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Rating Ingredient
Poor

acetic acid

Acid found in vinegar, some fruits, and human sweat. It can be sensitizing to skin...

Categories: Sensitizing
Poor

acetone

Strong solvent that is used in Nail Polish removers.

Categories: Sensitizing
Poor

calamine

Preparation of zinc carbonate, colored with ferric oxide (a form of rust). Zinc carbonate is a...

Categories: Sensitizing
Poor

elecampane

Latin name Inula helenium; it is a plant that can be very sensitizing to the skin...

Poor

English ivy extract

Plant extract that can be a skin sensitizer due to its stimulant and astringent (skin-constricting) properties.

Poor

Equisetum arvense

Poor

esculin

Component of horse chestnut, it is considered harmful and is not recommended for skin...

Categories: Sensitizing
Poor

essential oil

Poor

ethanol

Categories: Sensitizing
Poor

ethyl alcohol

Categories: Sensitizing
Poor

eucalyptus extract

Extract that may have beneficial properties on the skin...

Poor

eucalyptus oil

Fragrant plant oil whose active constituents are found in the leaves and the oil obtained from...

Poor

Eugenia aromatica

Poor

Eugenia caryophyllus

Poor

eugenol

Fragrance chemical that occurs naturally in some plant ingredients...

Average

Euphrasia officinalis

Average

eyebright

A plant; although the name sounds like it would be beneficial for the eye area, there are no...

Poor

comfrey extract

Several studies have shown that comfrey extract can have harmful properties when...

Poor

denatured alcohol

Categories: Sensitizing
Poor

fennel oil

Volatile, fragrant oil that can cause skin sensitivity.

Poor

fennel seed extract

Can have antioxidant properties, but on skin it can be a skin sensitizer (Source:...

Poor

Ferula galbaniflua

Good

feverfew extract

A plant that can be very soothing but also potentially sensitizing to the skin...

Poor

Ficus carica fruit extract

Poor

fig

Fruit that contains psoralens, which are compounds that may cause sensitizing reactions...

Poor

fir needle oil

Volatile, fragrant oil that can cause skin sensitivity.

Poor

Foeniculum vulgare extract

Poor

fragrance

One or a blend of volatile and/or fragrant plant oils (or synthetically derived oils) that impart...

Poor

frankincense extract

Fragrant component used in skincare products; it can be a skin sensitizer...

Poor

galbanum

Fragrant substance that, because of its resin and volatile oil content, can be extremely sensitizing…

Poor

Gardenia florida extract

Flower extract used in cosmetics to impart fragrance; also functions as an antioxidant (Source:...

Average

geraniol

A volatile fragrance ingredient extracted from geranium, geraniol is capable of causing sensitivity when applied to skin.

Poor

geranium oil

Fragrant oil that can have beneficial properties but also can be a skin sensitizer...

Poor

Geranium pretense

Geranium plant.

Poor

ginger oil

Poor

isopropyl alcohol

Categories: Sensitizing
Poor

ivy extract

Plant extract that can be sensitizing due to its astringent (skin-constricting) properties.

Poor

jasmine oil

Fragrant oil, often used as a source of perfume, that can be a skin sensitizer...

Poor

Jasminium grandiflorum

Poor

jonquil extract

Fragrant plant extract that poses a strong risk of skin sensitization.

Poor

juniper berry

Can have sothing properties for skin…

Poor

Juniperus communis

Poor

Kathon CG

Categories: Preservatives, Sensitizing
Poor

kava-kava extract

Extract of the Piper methysticum plant that has soothing properties, but can...

Poor

kawa extract

Average

kiwi fruit extract

As a food, kiwi has significant antioxidant properties that may even be greater than those of...

Average

kola nut

One of the major components of the kola nut is caffeine, which in high amounts can be a skin sensitizer...

Poor

lavandin oil

Essential oil of the hybrid lavender plant Lavandula hybrida and used in cosmetics as a fragrance...

Poor

Lavandula angustifolia

Poor

Lavandula officinalis

Poor

lavender extract and oil

In-vitro research indicates that components of lavender oil, specifically linalool and linalyl acetate, can have...

Poor

lemon

Potent skin sensitizer. Though it can have beneficial properties...

Poor

lemon balm

Poor

lemon juice

The juice from the citrus fruit lemon, often touted in the world of skin care as being a natural option for brightening skin.

Categories: Antioxidants, Sensitizing
Poor

lemon oil

Commonly used citrus oil that can be a skin sensitizer, especially on abraded skin.

Poor

lemongrass extract

Extract that can have beneficial properties...

Poor

lemongrass oil

Also known as Oil of Verbena; can be effective as a mosquito repellent...

Average

Lentinus edodes extract

Extract from the shiitake mushroom that may have antioxidant properties...

