Skin Irritants

Preservatives in skincare

Most beauty and skincare products contain preservatives. This is even true of medicinal creams made for people with problems skin. Preservatives are actually antimicrobial agents, they prevent bacteria growing in the water element of a product. Products that do not contain water do not require a preservative as bacteria need water to grow, so natural oil based skincare is a safer bet when it comes to avoiding these skin irritants. The industry is striving to create gentle preservatives, but, they are by their nature harsh as they are designed to kill cells. We strongly believe that it is usually the preservatives that cause irritation in people with sensitive skin. There are many types of preservatives including parabens, phenoxyethanol and formaldahyde releasers. They appear in ingredients lists under many different names so it's often hard to spot them, but you can't be sure if the ingredient list includes water, aqua, hydrosol, or juice then there will have to be some sort of preservative in the product

Synthetic detergents

Synthetic detergents are very bad news for sensitive types, any detergent will weaken skin barrier by dissolving natural oils, but synthetic versions like Sodium lauryl sulphate are particularly irritating. It's not just the soap you wash with, your shampoo, hair conditioner, washing up liquid, cleaning products, can all aggravate your skin and compromise skin barrier function. 

Switching to natural products can really help, even making your own cleaning products is a possibility. If you have to use an irritant product, avoid skin contact as much as possible, for instance, wear rubber gloves when washing up or use an oil based barrier cream, look out for ones containing Zinc Oxide as this is a water-repellant compound and will protect skin.  When washing hair, rinse your hair over the bath with a shower rather than rinsing into a bath you are sitting in.

Emulsifiers in beauty products

We also believe that emulsifiers, required in water based beauty products to mix the water and oils, will like detergents, seriously compromise the skin barrier by dissolving vital natural oils, this depletion of oils allows moisture to escape from the epidermis, the body compensates by drawing up water from the dermis, if this process is repeated often it will weaken the skin barrier, drying it out making skin more sensitive and prone to infection. Another really good reason to switch to oil based skincare.


Some fabrics can be very irritating, particularly itchy fabrics like wool. Also washing powder, fabric conditioner, fabric softening sheets that go into the dryer, can cause skin reactions. Choosing more natural alternatives for washing clothes can really help.

Heat, cold and wind

Heat can irritate skin. Wearing loose comfortable clothing that doesn't chafe will help. Conversely, cold windy weather and central heating can really dry out skin and cause irritation. Lyonsleaf products are great for protecting skin from such conditions, sealing in moisture and preventing damage. If you ever go to the Arctic you will be advised to take an oil based moisturiser as they are the best to protect skin in really harsh conditions.

Facial cleansers

Soap, cleansers and make-up removers can be terrible skin irritants and your face is one of the most sensitive areas of your body. By switching to an oil based 100% natural cleanser to wash your face and remove make-up using the Oil Cleansing Method you can be clean without the harsh ingredients that can damage the skin barrier. Oil cleansing is a really gentle way to cleanse without stripping skin natural oils, if you have very very sensitive skin look out for products that do not contain fragrance or essential oils.


Any soap can be drying, but we all need to use it. Not all soap is the same though, to give your skin a chance go for soaps made with natural ingredients (not petrochemical) and ones that are unfragranced. To help replace the skins natural oils some soaps have moisturising oils in them like shea butter this can help to avoid and reduce skin irritation. We still recommend soap dodging as much as is socially acceptable to avoid damage to sensitive skin and to maintain a healthy skin barrier.