Sensitive Skin Care

Ask a Therapist

By Dana Vande Weg

Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Autumn/Winter 2003.

Q: I’d love to try new skin care treatments, but I have a history of allergic reactions. What ingredients should I avoid?

A: You’re wise not to experiment with your precious skin. There are specific ingredients you probably should avoid, according to Dana Vande Weg, co-owner of Stellar Spa in Corte Madera, Calif., which specializes in natural treatments.

“All skin types, but especially sensitive skin, should avoid artificial fragrances, lanolin, alcohols, urea, artificial colors and synthetic oils. They have been shown to cause skin irritation in many people,” Vande Weg says.

“People with sensitive skin should also avoid products that contain harsh surfactants (ingredients that make a cleanser lather) such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).”

Several products generally used to clear the skin are available over the counter, but they should only be applied with the advice of a skin care professional or a dermatologist, Vande Weg points out. These include products containing glycolic, alpha hydroxy acids or retin-A. If used, they need to be used in conjunction with a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher.

Vande Weg says healthy selections do exist. “Some good ingredients to look for are: L-ascorbic acid, alpha lipoic acid, chamomile, calendula, rose hips, rose, oatmeal, aloe vera, lavender, sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil and avocado oil, to name a few.”