Poor

gold

An ingredient that seems luxe and helpful but is actually a frequent contact sensitizer…

Categories: Sensitizing, Miscellaneous
Poor

grapefruit oil

Citrus oil whose volatile components (chiefly substances known as furocoumarins) are sensitizing...

Poor

grapefruit peel extract

Typically listed as citrus grandis (grapefruit) peel extract on the ingredient list...

Poor

guarana

Herb that contains two and a half times more caffeine than coffee. It can have constricting...

Poor

Hamamelis virginiana

Poor

hamamelitannin

Tannin that is found in witch hazel. It can be a skin sensitizer but it also has antioxidant...

Categories: Antioxidants, Sensitizing
Poor

hayflower extract

Plant extract that, due to its constricting effect on skin, can be sensitizing There is no...

Poor

Hedera helix

Poor

hedione

Synthetic fragrant component in products, which also can be a skin sensitizer.

Poor

hexyl cinnamal

A fragrance ingredient used in many perfumes and often seen in fragranced skincare products...

Poor

horse elder

Poor

horseradish

Plant that can sensitize skin and should never be applied to abraded skin.

Poor

Hydnocarpus anthelmintica

Poor

Hydrastis canadenis

Poor

hydrogen peroxide

There is a great deal of current research showing that hydrogen peroxide is problematic as a...

Categories: Sensitizing
Good

Hypericum extract

Average

hyssop

Fragrant plant extract that may have some beneficial properties...

Poor

Illicium vernum

Poor

Inula helenium

Poor

Iris florentina extract

Poor

Levisticum officinale root extract

Poor

lime oil and extract

Citrus fruit whose volatile compounds are sensitizing...

Poor

limonene

Chemical constituent of many natural fragrant ingredients, notably citrus oils such as lemon (d-limonene) and...

Poor

linalool

Fragrant component of lavender and coriander that can be a skin sensitizer, or...

Poor

Litsea cubeba

Poor

lovage root extract

In cosmetics, it is used as a fragrance....

Poor

lye

Poor

mandarin orange oil or extract

Primarily used as a fragrance; it can be a skin sensitizer. There is no research showing it has any...

Poor

marjoram

Herb with a fragrant component used in cosmetics; can be a skin sensitizer…

Poor

Melaleuca cajeputi oil

There is no research showing that this oil, which is derived from a plant in the same family as the...

Poor

Melia azadirachta

Categories: Sensitizing
Poor

Melissa officinalis

Poor

Mentha arvensis

Poor

Mentha piperita

Poor

Mentha spicata

Poor

Mentha viridis

Poor

menthol

Derived from peppermint; menthol can have the same sensitizing effect as peppermint on skin…

Poor

menthone

Major constituent of peppermint.

Poor

menthoxypropanediol

Synthetic derivative of menthol. It is known to produce effects that are twice as strong as...

Poor

menthyl lactate

Used as a cooling agent and fragrance in cosmetics. It is a derivative of menthol and is supposed...

Poor

methanol

Categories: Sensitizing
Poor

methylchloroisothiazolinone

In combination with methylisothiazolinone, it goes by the trade name Kathon CG (among others)....

Categories: Preservatives, Sensitizing
Poor

methylisothiazolinone

Preservative that’s generally recommended for use only in rinse-off products such as cleansers or...

Categories: Preservatives, Sensitizing
Poor

mint

Can be a skin sensitizer…

Poor

myrrh

Fragrant gum resin that can be a skin sensitizer. There is little research showing it has any benefit...

Poor

myrtle extract

Contains volatile oil and tannins...

Poor

Myrtus communis extract

Poor

Narcissus poeticus wax

Fragrant flower extract that can cause sensitizing reactions…

Average

neem extract or oil

Extract from leaves of the neem tree, it has potential sensitizing effects, although it also has been...

Poor

neroli

Poor

neroli oil

Fragrant plant oil that can be a skin sensitizer...

Poor

oak root extract

Extract that can be a skin sensitizer.

Poor

olibanum extract

Poor

orange blossom

Fragrant extract that can also be a skin sensitizer.

Poor

orchid

Fragrant flower that can be a skin sensitizer.

Poor

oregano

Has beneficial properties, but can also be a skin sensitizer.

Poor

Origanum majorana

Poor

Origanum vulgare flower extract

Poor

orris root

Used primarily as a fragrant component due to its violet-like scent (Source:...

Average

sodium hydroxide

Also known as lye, it is a highly alkaline ingredient used in small amounts in cosmetics to...

Poor

sodium lauryl sulfate

Versatile ingredient composed of several non-volatile alcohols. Functions primarily as a surfactant...

Average

sodium metabisulfite

Reducing agent that alters the structure of hair. It can also be used as a preservative in...

Poor

sodium silicate

Highly alkaline and potentially sensitizing mineral used in cosmetics...

