If you have sensitive skin, you probably know all too well how it feels when something irritates it. And that can happen all too easily if you use the wrong beauty product—and by wrong product, we mean a cleanser, moisturizer, cosmetic, or other agent that causes an unfavorable reaction. Certain things can cause tightness, redness, burning, stinging, roughness or even just a sensation of discomfort. Sensitive skin may also itch or get dry and flaky when you use certain products that irritate it. Essentially, your skin is signaling that it dislikes the exposure to certain chemicals or ingredients, and it’s giving you a sign that it would prefer that you stop using them. The best way to prevent those uncomfortable or even painful sensations is to learn what causes them and then avoid them. Learn about irritating ingredients. Knowledge is power, right? Certain ingredients or additives in some beauty products are more likely to make your skin sensitive or further irritate skin that’s already sensitive, so it’s a good idea to learn about them. For example, fragrance is one of the worst culprits for causing skin irritation. It might smell lovely in the bottle, but don’t put it on your skin if you have sensitive skin. Soap is another common culprit, as are skin care products containing alcohol. Soap and alcohol can be very harsh on skin, causing redness, tightness or other problems to develop. Another big no-no for many people is preservatives. Preservatives like parabens help beauty products last longer on the store shelf, but they can cause irritation to develop—or even trigger an allergic reaction in some people. Some people also have a hard time tolerating an ingredient called sulfate, which is often added to shampoos and skin cleansers. Become a label reader. Avoiding those ingredients that irritate your skin should be one of your primary goals. Before you buy a new tube of sunscreen or bottle of moisturizer, rememeber this vital skin care tip: read the label first. Generally speaking, the fewer ingredients, the better—fewer ingredients usually means fewer ingredients to irritate your skin. But look carefully at the ingredients themselves. If you spot one you know will irritate your sensitive skin, put the bottle back on the shelf. Don’t forget all the stuff cluttering up your bathroom counter, too. Read the labels and toss the ones that don’t make the grade. Conversely, some products contain ingredients that may be soothing to your skin. If you spot ingredients on the label like chamomile and aloe, as well as green tea polyphenols, they may be worth a try, as some people find them helpful by calming the skin. Also, you may be swayed by a big, bright “sensitive skin” label. Be cautious, however, when considering products that advertise they’re designed for people with sensitive skin. For example, the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t officially set a standard or designation for “sensitive skin” for sunscreen, so the ingredients in sunscreens marketed for sensitive skin may still vary. Usually, sensitive skin sunscreens are advertised as being hypoallergenic and fragrance free. A glance at the label will tell you if they contain active ingredients found in chemical sunscreens such as avobenzone and oxybenzone, or para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), which can be irritating. You might opt for a product that contains zinc oxide or titatium dioxide instead. Avoid Certain Treatments Now that you’re aware of the irritating ingredients, it’s time to consider other beauty treatments that might be problematic. Some people with sensitive skin can’t tolerate products designed to exfoliate their skin. Hair removal can also be irritating for people with sensitive skin, who may shy away from waxing for the same reason. The chemicals in depilatory creams designed to remove unwarranted hair can also be very irritating or even painful. So you may want to stay away from those types of products and opt for something that will go easier on your skin. Another beauty ritual to watch out for is the manicure. Many nail polishes contain an ingredient called phthalates, which help make the polish pliable. But it can cause rashes and even trigger allergic reactions. Some polish also contains formaldehyde, which is a preservative. It might not bother your hard nails, but it can irritate the skin around your nails, as well as your eyes, nose and throat. If you love a visit to the nail salon but have sensitive skin, be sure to ask for products that don’t contain these ingredients. Finding the beauty products that work for you and your sensitive skin may be yet another round of trial and error. But if you read labels and watch out for ingredients that are known to be irritating, it may be not be as hard as you think.