Having sensitive skin can be a major challenge. While some people with sensitive skin can just read a label and pick a beauty, personal care product, or household detergent, that’s not the case for many. There are lots of ingredients that can cause irritation, hormonal imbalances, or even digestive issues (especially if you’re allergic to gluten).
But trying to figure out what products have common irritants and allergens can be a daunting task. Then there’s the fact that labels can lie. Many products that are marketed as “natural” or “for sensitive skin” can still cause major problems.
This was the case for Michelle King Robson, founder of EmpowHer who, after a hysterectomy at 42, started to notice her skin changing. For about a year she experienced irritation, redness, and rosacea. At her wit’s end, she went to the dermatologist. He offered to patch test her, but that’s a major process and she didn’t want to wait for results. So, he presented her with a list of products that would be safe for her to buy.
The approach made sense to the entrepreneur.
“I thought, ‘Isn’t it interesting that someone put together this list of things that I could buy versus telling me what I’m allergic to and what I need to stay away from?’ Because that doesn’t serve any purpose for me at all. Because I can’t read the ingredients on labels. It’s impossible,” Robson tells me.
Based in science
It turned out that the list Robson was given was the result of years of research from the Mayo clinic. After securing the rights to this information, she developed it into a free app called SkinSafe.
The purpose of SkinSafe is to help people with sensitive skin choose products more conveniently. “It allows the patient and consumer to have exactly what they need without spending a fortune testing products that don’t work,” Robson explains.
I’ll return this is one of those lies we all tell ourselves. We buy a moisturizer or shampoo that doesn’t work quite the way we anticipated. We plan to return it, but most of the time these things end up sitting underneath the bathroom sink, or in our cars, waiting for the day we drive past Sephora or Walgreens. But that day never comes. There’s also nothing quite as disappointing as buying a new skincare product only to discover it actually makes your skin worse.
A smart app
The SkinSafe app breaks everything down into eight categories: Skincare, Bath and body, Personal Care, Health Care, Household, Baby Products, Makeup, and Haircare. Those categories are divided into subcategories. With nearly 52,700 products entered into the database, you’re more than likely to find exactly what you’re looking for. However, new products are constantly launched, so the app gives users the capability to submit them for review by Mayo Clinic’s nurses.
There’s also a scanning feature, which is helpful if you suspect a product you already have may be causing skin irritation or if you’re out shopping and want to know more.
Then there’s the Buy Now button. Just tap it and it directs you to the product’s page on Amazon or another retailer.
An array of irritants
Every product’s page on the app has a list of marker categories. The Safe For category includes Teens, Baby, Eyelids, and Lips. Free From has markers for ingredients known to commonly cause irritation such as Parabens, Coconut, Fragrances, Common preservatives, Propylene, and more.
Not sure exactly what you’re allergic to? All you need to do is look at the marker that indicates the percentage of common allergens the product is free from, if applicable. So, if it states “Top 100% Allergen Free,” it’s likely safe to buy.
There’s also a list of individual ingredients for each product which is helpful for those allergic to something that’s less common.
You can also personalize the app so you only see products that you won’t be allergic to. So you can think of SkinSafe as your personal concierge for skincare.
SkinSafe at the store
No battery? No service? No problem! The brand recently began working with CVS to integrate SkinSafe into stores with designated shelves allowing consumers to quickly choose products they know will safe for most sensitive skin. While this program is still being integrated into all the drugstore’s locations, it’s easy to identify products on the shelf with badges that read “Sensitive Friendly.”