First, let’s take a look at why botanical ingredients have long been considered public enemy number one for people prone to irritation. â€œVery often plants contain fragrances [from essential oils] that can cause contact dermatitis, and that’s a huge no-no for sensitive skin, â€says Paul Jerrod Frank, MD, a New York-based cosmetic dermatologist. “Just because something is herbal doesn’t mean it’s good for you – keep in mind that poison ivy and poison oak are plants and you definitely don’t want to put them on.” on your skin. “
He explains that some essential oils – like lavender, tea tree, and citrus fruits – can be irritating and drying; bakuchiol (aka the herbal alternative to retinol), although effective, can cause severe reactions in some skin tones; and vegetable oils tend to be occlusive and trap ingredients under your skin, which can cause irritation or rashes. â€œHerbal remedies are often reduced to single ingredients and then amplified to a much higher dose or amount than you would find in nature, and that greater exposure can trigger a reaction,â€ says Harper. She explains that because many botanicals are biphasic, High and low doses of the same ingredient can produce opposite effects on your skin. So while a low concentration of an essential oil might help the skin fight inflammation or fight a rash for some skin types, a high concentration can irritate the skin and cause these things. â€œA smaller amount is better,â€ says Harper.
However, not all plants are necessarily bad news. â€œJust like synthetic ingredients, many, but not all, natural ingredients can be good for our skin,â€ says Hillary Peterson, founder of True Botanicals. “It is important that people with sensitive skin choose products from brands that assess the ingredients’ biocompatibility with the skin.” Dr. Frank cites chamomile and oat extract as great examples of botanical ingredients that may actually be great for sensitive skin, thanks to their calming and soothing properties. Beyond that, it’s important to keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for these types of ingredients. â€œHerbal remedies are powerful and no one product is right for everyone,â€ says Harper. “Just like some people are allergic to strawberries and nuts, there will be consumers who react to certain ingredients and experience side effects, but that doesn’t mean others won’t benefit.”
With all of this in mind, brands have started to make strides in developing chemically elegant botanicals that people with sensitive complexions can use without having to worry about irritation. Keep scrolling for two of our favorites.
Shop botanicals for sensitive skin
Tata Harper Fortifying Moisturizer – $ 120.00
When creating her Superkind collection, Harper says she â€œdove deepâ€ into the science of reactive skin. “YYou realize that when you use the right filters, meticulously select the right ingredients, and apply rigorous hypoallergenic testing, you can actually create powerful skin care for a complex skin group, â€she says.
The resulting products created by Harper replaced common irritants with milder alternatives – for example, these use mulberry leaf extract instead of retinol to stimulate cell turnover without the harsh side effects. â€œWe use a sugar carbohydrate complex which is a new moisture binding technology that stimulates the production of ceramides to bind water in the skin and keep it for as long as possible,â€ says Harper. â€œWe are also using new sugar prebiotic technology that bio-stimulates ecological flora and prevents a very specific strain of bad bacteria from disrupting the skin’s natural defense mechanisms. Unlike many other products in the Harper line, the Superkind collection is also free of essential oils that Dr. Frank suggests staying away from.
True Botanicals Pure Radiance Calm Oil – $ 110.00
At True Botanicals, a similar innovation happened with the launch of the brand’s new Pure Calm Radiance Oil. â€œBy formulating ingredients that the skin can easily recognize and use, we avoid irritation,â€ says Peterson. â€œThe oil is incredibly gentle on sensitive skin because we formulate natural, biocompatible ingredients, like seed oils, which have a molecular structure similar to lipids naturally produced on the skin.â€ The oil is made up of 27 plant actives that, in addition to treating sensitivity, help restore skin barrier function, fight free radical damage and reduce inflammation.
Do you have rosacea? Press play on the video below for a guide to the dermis on how to treat.
Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links can earn a Well + Good commission.