A woman holds a lotion bottle and inspects the ingredient label.

5 Skincare Ingredients to Avoid

The majority of us that struggle with atopic dermatitis, topical steroid withdrawal, or any other skin condition are very well aware we have to be careful when selecting which products to use. This includes both internal supplements and other products, as well as topicals.

Knowledge is power

Unfortunately, this can even turn into borderline paranoia as we get so terrified that anything we use will cause a massive flare-up. However, by learning and researching different ingredients and products, we can learn exactly what we should and shouldn’t use. An important key part of this is learning to listen to our bodies and how they react.

A long trial and error process

Throughout my lifelong journey of dealing with eczema, I’ve had a lot of trial and error on what works for me and what I have to avoid that is potentially harmful to my body. As atopic individuals, we are extremely sensitive to so many things that it can be hard to pinpoint our specific triggers. It can be a long journey to figuring out what ingredients we simply just can’t handle.

Irritation and angry eczema skin

In my experience, there are certain ingredients in topical skincare products that I have to avoid so I don’t make my skin “angry.” As someone who has struggled with this my whole life, every time I buy a new product, I have to carefully examine each ingredient to make sure I won’t react to it.

Ingredients to potentially avoid

In my case, the following five types of ingredients are ones I look for first when purchasing a new product. These are the top 5 I personally HAVE to avoid:

Propylene glycol

Propylene glycol is an emulsifier that is found in many lotions and creams. It is also added to some foods.

Ethanol & isopropyl alcohol

Ethanol & isopropyl alcohol are the two most common alcohols found in many topical creams, lotions, and gels. Personally, I can’t use anything with alcohol in general as it makes my skin burn and sting even more than it does already.


Preservatives are commonly added to most skincare products. In fact, I've personally found it hard to find ones that DON'T have any, but some companies have found ways around this. These can appear as many different names, so it’s important to do research and have an idea of what to look for on the ingredient label.


I personally cannot use anything with fragrance, so as soon as I see that on an ingredient label, I’m out immediately. Even some products that contain so-called “natural” essential oil fragrance, my body just doesn’t agree with.


While lanolin is a great emollient, many people with atopic dermatitis, myself included, are sensitive to it. Some even develop full-blown allergies to it. I chose to stop using it for this reason, even though I did not develop an allergy to it. I’d rather not risk it!

What other ingredients are irritating?

There are many more ingredients that I’ve had to learn and research on my journey, but these are the top 5 that catch my attention right away when I am looking at a label. A few of these are also listed, along with a few others on National Eczema Association’s  “8 skincare ingredients to avoid if you have eczema, according to dermatologists.” While these may irritate me, it doesn’t mean they will do the same for you. It’s important to find what works for us (or doesn’t) individually, as we are all so different.

Having to dissect every ingredient and label can be frustrating. However, throughout this journey, I think we all find it extremely important to know exactly what we are putting in (and on) our bodies. Knowledge is power, and listening to our bodies is key in this. Your body will immediately tell you if it likes or doesn’t like something. So, listen to it! You have your intuition for a reason, and it’s important to use it.

Are there any specific ingredients you look for, and how has that impacted your journey with atopic dermatitis?

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AtopicDermatitis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.