Nobody actually sets out to use skincare or cosmetic products that can knowingly cause allergic reactions. However, it’s true that certain ingredients cause skin distress for some people. Hence, hypoallergenic. There aren’t many who will spend their time poring over all the ingredients present in a product. The term “hypoallergenic skincare” inspires trust, and so many people choose to use those products instead.

But what exactly is hypoallergenic and what does it mean in regards to cosmetic & skincare products? What are some allergy causing ingredients? TABIIB takes a look.

What does hypoallergenic mean?

There are a lot of undefined terms in the cosmetics and skincare industry, and hypoallergenic is one of them. According to skincare experts, hypoallergenic ingredients are any which don’t lessen allergic reactions. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re gentler on your skin or completely allergy proof.

Unfortunately, hypoallergenic is not a legal term and as such doesn’t have any set standard or regulation. It is essentially used as a marketing tool to capture the sensitive skin market.
It is impossible to guarantee that a cosmetic or skin care product will never produce an allergic reaction.

Instead, it’s easier to isolate known ingredients that one may be allergic to, and avoid using those products. Skin allergies work the same as food allergies: one person can be allergic to peanuts, but others may not be. Similarly, which skincare ingredient causes allergic reactions differ from one person to the next.

5 common allergenic skincare ingredients

Skincare ingredients aren’t a one-size-fits all. It’s difficult to categorize which can cause a flare-up and which are safe to use. However, there are a few subset of chemicals that definitively affect your skin negatively. 

1. Aluminium compounds
These are most commonly found in deodorants and antiperspirants. They leave a white cast on skin when applied and can also cause irritation and rashes.

2. Fragrance
Synthetic fragrance ingredients can trigger irritation and break-outs which is why so many hypoallergenic products are also fragrance free. Fragrance isn’t just used in perfume and cologne, it’s also used in many skincare products.

3. Emollients
Emollients are ingredients designed to feel good on your skin by softening the skin layer. But many of them can cause breakouts, especially for acne-prone and oily skin.  You should also avoid products which use lanolin, coconut butter, isopropyl palmitate, isostearyl isosterate, and myristyl lactate.

4. Sulfates
Everything from shampoo and body wash to baby soap contains sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate. So if you’re experiencing chronic eye and/or skin irritation, hairfall, and breakouts,  you may want to skip using these products.

5. Parabens
A lot of personal care products use parabens – a group of synthetic compounds commonly used as preservatives. They tend to be harsh on skin and can worsen conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and acne.


All skincare & cosmetic products are formulated with chemicals and acids that increase their shelf-life. Unless one decides to go completely natural and chemical free, there is a chance that even hypoallergenic products can cause skin issues. The best way to figure out what works for your skin is to conduct a patch test before using a product.

If you’re looking at making the switch to non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic skin care – you can do so with an expert opinion. Book a consultation with a dermatologist on TABIIB.

I am a writer, covering the sprawling expanse of healthcare, among many other things that I love writing on. I write on healthcare because I want to do my part in informing people about the health industry, When I am not blogging about research and medicine, I enjoy reading, playing squash and backpacking around the world.