As a user of (mostly) natural skincare, I’m thrilled clean products are finally standing up to conventional formulas. Green beauty shops like Credo, Follain, and CAP have grown their offerings exponentially in the last five years as new brands continue to surface, and shops like Sephora, Violet Grey, and Target now have designated “clean” sections that cater to naturally-inclined shoppers. But there’s a huge misconception around green beauty. Often, people (understandably) conflate natural skincare with the idea that “natural” is an automatic guarantee that products are safe for sensitive skin. That’s a widely-spread, dangerous myth. While many natural skincare brands are perfectly safe for sensitive skin, the natural label does not necessarily equate to sensitive skin-friendly. In fact, many clean brands use ingredients like essential oils that can actually be irritating to certain skin types.
“For sensitive skin, less is better,” said Cybele Fishman, M.D., an integrative dermatologist based in New York City. Less preservatives, less fragrancing, and fewer ingredients overall make for a happy, dewy, clear, and redness-free face. If you’re prone to sensitivity or react often to products, the ones on this list are worth a spot in your beauty cabinet.
Peet Rivko’s Gentle Cleanser is the go-to natural alternative to drugstore (and often derm-recommended) brands like Cetaphil and Cerave. Because nut and fragrances allergies are common in sensitive skin, all nut oils and fragrances—even natural ones—are excluded. “Essential oils can smell lovely but can also be quite irritating and sensitizing, especially when used on the face,” said Peet Rivko’s founder and formulator Joanna Peet. “With our focus on sensitive skin, we decided to leave them out altogether.”
Dr. Sturm’s hyaluronic acid uses molecules of different weights to ensure all layers of the skin are penetrated without water and any added fillers, which naturally alleviates the need for preservatives. “Hyaluronic acid is almost never irritating and a good choice to use alone or add to moisturizer,” said Dr. Fishman. Use it on its own or add to moisturizer for a veritable boost of hydration.
Hailing from England where cosmetic ingredient regulations are far more stringent than in the States, Pai has always focused on formulating products specifically for sensitive skin. High concentrations of omega fatty acids and antioxidants fortify the skin’s barrier, it doubles down on the benefits. Not only does the Bioregenerate Oil help compromised skin recover, but it also promotes protection from pollutants and environment. A win-win.
A newbie to the green scene, Tower28 is a gentle makeup and skincare range. Products are formulated in accordance with the National Eczema Association’s guidelines, the EU’s stringent rules, and avoids a blacklist of ingredients deemed sensitizing or unsafe in studies or regulatory processes. The SOS Daily Rescue Spray is just three ingredients and feels like a seabreeze for the skin, as it’s made with electrolyzed water to optimize the product’s pH, salt, and hypochlorous acid, a compound that occurs naturally in the body known for its ability to fight aging, infections, and scarring.
One of the very first on the essential-oil free wagon, natural beauty vet Marie Veronique’s collaboration with skin care specialist Kristina Holey maintains its cult status for a reason. In addition to essential oils, the formula also leaves out microbiome-disrupting preservatives or ethoxylated compounds (a fancy name for ‘softeners’ like PEGs often found in lathering products) to the tune of restored skin. If you think skin care products are the cause of your breakouts, switching to this award-winning oil cleanser might do the trick.