What to look out for if you have sensitive skin

Tuesday, September 1, 2015 1:37:58 PM Pacific/Auckland

 By Kim Bulder, Naturopath & Medical Herbalist

As someone all too familiar with the minefield that is sensitive skin (‘hypoallergenic‘ is no guarantee) I have become hyper-aware of the hidden hazards in common skincare products. 

Many products claim to be ‘natural’, ‘hypoallergenic’ and ‘dermatologically tested’ yet unbelievably still contain synthetic colours, fragrances, parabens, mineral oil and silicone-based ingredients. All of which are known irritants. 

As with food, my rule of thumb for skincare is to use natural ingredients that have an affinity with the body and actually provide cellular benefits.

This means getting vigilant and always reading the ingredient list on the label.

  • Synthetic colours and fragrances are a red flag right away. Apart from being of no benefit to the skin, they are highly irritating and potentially toxic. Note that even some natural essential oils may be irritating if used in high concentrations, so use these with care.
  • Mineral oil (paraffinum liquidum, petrolatum, petroleum jelly) and silicones (cyclopentasiloxane, dimethicone and others ending in ‘cone’) act as a barrier to prevent moisture loss and are not absorbed. However this occlusive coating action means the skin’s natural processes are blocked and can lead to build up of trapped impurities. They may provide a silky effect making skin feel smoother, but this is just a superficial, temporary cosmetic illusion due to the layer created on top of the skin, not due to any actual benefit to the skin itself.
  • Preservatives get a bad rap but are necessary to keep most skin care products safe throughout their shelf life and during use. In particular, water-based products and those packaged in pots (requiring repeated contact with your fingers) are ripe breeding grounds for bacteria, yeasts and mould if not safely preserved. Preservatives approved for use in natural skincare by international certification agencies such as EcoCert and BDIH include sodium benzoate, gluconolactone and benzyl alcohol, and are only needed in very low levels. 
  • Parabens (butyl-, ethyl-, propyl- and methylparaben) are common preservatives widely found in cosmetic products and these are best avoided. They are well known to cause allergic skin reactions and there is evidence that parabens are absorbed through the skin and may act as endocrine disrupters. That’s enough to keep me away, especially when there are safer options out there.

Along with recognising the baddies, you want to get to know the goodies - gentle natural ingredients with long established safe use for skin care. Tried and true favourites include the pure natural plant oils of almond, jojoba, rosehip, avocado, coconut, argan and olive; aloe vera and honey. These are all naturally soothing and well suited to sensitive skin, plus they provide real benefits to keep skin healthy, hydrated and protected.

Skin reactions and heightened sensitivity can also occur at different times throughout life due to hormonal changes, emotions and stress, heat, dehydration, digestive dysfunction, food and drink intolerances and environmental factors, so if you continue to experience skin problems it may be necessary to go beyond skin deep – your skin is often an early indicator of deeper health issues.


High quality New Zealand Manuka Honey is renowned for its unique skincare properties, making it the perfect foundation for the care and nourishment of all skin types, including sensitive or problem skin.

Pure New Zealand MGO™ Manuka Honey is the foundation of Manuka Health's natural skincare. These truly natural products nourish and protect all skin types including dry, sensitive or trouble-prone skin.

See Manuka Health's Skincare products


Posted in Health & Wellness By

The Manuka Shop