No known benefits

Irritants at a glance

  • Include ingredients such as harsh scrubs, drying alcohols, and essential oils
  • Damage skin both immediately and over time
  • Can increase oiliness in oily skin + dryness in dry skin
  • Many natural or organic ingredients can irritate skin

Irritants description

Irritants is a general term used to describe ingredients used in skin care that are harmful to skin, regardless of their origins or the claims surrounding them. Irritants include a wide range of ingredients, among them essential oils, drying alcohols (such as denatured or SD-types of alcohol), harsh scrub ingredients, menthol, camphor, and fragrance ingredients, both natural and synthetic. The effects of irritants in many cases are immediately apparent – you can feel skin tightening, tingling, or burning – but in many other instances, the irritation occurs over time and might not be noticeable, yet damage is happening below skin’s surface. Many people who describe their skin as sensitive have used irritating ingredients that have done damage over weeks, months, or years of use, creating a chronic state of reactive, sensitized skin. The result of using irritants includes more than redness and sensitivity. For those with oily skin, irritation can trigger a process that increases oiliness and breakouts; for those with dry skin, their skin gets drier, feeling tight and even flaky. When choosing skin care products, irritants are always ingredients to avoid!

Irritants references

  • Molecules, January 2021, pages 1-24
  • Cosmetics, January 2018, ePublication
  • Contact Dermatitis, July 2012, pages 28-35
  • Clinics in Dermatology, May-June 2012, pages 335–344
  • The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, September 2011, pages 22-42

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


We couldn't find this in our ingredient dictionary. We log all missing ingredients and make continuous updates.

Not rated

We have not yet rated this ingredient because we have not had a chance to review the research on it.