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 What Skincare Ingredients Should You Avoid if You Have Eczema?

What Skincare Ingredients Should You Avoid if You Have Eczema?

Posted by Nataly Komova on Jun 05, 2023

Eczema is a common skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. While there are various factors that can trigger or worsen eczema, certain skincare ingredients can exacerbate the symptoms and irritate the skin further. Therefore, it is essential for individuals with eczema to be cautious and avoid certain ingredients in their skincare products. In this article, we will explore some common skincare ingredients that should be avoided if you have eczema.

Common Ingredients to be Avoided

Fragrances and Perfumes

Fragrances and perfumes are commonly used in skincare products to provide a pleasant scent. However, they can be extremely irritating to sensitive skin, including those with eczema. Fragrances often contain a mix of chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions and worsen eczema symptoms. It is advisable to opt for fragrance-free or unscented products to minimize the risk of skin irritation.

Harsh Surfactants and Sulfates

Surfactants and sulfates are ingredients used in cleansers and body washes to create lather and remove dirt and oil from the skin. Unfortunately, these ingredients can strip the skin of its natural oils and disrupt the skin barrier, leading to dryness and irritation. People with eczema should avoid products containing harsh surfactants such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).

Alcohol-Based Ingredients

Alcohol is commonly used in skincare products as a solvent and preservative. However, alcohol-based ingredients, such as ethanol or denatured alcohol, can be extremely drying and irritating to eczema-prone skin. These ingredients can strip the skin of moisture and exacerbate dryness and itchiness. It is best to choose alcohol-free alternatives to prevent further irritation.

Synthetic Preservatives

Certain synthetic preservatives, such as parabens, formaldehyde, and phthalates, are known to be skin irritants and can trigger eczema flare-ups. These preservatives are often used to extend the shelf life of skincare products. Opting for preservative-free or naturally preserved products can be beneficial for individuals with eczema.

Synthetic Colors and Dyes

Synthetic colors and dyes are frequently used in cosmetics and skincare products to enhance their appearance. However, these artificial additives can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation, particularly in individuals with eczema. It is advisable to choose products that are free from artificial colors and dyes.

Essential Oils

While essential oils are derived from natural sources and offer various benefits, they can be problematic for individuals with eczema. Many essential oils, such as lavender, citrus oils, and tea tree oil, contain potent compounds that can irritate the skin and trigger allergic reactions. It is best to avoid skincare products that contain essential oils or choose products with minimal amounts and patch test them before use.

Exfoliating Agents

Exfoliating agents, such as physical scrubs or chemical exfoliants containing ingredients like glycolic acid or salicylic acid, can be too harsh for eczema-prone skin. These agents can cause skin irritation, dryness, and even lead to micro-tears in the skin. It is recommended to avoid aggressive exfoliation or choose gentle exfoliating alternatives specifically formulated for sensitive skin.

Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens contain ingredients such as oxybenzone and avobenzone that can irritate sensitive skin, including eczema. These chemicals can cause stinging, burning, and allergic reactions. Opting for mineral-based sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide can be a safer choice for individuals with eczema.

Irritating Acids

Certain acids commonly found in skincare products, such as alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), can be too harsh for eczema-prone skin. These acids are known to exfoliate and renew the skin but can also cause dryness, redness, and sensitivity. It is recommended to avoid high concentrations of these acids and consult a dermatologist for suitable alternatives.

Lanolin and Wool Wax Alcohol

Lanolin and wool wax alcohol are derived from sheep's wool and are commonly found in skincare products, especially creams and ointments. While some individuals with eczema may tolerate these ingredients well, they can trigger allergic reactions and worsen symptoms in others. It is advisable to patch test products containing lanolin or wool wax alcohol before using them on larger areas of the skin.

Does Salicylic Acid Worsen Eczema?

Salicylic acid is an ingredient commonly found in skincare products, particularly those targeted towards treating acne and exfoliating the skin. While salicylic acid can be effective in treating acne and removing dead skin cells, it can potentially worsen eczema symptoms in some individuals.

Salicylic acid is considered a keratolytic agent, meaning it helps to break down and remove dead skin cells. However, for individuals with eczema, the skin barrier is already compromised, and the skin tends to be more sensitive and prone to dryness and irritation. Salicylic acid can be too harsh for eczema-prone skin and may further disrupt the skin barrier, leading to increased dryness, redness, and inflammation.

It's important to note that not everyone with eczema will have a negative reaction to salicylic acid. Some individuals may be able to tolerate it without any issues. However, if you have eczema and are considering using products containing salicylic acid, it is advisable to proceed with caution. Start by patch testing a small area of skin and monitor for any adverse reactions such as increased itching, redness, or dryness. If you experience any negative effects, it's best to discontinue use and consult with a dermatologist for alternative treatment options that are better suited for eczema-prone skin.

Overall, salicylic acid can potentially worsen eczema symptoms in some individuals due to its exfoliating properties and potential to disrupt the already compromised skin barrier. It's important to prioritize gentle, moisturizing skincare products that are specifically formulated for sensitive and eczema-prone skin. Consulting with a dermatologist is always recommended for personalized advice and guidance on managing eczema.


When managing eczema, it is crucial to choose skincare products carefully and avoid ingredients that can aggravate the condition. Fragrances, harsh surfactants, alcohol-based ingredients, synthetic preservatives, synthetic colors and dyes, essential oils, exfoliating agents, chemical sunscreens, irritating acids, and lanolin/wool wax alcohol are some of the common ingredients that individuals with eczema should steer clear of. By opting for gentle, fragrance-free, and hypoallergenic products, individuals with eczema can better manage their condition and promote healthier, calmer skin. However, it is always recommended to consult with a dermatologist for personalized advice and recommendations based on individual skin sensitivities.

Nataly Komova, fitness and nutritionist expert

Human Nutrition & Health, BSc Hons

Company: JustCBD