in any skin type. In a 1977 study, 76% of BP users experienced some form of contact sensitivity, regardless of skin type.
If BP is such a harsh skin care ingredient, why is it used? Well, BP is also an effective acne treatment. It works by killing P. acnes (acne-causing) bacteria, and providing antimicrobial functions. However, there are plenty of benzoyl peroxide alternatives that work just as well, if not better, and without all the side effects.
Salicylic acid is a great alternative, though it should be considered a mid-range choice as it can also cause some redness and irritation in very sensitive skin types. Salicylic acid works by boosting cell turnover to slough away dead skin cells and “un-plug” acne blemishes. Because of its function, salicylic acid takes longer to heal current breakouts, though it is also an effective preventative treatment.
Another option is using a vitamin A or retinoid treatment. These products are for moderate to severe acne, and users may experience redness or peeling when using a vitamin A product. However, retinol acne treatments work well by unclogging pores, preventing future clogs, and also diminishing acne scars.
In addition, retinoids are also effective anti-aging skin care ingredients, and are also used as a treatment for psoriasis. Therefore, a retinol product might be a great choice if you suffer from a combination of any of these skin care concerns.