Sensitive Skin: Ingredients to Avoid

Finca Skin Organics - Calming Serum 2

Sensitive skin is a real pain to deal with, especially when it comes to finding the right products. Whether you suffer from sensitivity in general, rosacea, eczema, acne or any other skin condition, you’ll know how difficult it can be trawling through the ingredients list. From cleansers to moisturizers, it can be tough to know which ingredients are safe to use and which ones to avoid. And let's face it, when your skin is irritated and uncomfortable, it affects our overall confidence and well-being.

That's why it's so important to educate yourself on the ingredients that might be causing your skin to react negatively. Knowing what to avoid can help you make informed decisions when it comes to your skincare routine.

But don't worry, it's not all doom and gloom. There are plenty of gentle, effective skincare ingredients out there that can help soothe and nourish sensitive skin. We have plenty of posts diving into the good ones, so feel free to check them out. 

In this blog post, we'll be taking a closer look at some of the most common ingredients that may be causing your skin to flare up. So, whether you're a seasoned skincare pro or a newcomer to the world of sensitive skin, this post will hopefully give you some insight on some ingredients to avoid. We want everyone to feel confident and comfortable in their own skin, no matter what your skin type may be. So let’s get straight into looking at some of the worst ingredients that you should be avoiding.


Alcohol comes in many forms — some that have the potential to dry out skin and leave it more prone to irritation and redness, and triggering a rosacea flare-up,  and some that can actually help moisturize and preserve the skincare product.

Denatured Alcohol (Alcohol Denat) or Isopropyl Alcohol

If any of these two above, are in the first two thirds of the ingredient list, then the product is likely to be drying and /or irritating to your sensitive skin. So best avoided.  Remember alcohol is a drying agent, which means it can strip the skin of its natural oils and disrupt its natural barrier. This can lead to increased sensitivity, redness, and flakiness, particularly in those with already sensitive or dry skin. This may make it a tempting option if you suffer from an oily condition, but it’s counterproductive and can make skin oilier in the long term.

Furthermore, alcohol can disrupt the pH balance of the skin, which can leave it vulnerable to bacterial infections and other issues. It can also increase the permeability of the skin, which can allow irritants and other substances to penetrate deeper into the skin and cause further damage.

Overall, it's best to avoid skincare products that contain the above twoalcohols if you have sensitive skin. Instead, look for products that are formulated specifically for sensitive skin and contain gentle, non-irritating ingredients.

What about Benzyl alcohol? Its a common skincare ingredient however, Its chief function in cosmetics is as a preservative, and it's among the least sensitizing preservatives in use. Benzyl alcohol works well as a preservative because it has both antibacterial and antifungal properties. So if benzyl alcohol is near the bottom of the ingredient list, then its acting as a preservative and will not irritate sensitive or rosacea skin.

Cetyl, Stearyl, or Cetearyl Alcohol? These are fatty alcohols. These are the ones that actually help moisturize your skin. Because of their ability to lock moisture into the skin and form a protective barrier that water can’t penetrate, products with these ingredients work best for dehydrated skin. They also prevent oil and water from separating in the formulation. So don't mistake them for the two earlier alcohols....these are the good guys!

Essential oils image


Let’s start off by saying that there is no benefit to fragrance in skincare, other than the fact it makes the product smell better.

Fragrance is bad for sensitive skin because it can cause irritation and allergic reactions. People with inflammatory skin conditions like eczema or rosacea should avoid using fragranced skincare products, as they could potentially cause more irritation to the skin. Those with hyperpigmentation or dark spots may also experience irritation from fragrance, so it's best to adopt a fragrance-free skincare routine. In addition, people who experience migraines or are hypersensitive to odor should avoid fragrance in skincare products. All in all, if it gives no benefit, best to avoid.

What about essential oils? Sometimes these are used by the skincare industry as a fragrance or as a therapeutic, and its hard to know as a customer what the difference is. Dermatologists generally don't tend to recommend essential oils as whilst some do have beneficial properties, they are complex and potentially unpredictable substances. This means that, despite being 'natural', they may have the ability to trigger irritation or true contact allergy.

From my own experience, I love Dermalogica facials, however I avoid their cleanser as I can smell lavender from it, and my experience is that it always causes my rosacea to flare up. Don't be afraid when your having facials, to have a sniff of the products before they are put on your skin….any smell, whether it's from perfume or essential oils, then ask to change to something else, or leave it out of the facial altogether, and don't be afraid to educate whoever is doing your facial as to why you don't want it. Your skin is sensitive !! Facials are a necessary treat sometimes so don't leave after a facial feeling worse than when you went in.

