Sensitive Skin Product Series – What Ingredient to Avoid

List of Ingredients that Could Irritate

This is a 13-part series focused on understanding and using products for sensitive skin, an important topic given the generous amount of moisturizers that go onto the skin of a child with eczema. Marcie Mom met Laura Verallo Rowell Bertotto, the CEO of VMVGroup, on twitter and learnt that her company is the only hypoallergenic brand that validates its hypoallergenicity. VMV Hypoallergenics is founded in 1979 by Dr. Vermén Verallo-Rowell who is a world renowned dermatologist. Dr. Vermén created the VH Rating System which is the only validated hypoallergenic rating system in the world and is used across all the products at VMV. In this interview, Dr. Verallo-Rowell and Laura answer Marcie Mom’s questions on which ingredients to possibly avoid.

Marcie Mom: For a parent on a tight budget (also considering long term and frequent use of moisturizers), should he/she start the child on the cheapest lotion/cream available? If not, is there certain baseline to start with, for instance, it must state ‘suitable for infant with eczema’ or not contain ‘perfume’?

Dr. Verallo-Rowell: The answer is no. Many cheap products are strongly/nicely scented to cover up for the natural scent of less-pure cosmetic ingredients versus, for example, pharmaceutical-grade or higher-quality or purer ingredients, which are frequently more expensive. Some cheaper products are dyed with relatively cheap ingredients to add attractiveness in children’s eyes. Cheap or expensive, preservation is also problem, as are added antibiotics. All these are allergens and break down the skin’s natural barrier.

Make function be the basis for your choice. Remember that in different forms of eczemas you pay attention to the skin’s outermost barrier layer: genetic innate barrier dysfunction initiates atopic; allergic or irritant reaction breaks down the barrier in contact; food around the mouth area can physically act on the barrier, and secondarily, bacteria cross damaged barrier in all types of eczemas.

Hence to keep the barrier as intact as possible: Place the least irritating, partially occluding product you can find without any of the above: scents, preservatives, antibiotics, dyes. Mineral oil and pertroleum jelly are long time favorites of us dermatologists. They are cheap and excellent barriers, but they are petrochemical derived. Consider non-preserved, non-adulterated oils. For this my favorite is virgin coconut oil because it needs no preservation and is broken down by lipases of friendly skin bacteria into monoglycerides with antiseptic properties. I have a published paper on VCO vs. Olive oil in Atopic Dermatitis that includes comparison on Staph. Aureus action by both oils.

MarcieMom: Can you list for us some common irritants and list them on a scale of 1-10 (1 being the most likely to cause allergy)? It’ll also be great if you can let us know if there are other common names for these irritants.

1.     Perfume/ Fragrance

Benzyl alcohol (Phenylmethanol / Phenylcarbinol) Natural grape aromatic preserves & scents in “fragrance-free products”
Carvone (d-carvone, d-1-Methyl-4-isopropenyl-6-cyclohexen-2-one Essential oils from dill, caraway seeds, spearmint, orange peel
Cananga odorata(Ylang ylang, Cananga distillates) from the flower
Cinnamic aldehyde (Cinnamaldehyde) from bark camphor, cassia cinnamon trees
Colophonium Rosin (Abietic acid, alcohol, Abitol) A resin from pine trees
Extracts of common plants of the (Astraceae/ Compositae family: yarrow, mountain arnica, German chamomile,  feverfew,  tansy) Botanical additives

2.     Preservatives

Bacitracin  (An Antibiotic )
p-Chloro-M-Xylenol (Chlroxylenol, PCMX)
Formaldehyde (Formalin, Methaldehyde, Methanal)
Diazolidinyl urea (Germall II) and 

Imidazolidinyl urea (Germal 115, Eukyl K 200)

Dimethylol dihydroxy ethyleneurea (DMDHEU)
DMDM Hydantoin (Glydant)
Quarternium 15 (Dowicil 200)
Methyldibromo glutaronitrile + 2 phenoxyethanol (Eukyl K 400)
Methylchloroisothiazolinone/methylisothiazolinone (MCI/MI Eukyl K100, Kathon CG)

3.     Parabens – Methyl, Ethyl , Propyl, Butyl Paraben.  Please also above in Preservatives

4.     Propylene Glycol – 1,2 Propanediol

5.     Lanolin – Lanolin alcohol, Wool Alcohol

6.     Colorant/Dye

Disperse blue 124/106  Mix (Thiazol-azoyl-p-phenylene diamine derivative dyes)

7.     Conventional emulsifiers

Stearamidopropyl dimethylamine  (Amidoamine)
Dimethylaminopropylamine (DMAPA)
Cocamide DEA (Coconut Diethanolamide)
Cocamidopropyl betaine
Oleamidopropyl dimethylamine
Decyl glucoside  from glucose (corn starch) & decanol fatty acid from coconut
Ethylenediamine dihydrochloride (Chlorethamine)

8.     Mineral oils – actually quite skin safe. A favorite among dermatologists.

9.     Paraffin – same as mineral oil.

10.  Sodium Lauryl Sulphate – An Irritant especially when present in higher concentrations. Not too common as an Allergen.

Marcie Mom: Thanks Dr. Verallo-Rowell and Laura. It’s great to finally have a sense of the list of ingredients to avoid and in priority, so that parents can check if the product they buy are at least free of the allergens on the top of the list!

Join the Conversation


Your sharing will help others!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. girl age 2+ have eczema since baby time ..currently on steriod n ceradan as moisturiser..cetaphil body restorederm on body wash.would you have any recommendation for shampoo ?? I saw moogoo new eczema n polorasis crean n also maya’s cream was wondering if you have any review of using e cream urself or using baby california sensitive hair n bodywash but they nw include sodium benzoate which im worry n I will like to hv a change
    Currently e cetaphil my girl will sting her eyes..she love to play ard e wash on her body n rub her eyes 🙁 u have any recommendation ?

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    Thank you

  2. Good to hear from you Bernadette, and it’s nice to know that you’ve found out the ingredients that you are allergic to. If you are in US, I think you can ask your dermatologist to key in these ingredients into a database and the list of products that you can be used will be generated.

  3. I have been diagnosed with an allergy to Thimerosal and Dimethylol dihyrdoxyethylene urea. Can you identify health care products that CAN be used that do not have these preservative in them. Thank you