This Mayo Clinic Database Makes It Easy To Shop for Sensitive Skin-Friendly Products

Photo: Stocksy / Lucas Ottone
Those with sensitive skin know all too well the mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation they feel when trying out a new beauty product. The first step is finding a product that doesn't irritate your skin. Only then can you figure out if the product is actually doing what you need it to do. To take some of the guess work out of the process, the Mayo Clinic and Her Inc. developed SkinSafe, a searchable database of beauty products that shows which products have potential skin allergens or irritants. And in a new partnership with CVS, you can also look at the ingredients of drugstore beauty products.

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"SkinSAFE is designed for health-conscious consumers and skin allergy sufferers of contact dermatitis," reads the SkinSafe website. "If you suspect you have skin sensitivities or skin allergies, using SkinSAFE can help you to avoid common allergens found in many skin-care products today. If you have been patch tested and your doctor has generated a PAC (Personal Allergy Code) for your specific allergens then you can personalize SkinSAFE to generate a 'Safe for Me' product list just for you."

SkinSafe has ratings for products from all the brands we love from Fenty Beauty to Drunk Elephant. You can browse the SkinSafe database online, but the real fun begins with the app (available for both Apple and Android devices). You can scan product barcodes to pull up a profile of the product to see its allergen score and which of the top allergens and irritants it includes, if any. If a product doesn't come up, you can submit it to be reviewed by the SkinSafe team.

The database is updated daily by former Mayo Clinic nurses. They comb through ingredient lists and search for ones that could irritate sensitive skin. Products labeled "Top Free" are free of the following 11 common allergens and irritants:

  1. Fragrances
  2. Formaldehyde
  3. Benzalkonium Chloride
  4. Methyldibromo Glutaronitrile
  5. Methylisothiazolinone & Methylchloroisothiazolinone
  6. Benzophenone
  7. Potassium Dichromate
  8. Bacitracin
  9. Cobalt Chloride
  10. Neomycin
  11. Nickel

You can use the app without a personalized allergy code, but getting one from your dermatologist or allergist can make your experience even more tailored. Aside from patch tests, you can try to track your triggers, which may prove fruitless if your skin is sensitive overall.

“It is hard to know [what causes a reaction] unless you have a pattern of reactions like you only react to hair dye versus fragrances versus a variety of products,” says Purvi Parikh, an allergist with the Allergy & Asthma Network. “If there is a similar pattern to your reactions, it likely is an allergy rather than reacting to multiple things which may be more of sensitivity—or what we call an irritant reaction.”

But don't try to guess too much. Figuring out your triggers can be tricky, especially in cases where the allergen causes a delayed reaction, meaning you experience the irritation days after using it. Additionally, you can develop a sensitivity to products even if you've used them before with no problem.

"If you cannot figure out what is bothering you or your skin keeps breaking out please see a board-certified dermatologist or allergist to be tested,” says Parikh.

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