Categories: Sensitizing
Average

sodium sulfite

Reducing agent that alters the structure of hair. It can also be used as a preservative in cosmetic...

Categories: Preservatives, Sensitizing
Poor

sodium thioglycolate

A synthetic ingredinet that functions as a reducing agent in cosmetics, most typically hair-removal lotions...

Categories: Sensitizing
Average

Solanum lycopersicum extract

Poor

spearmint oil

Fragrant, volatile oil that can cause skin sensitivity.

Poor

star anise

Poor

sulfur

Disinfectant agent that can be a potent skin sensitizer...

Categories: Sensitizing
Poor

Symphytum officinale extract

Poor

Szechuan peppercorn

From a plant native to Szechuan Province in China. It grows on trees, and so differs from black...

Poor

rose flower oil

Fragrant, volatile oil that can aggravate skin. There is no research showing...

Average

sage extract

Plant used most often to enhance the flavor of foods. Like all plant extracts, sage...

Poor

sandalwood oil

Fragrant oil that can cause skin-sensitizing reactions...

Average

Santalum album seed extract

Latin name for sandalwood extract, which is used in cosmetics as a fragrance. It can have...

Poor

sausurrea oil

Also called costus oil. Volatile oil and fragrant component used in cosmetics; it can be a skin...

Poor

SD alcohol

Categories: Sensitizing
Poor

SD alcohol 40-2

Denatured alcohol used as a solvent. It can be drying and sensitizing to skin when one of the main...

Categories: Sensitizing
Average

sea salt

Can be effective as a topical scrub, but if left on skin it can increase skin sensitivity to UVB...

Categories: Scrub Agents, Sensitizing
Poor

silver

Metallic element that in cosmetics can have disinfecting properties; however, prolonged contact can...

Categories: Sensitizing
Average

silver chloride

An inorganic salt that has no known function in cosmetics.

Categories: Sensitizing
Poor

soap

True “soaps” are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and are not required to list...

Average

sodium bisulfite

Used in acid-type permanent waves to alter the shape of hair. It is less damaging than alkaline...

Categories: Sensitizing
Poor

sodium borate

Categories: Sensitizing
Poor

sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate

Can be derived from coconut. Used primarily as a detergent cleansing agent, but is potentially...

Poor

sodium carbonate

Absorbent salt used in cosmetics; it can also be a skin sensitizer.

Categories: Absorbent, Sensitizing
Poor

sodium cocoate

Used as a cleansing agent primarily in soaps. It can be drying and sensitizing for skin.

Average

Tanacetum parthenium

Poor

tangerine oil

Fragrant, volatile citrus oil that can be a skin sensitizer…

Poor

TEA-lauryl sulfate

While there is abundant research showing sodium lauryl sulfate is a sensitizing cleansing agent,...

Average

thyme extract

Extract derived from the leaf or flower of the thyme plant. It can have potent antioxidant...

Poor

thyme oil

The most concentrated part of the thyme plant, and a source of antioxidants, some of which...

Poor

Thymus serpillum extract

Extract of wild thyme.

Average

Thymus vulgaris

Poor

Thymus vulgaris oil

Thymus vulgaris oil is more commonly known as thyme oil.

Average

tomato extract

Extract that has weak antioxidant properties...

Poor

tormentil extract

Plant that can be irritating due to its tannin content, which causes skin constriction.

Average

trigonella foenum-graecum seed extract

Latin name for the fenugreek plant. The seeds are used most often, and their fiber content helps...

Poor

verbena extract

Fragrant extract that can be a skin sensitizer...

Poor

vetiver oil or extract

Fragrant component in skincare products that also has some beneficial properties...

Average

vitamin B2

There is no research showing this has any benefit when applied topically to skin. However, there is...

Categories: Sensitizing, Vitamins
Poor

volatile oil

Group of volatile fluids derived primarily from plants and used in cosmetics primarily as fragrant...

Average

white nettle

Contains components that can have both soothing and sensitizing properties...

Poor

white oak bark extract

Poor

wild ginger

Poor

wintergreen oil

A type of mint often used to ease the discomfort of sore muscles...

Poor

witch hazel

Commonly used plant extract that can have antioxidant properties...

Poor

Xi xin

Poor

yarrow extract

Extract for which there is little research showing it to have any benefit for skin. What studies do...

Poor

ylang ylang

Fragrant, volatile oil that can also be a skin sensitizer…

Average

yucca extract

Plant extract that can have soothing benefits...

Poor

Zanthoxylum piperitum

Poor

zinc carbonate

Categories: Miscellaneous, Sensitizing
Poor

zinc sulfate

Chemical compound resulting from the interaction of zinc with sulfuric acid. There is little...

Categories: Preservatives, Sensitizing
Poor

Zingiber officinale roscoe

Poor

Zingiber zerumbet

Poor

Zingiberaceae

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!