Counter-irritants are used to induce local inflammation for the purpose of relieving inflammation in deeper or adjacent tissues. In other words, they substitute one kind of inflammation for another, which is never good for skin. Irritation or inflammation, no matter what causes it or how it happens, impairs the skin’s immune and healing response. [1]

Ingredients such as menthol, peppermint, black pepper, camphor, and mint are counter-irritants. [2]

Although your skin may not show it or may not react in an irritated fashion, if you apply irritants to your skin the damage is still taking place and is ongoing, so its effects add up over time. [3]

References Cited:

  1. Zuang V, Rona C, Archer G, Berardesca E. Detection of Skin Irritation Potential of Cosmetics by Non-Invasive Measurements. Skin Pharmacol Appl Skin Physiol.. 2000.;13:358-371.
  2. Yosipovitch G, Szolar C, Hui X, Maibach H. Effect of topically applied menthol on thermal, pain and itch sensations and biophysical properties of the skin. Arch Dermatol Res.. 1996;288(5-6):245-8.
  3. Perkins M, Osterhues M, Farage M, Robinson M. A noninvasive method to assess skin irritation and compromised skin conditions using simple tape adsorption of molecular markers of inflammation. Skin Res Technol. 2001;7(4):224-37.

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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