Essential Oils

One more thing, in our Calming serum 2, we use tea tree oil and oil of oregano, both are there for therapeutic reasons. Calming serum 2 is for an underlying oily skin condition. Oily skin is not as sensitive to these two essential oils. In fact tea tree especially is actually good for oily skin and is found in many skincare products especially formulated for oily skin.


So, sulfates are pretty good at getting us squeaky clean, but they can also be pretty bad for our health and skin. First off, when these sulfates mix with the air, they create sulfuric acid, which can seriously irritate your eyes, skin, and even your insides. You might end up with itchy eyes, irritated skin, and breathing problems - not good. And if you've got sensitive skin, watch out. Sulfates in soap and other personal care products can cause allergic reactions, skin irritation, and even dermatitis. Not to mention that they can clog your pores and give you acne - not what you want. 

So, what can you do? Look for sulfate-free products. They might not lather up as much, and they might not clean as quickly, but at least they're way safer for your skin, hair, and overall health.



Butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben

The potential harm of parabens for the skin is not due to a direct effect on the skin itself, but rather the ability to be absorbed through the skin and into the body. Research shows that parabens can easily penetrate the skin and be absorbed into the body where they can accumulate in body tissues and fluids.

Although the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) and the FDA consider parabens to be safe for use in cosmetics, studies have suggested that parabens may disrupt hormone production and mimic estrogen, which could potentially lead to reproductive issues. Parabens may also contribute to the growth of certain types of cancer cells, as they have been detected in the breast tissue of people with breast cancer.

In short, while parabens may not directly harm the skin, the potential harm lies in the way they can be absorbed through the skin and accumulate in the body, potentially leading to reproductive and other health issues. The more you know, eh?

Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid

Benzoyl peroxide is a well-known ingredient for the treatment of acne. You might be tempted to think that because it works for acne, it could be good for rosacea or other sensitivities. This is where you need to be aware and know that the two conditions are unrelated and benzoyl peroxide is counterproductive for rosacea. Salicylic acid is similar, as it’s also a good ingredient for acne treatment. It works by dissolving cell build up, but can be too abrasive and irritating for rosacea skin.

Peppermint, Menthol and Eucalyptus Oil

These ingredients are designed to produce a cooling effect, you know the one that you usually feel after wearing a face mask or a cleanser designed to be refreshing. This sensation is actually harmful for rosacea prone skin.

If you have rosacea and use something with one of these ingredients in there the outcome will more likely feel like burning or itching rather than cooling. This actually ties into the first point about fragrances. You get a clear smell from peppermint, menthol and eucalyptus which is what will help warn you about the negative effects for rosacea.

Witch hazel 

Witch hazel may be helpful for certain skin conditions, but its efficacy is not always clear. For instance, it may not be effective for treating eczema since it may only reduce the inflammation but not the associated itchiness. Anecdotal research on witch hazel has mixed results, with some users reporting excessive dryness and worse breakouts. It's difficult to draw conclusions from these testimonies since the types of witch hazel used and the duration of side effects are often unclear.

The evidence to support the use of witch hazel for treating aging concerns like fine lines, wrinkles, and varicose veins isn’t sufficient. When using witch hazel, it's crucial to be mindful of the type of product being used. Pure formulas contain only witch hazel, while some over-the-counter formulas may contain fragrances and alcohol, which can irritate the skin, especially if you have sensitive skin, inflammation, or wounds. So in other words, best avoided for sensitive and /or rosacea skin.


The bottom line

So, we’ve not covered absolutely every bad ingredient when it comes to skincare today, but we did look at the tip of the iceberg and hopefully uncovered some of the most common/worst ones. The best thing you can do to arm yourself against a possible flare up of skin sensitivities or conditions is to do a background search on the ingredients lists. Tiresome, we know. It can be a bit time consuming researching every little thing but if you’ve found yourself here you know it’s probably worth it.

And another tip which we always repeat - if the list of ingredients is long when you’re about to look into it - that’s always a red flag. Remember, finca skin organics products always have short ingredient lists. We formulate for sensitive rosacea skin.

All Finca Skin Organics products are made using a minimal, plant-based ingredients list and formulated by me, a rosacea sufferer.

The Finca Skin Organics range has undergone a Harley Street clinical study. After using our products, 87% felt the appearance of their skin significantly improved. 

View the entire range of Finca products here or find out what subtype your skin is.

When in doubt, always refer to your doctor or dermatologist as the condition differs for everyone. It’s always best to talk to your dermatologist first and work out your treatment plan together.

If you have any queries regarding your rosacea or how to use our products get in contact with us, we'd love to hear from you.

Take care! 
With love from Ireland,

Clinical evaluation by Harley St. dermatologists on 23 subjects after 8 weeks of use. 

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