Natural skin care products containing extracts from plants may still cause allergic reactions similar to other synthetic chemicals. While consumer demand for natural alternatives is providing an array of gentler cosmetic formulas, even naturally derived oils, emulsifiers, and product bases may cause skin irritation in those with sensitive skin.
The misconception that natural extracts are better for the skin is due to labeling claims made by manufacturers that overextend the benefits of these substances. However, ingredients like lavender and citrus--which are used in an array of products that range from facial moisturizers, body lotions, face cleansers, and moisturizing oils-- are known to irritate skin and cause skin allergies. Below are some of the most common natural extracts found in drugstore and high-end skin care lines.
4 Natural Extracts to Avoid if You Have Sensitive Skin
Lavender extracts are often used as a natural fragrance in skin cleansers and lotions. However, this commonly-used fragrance and additive is an irritant when applied to the skin. One of the reasons why many products use lavender extract in their products is to serve as an antibacterial. The antibacterial properties of lavender, however, are counteracted by the fact that the extract does not photosynthesize on the skin, but rather oxides as it is exposed to oxygen. The oxidation of lavender causes skin dermatitis and potentially skin allergies when it comes into contact with sunlight. Instead of using lavender skin lotions and cleansers, the oil can be used as aromatherapy or in baths to relax at night.
Skin Dermatitis Diagram
Citrus extracts are often used in brightening cleansers or lotions for skin moisturizing. The main compound in citrus, limonene, is what gives skin lotions and body cleansers the fresh orange or lemon smell that is labeled as invigorating. If you have used skin care with citrus extracts, you may have noticed a tingling feeling on the skin upon applying the product. This tingling sensation is the oxidation of the limonene as it is exposed to oxygen, and it can cause allergic reactions in people with sensitive skin. When exposed to the UV rays, limonene can actually cause skin discoloration like sunspots and redness. If you are using products with limonene, remember to always use an SPF 30 to prevent skin damage from the sun.
Jasmine oils are also another common ingredient found in natural skin care products as a fragrance. The plant itself does have antiseptic properties when used in the correct formulation, but it is often used as an oil or perfume in products that can cause skin irritation over time. The risk for an allergic reaction to jasmine is increased in people with sensitive skin when the formulation is not appropriate for skin type, or after prolonged sun exposure without an SPF.
Cleansers and lotions that have a cooling effect on the skin often contain peppermint extracts. Menthol, the common cosmetic extract of peppermint, acts as a chemical enhancer that makes other products seep into the skin more effectively. The menthol extract is natural alcohol, and it dries skin when it is applied directly and causes serious burning when exposed to the sun or extreme cold weather. It is usually best to avoid facial skin cleansers and lotions with menthol to prevent excessive skin drying and allergic reactions.
One of the ways to prevent allergic reactions to skin care products is to do skin patch test for cosmetics containing natural extracts before applying them to the face. If you don’t experience a reaction to a fragrance or natural extract, it is best to use a good SPF 30+ over the products to prevent oxidation and skin irritation caused by UV and UVB rays.