Sensitivity is a desirable trait—but not when it comes to your skin. If you can’t try out the latest beauty products because you’re almost sure that it will bring on a flare-up, then you probably have sensitive skin. Itching, scratching, acne, rashes, and other forms of inflammation…these may be some of the symptoms you experience whenever you try to be adventurous and experiment with a new product.

But having sensitive skin doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with your skin care. You just have to be more aware of the best products for sensitive skin and the ingredients that you may or may not be able to tolerate.

Your Go-to Ingredients

Everyone’s skin is different and even those with sensitive skin have different concerns. But these are some of the lesser-known ingredients that may be good for your sensitive skin:

1 Centella asiatica. Also known as “cica,” this plant extract is currently a hot ingredient in Korean skin care but it’s been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to treat various conditions, skin or otherwise, for ages. It’s rich in antioxidants, increases skin’s ability to repair damage, protects it from irritation, increases moisture, decreases inflammation, and increases collagen production.

2 Chamomile. Just as chamomile tea is soothing for the stomach (and the soul), chamomile can be just as soothing for the skin. It has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that may help those with acne, eczema, and other forms of skin inflammation. Check the ingredients list of products for bisabolol—it’s a chamomile extract.

3 Goat’s milk. This nutrient-rich ingredient is loaded with sensitive-skin vitamins. The fact that goat’s milk has almost the same pH as human skin means that it doesn’t upset the balance of your skin and instead soothes and nourishes it.

Your No-Go Ingredients

Many skincare products are loaded with chemicals that can cause a reaction. Some of the ones you should avoid:

  1. Fragrance. A lot of companies use the blanket term “fragrance” for the cocktail of chemicals used to mask the smell of skincare products. Note that the term “unscented” doesn’t necessarily mean that a product is free of chemicals; it only means that there were ingredients used to neutralize the smells. Whenever possible, reach for something that’s “fragrance-free.”
  2. Preservatives. These are used to keep products from going bad too quickly Parabens are commonly used preservatives and may cause an allergic reaction.
  3. Sulfates. These are often used to give your shampoo and soap those extra bubbles. But the problem is they tend to dry out skin and hair, a big no-no for sensitive skin.
  4. Exfoliants. When you have dry, flaky skin, you may be tempted to scrub it away. But that can actually make the problem worse. You should limit exfoliation to about twice a week if you have sensitive skin, and even then just use mild products. Oatmeal is a good option; try mixing it with mashed bananas and honey for an all-natural exfoliant.
  5. Some natural products. Beware of products marketed as “natural” or “organic.” While it’s best to stick to products that are as close to natural as possible, you may still be allergic to some of these natural ingredients. Citrus fruit extracts and mint might bring about a reaction. If you are using natural, organic products, make sure they come from a reputable source.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Caring for Sensitive Skin

A few more guidelines for caring for sensitive skin:

DO perform a patch test before committing to a new product. Apply some to your wrist, arm, or behind your ear and wait until the next day to see if your skin reacts.

DON’T introduce more than one new product at a time to your skincare routine. That way, it will be easier to determine which products irritate your skin.

DO consult with a dermatologist when you experience a severe flare-up.

DON’T try to self-medicate or try products to manage a severe flare-up. This may just make the problem worse.

DO use mild cleansing products for sensitive skin and try washing only once a day to keep dryness at bay. You can simply splash on some water in the morning but skip the cleanser and do a more thorough cleansing at night.

DON’T take hot showers, which can dry out your skin. Opt for a cold or lukewarm shower instead.

The best way to determine if you truly have sensitive skin is to go to a dermatologist for evaluation. What you suspect is sensitivity may in fact be just irritation or a reaction to too many products that you pile on your skin—remember that the more products you use, the higher the chances that your skin will be overstressed and thus react.

Looking for products that you can use on your sensitive skin? Visit Healthy Options, the largest organic health store in the Philippines, to see your options.