For people with sensitive skin, finding non-irritating cosmetics can be a challenge. With confusing ingredients labels and misleading marketing claims, how can you be sure your skin care is safe for you to use? Here we reveal how to spot common skin irritants in cosmetics.
You might not think of your favourite scent as being behind a health epidemic, but the reality is fragrance is an issue that is not confined to your perfume bottle. Many skin care products and toiletries contain a complex blend of artificial fragrances that can cause problems for asthmatics and those with sensitive skin.
Scent irritants are added to cosmetics to make them smell nice and have been linked to causing dermatitis, headaches, migraines and respiratory problems.
Fragrance sensitivity is a healthcare epidemic of which we don’t yet know the scale –The Guardian September 2019i
HOW TO AVOID FRAGRANCE IN COSMETICS:
Many people who are allergic to synthetic fragrance find that they can use natural skin care scented with essential oils.
However even natural essential oils can cause reactions in those with particular skin allergies so if you are ultra-sensitive to fragrance the best thing to do is to stick to totally scent-free skin care. Be sure your skin care is fragrance free by checking labels carefully for mentions of essential oils or perfume (parfum). If in doubt, patch test your products before use.
WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE TO SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCE?
Essential oils carry the scent of the fruits and flowers that they have been extracted from. These naturally fragranced oils are usually added to skin care in small amounts and are easily absorbed by the skin. Many essential oils also have anti-inflammatory, healing actives and when oils like Ylang Ylang, Rose Geranium and Neroli are used in skin care, they deliver a delicate scent whilst also gently soothing the body and mind.
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SODIUM LAURYL SULPHATE (SLS)
SLS is known to strip the skin of its natural protective oils, and when we surveyed 3,000 customers about their sensitive skin, over half said that they avoid this harsh, synthetic foaming agent. In addition to causing skin and scalp irritation, SLS is known to aggravate the lining of the mouth and has been linked to mouth ulcers and gum irritation.
HOW TO AVOID SLS IN COSMETICS
SLS is used to make beauty products foam. Typically, you won’t find SLS in moisturisers, but you may come across it in foaming face washes, shower gels, shampoos, toothpastes and hand soaps. Shampoo bars are also known to contain a high concentration of SLS.
WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE TO SLS?
If products with SLS irritate your skin, opt for skin care and hair care made with Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS). Derived from coconut, SCS foams just as well as SLS but has a larger molecular mass. This means that it is much less likely to penetrate the skin and cause irritation. You can also shop for SLS-free toothpastes which clean the mouth without foaming.
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Another skin irritant found in cosmetics is alcohol, also known as Ethyl alcohol, Ethanol or Alcohol Denat, which may be used at levels of 12-15% as a preservative. This is incredibly drying and irritating for the skin and may even enhance your chance of experiencing a reaction to other ingredients by transporting them through the skin barrier.
Half of Green People customers say they avoid alcohol to prevent skin reactionsii
HOW TO AVOID ETHANOL ALCOHOL IN COSMETICS
Some alcohols are beneficial for the skin and it can be difficult to distinguish between these and skin-irritating alcohols. An easy way to spot alcohol in a product’s INCI list is to look for words ending ‘ol.’ Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Calciferol (Vitamin D) and Cetyl alcohol are all non-irritating alcohols and are commonly used in beauty and grooming products. The most common skin-irritating alcohols found in cosmetics is Ethyl alcohol.
WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE TO ETHANOL ALCOHOL IN COSMETICS?
Choosing ethyl alcohol-free products with a skin-kind preservative system is the best option if you have sensitive skin. Green People uses a range of preservative systems, the ingredients being chosen to best suit the type of product, but all are free from skin-drying alcohol and are ideal for ultra-sensitive skin.
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Do you avoid any of these common skin irritants in cosmetics? Join the conversation at @GreenPeopleUK or by commenting in the section below.
[ii] Green People Sensitive skin care survey, August 2019
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