Avoid these ingredients if you have sensitive or sensitised skin

If you, like so many of us, have sensitive skin then chances are you’ve searched high and low for the perfect skincare brand and products. And while some brands or products are marketed as suitable for sensitive skin, it really does come down to arming yourself with the right intel so you can spend your hard-earned money with confidence. Not to mention, save yourself the hallmark signs of red, inflamed or flaky sensitive skin. So, let’s take a look at the common skincare ingredients you should avoid and get you on your way to your best skin yet. 

What’s sensitive and sensitised skin? 

Sensitive skin is a weak protective function of the skin which allows irritants, microbes and allergens to pass through which may cause stinging, pain, redness or flushing. Sensitive skin can experience a lower amount of pigment, a thin epidermis and blood vessels close to the skin surface resulting in the appearance of redness. 

Sensitised skin may be caused by environment or lifestyle choices such as pollution, stress, medication, hormones, diet, climate changes, actives in skincare products and smoking which can contribute to an impaired skin barrier, causing redness, stinging or irritation, dryness and dehydration. Characterised by a feeling of tightness, which can indicate dehydration and lead to skin reactions from products, redness or blotchiness, flaking, peeling or cracking on the cheeks and forehead.

If you: 

  • Notice your skin is reactive 
  • Deal with redness 
  • Experience dry skin 
  • Experience breakouts often 
  • Sunburn easily 
  • Develop rashes often 

Then you likely have a sensitive or sensitised skin. 

Disclaimer – if you’re unsure if you’re having a sensitive or sensitised skin versus an allergic or adverse reaction, we recommend seeing a dermatologist or healthcare professional as soon as possible. A proper diagnosis of your skin can save you a tonne of guessing, experimenting and not to mention, money! It’s also worth mentioning that continued use of products that your skin reacts to can, over time, cause damage to your skin barrier (bringing with it constant breakouts). 
Ingredients to avoid 

Having sensitive skin doesn’t have to make your skincare journey any more of a struggle – you just have to best-friend your skin and know exactly what it doesn’t like! And while this isn’t the be-all-end-all list of ingredients to avoid, it is a list of commonly known ingredients to avoid, and it’s a great place to start! 

Most commonly, we see ‘red flag’ ingredients cropping up within fragrances, soaps, detergents and sunscreens. 

With the rise of sensorial skincare, many brands are using fragrance to hide any unpleasant aromas that the ingredients base may cause (have you ever smelled a vitamin C product without fragrance?!) and unfortunately, synthetic (and some natural) fragrances can induce irritation, redness and skin sensitivities. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom! At RAWKANVAS we use essential oils (that not only smell great but contain their own skin benefits) within a classified safe range (0.5% - 1.0%). If kept within this diluted range, research shows that essential oils cause very little concern when it comes to sensitivity implications. Our blends sit well within the safe range at 0.1%. You can learn all about essential oils in our skincare here. 

So the key take out here is research the fragrance and/or inclusion of essential oils in the products you’re using. Get to know the levels within the formulas, and make your assessment from there. 
Chemical sunscreens 

So there’s two types of sunscreens – mineral and chemical. Chemical sunscreens may increase the chances of skin irritation. 

Our recommendation is to find a mineral sunscreen. And good thing these products are on the rise so they shouldn’t be hard to come by!  

Harsh exfoliants 

Abrasive exfoliants and over-exfoliating can leave skin feeling immediately inflamed. But exfoliating the skin frequently is key to polishing dead skin cells, decongesting pores, assisting the appearance of wrinkles and dullness for a more radiant complexion. So, we want to keep up your exfoliation habits but we also want to avoid ingredients such as retinol and glycolic acid as these may directly irritate your skin. 

While avoiding retinol and glycolic acid, your best bet is to choose gentle products and use them sparingly. Be sure to buff skin lightly and quickly. 

We recommend Polished: Refining Exfoliant for those of you who like to manually exfoliate. You’re in control of how much product you use, how much you dilute it and also how much pressure you apply to your skin while exfoliating – essentially you’re in the driver's seat to avoid causing any irritation with this non-abrasive rice powder. 

If you’re more the set and forget type, then our mask Canvas: Resurfacing AHA & BHA Treatment can be used sparingly and for a shorter period of time (e.g. 5 mins) to effectively dissolve skin build up while avoiding irritation. Be sure to read and follow the instructions! 
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate 

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, found commonly in your shampoos and body wash to create that soapy and lathery texture, is another big no-no worth calling out directly. It’s a known carcinogenic so we don’t need to say anything more here! 
Benzoyl peroxide 

This one might look familiar. It is a very popular ingredient used in acne-fighting products; however, it is actually a very harsh product to be using – for any skin type. It is known to strip the skin of oils (in hopes of banishing pimples) although, it tends to just damage the skin barrier and deprive the skin of moisture. Which may cause major skin irritation and inflammation.  

Instead, look for soothing and gentle cleansers – with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients. Lactic acid is a great alternative, it’s a gentle acid that will help clear your skin without tampering with your skin barrier. It assists to gently exfoliate the outer layer of dead skin cells, increase cell turnover, boost hydration, and increase ceramides that act as a protective barrier.  

Our Purified: Purifying Cleanser has lactic acid, as well as green tea and marshmallow root – designed with gentle ingredients for cleansing your skin effectively. 

Our The Limelight: Brightening Probiotic Lotion has probiotics designed to soothe the appearance of redness, dryness and assist to replenish a damaged skin barrier.


Denatured Alcohol 

When used in skincare products, denatured alcohol can dry out the skin and affect the way in which the skin tries to replenish itself.  

The cheat sheet 

There was a bit to unpack there! So, we’ve summarised a little avoid list or cheat sheet if you will! 

  • Fragrances and essential oils above 1.0% within a formula 
  • Chemical sunscreens (opt for mineral sunscreens) 
  • Retinol (if you choose to use retinol, follow the 'sandwich method', use moisturiser first, apply retinol and then apply more moisturiser on top)
  • Glycolic acid 
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphate 
  • Benzoyl peroxide 
  • Denatured alcohol 


It’s always a good idea to practice patch testing, the ease-in method or the one product at a time method if you have sensitive skin. You can learn all about those methods here! Our skin is so unique and what may work for one person might not work for another so like we said – best-friend your skin!