Surfactants or cleansing agents
In shampoos, body or hand washes some cleansers (known as surfactants) are more irritating than others. Amphoteric and nonionic surfactants are low irritant compared to anionic surfactants. A mixture of surfactants is needed to produce adequate foaming of a product, but careful mixing of surfactants can also help decrease the irritancy profile of the shampoo or wash.
In some people fragrance can be an irritant. Irritancy can occur with both artificial fragrances and natural essential oils. Both are therefore recommended to be added to products at relatively low levels, especially around mucous membranes and sensitive areas such as the eyes. Products specifically formulated for sensitive skin are subsequently often odourless.
Some products are specifically formulated to be a little more acidic with the intent of exfoliating the skin. AHA’s Fruit Acid, Lactic Acid and L-ascorbic acid are examples. Generally over-the-counter products do not contain a high percentage of these products, but they are generally higher in the products specifically designed for acid peels, like those used in a beauty salon.
A sensitive skin can be more touchy however, so always do a test patch before using the product over a wide area.
Exfoliators and Scrubs
Exfoliators and scrubs are similar to acidic products in that they are specifically formulated to help remove dead skin cells. There are 2 types of exfoliators – the chemical and the physical exfoliators. Physical exfoliators create a friction on the skin when you rub then in. For example, jojoba beads, bamboo powder or wattle seeds. A combination of both chemical and physical exfoliators will have a stronger exfoliating effect and can often be too harsh on sensitive skin. So again the advise is – always perform a test patch before wide spread use.