Many skin care products on the market today – even organic ones – contain known skin irritants. Here are some ingredients you may want to avoid, and why.


Fragrance is the #1 cause of allergic contact dermatitis. If the word “fragrance” is listed as an ingredient, the product could contain irritating ingredients the manufacturer doesn’t want to specify.


If your skin reacts to a product, fragrance should be high on the list of suspects. You might want to avoid fragrances altogether and look for products that are completely fragrance-free. This is not the same as unscented. “Unscented” means that a product may contain a masking fragrance to cover its unpleasant odor, but “fragrance-free” means that it contains no ingredients whose main purpose is to alter the scent of the product.



Preservatives are necessary in any product containing water or other aqueous liquids. In the quest for a safer, natural preservative, essential oils have been considered since quite a few are known to have anti-microbial properties. However, unsafe levels of them would be required to achieve preservation. Phenoxyethanol is an effective preservative that has dramatically increased in use  in the past 5 years. It is considered safer than some alternatives, but it can cause stinging, burning, itching and even eczema.

Stearic Acid


A skin softener, that when found in nature, is wonderful: safe, effective, and non-irritating. However, when it is extracted from the whole, it becomes a skin irritant. (It is also usually derived from animal sources*.) Stearic acid occurs naturally in large quantities in both shea and cocoa butters. So we just use those ingredients. They’re costly, but we think we’re worth it.

*According to PETA and EWG, stearic acid is sometimes derived from fat from cows and sheep and from dogs and cats euthanized in animal shelters, etc. Most often refers to a fatty substance taken from the stomachs of pigs.