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What are ingredients to look for in a cleanser?

Harmful Ingredients in a Cleanser

Harsh soap has long been the culprit of dry, irritated skin -- many soaps contain strong ingredients that are far from skin-friendly -- but knowing which cleanser ingredients to avoid can help prevent skin irritation.

Steer clear of soaps that list anionic surfactants as ingredients -- they contain carboxylate, sulfonate and sulfate ions that can severely irritate skin [source: Skin Care Guide]. And if you have dry or sensitive skin, avoid cleansers that contain sodium lauryl sulfate -- this common soap ingredient can cause dry, flaky skin [source: Bruno]. Medicated soaps that help fight acne or treat body odor often contain benzoyl peroxide, sulfur or resorcinol antibacterials like triclocarban and triclosan. These ingredients can cause skin irritation, so don't use cleansers that contain them unless you have oily or acne-prone skin [source: Draelos].

In addition to causing dry, irritated skin, some soap ingredients can also cause allergic reactions. Some common offenders include chamomile, preservatives such as quaternium-15, and fragrances [source: New Zealand Dermatological Society]. Fragrances are found in most skin care products and are the ingredients that are most likely to elicit an allergic reaction. If scented products irritate your skin, look for products labeled "fragrance free" or "without perfume" [source: American Academy of Dermatology].

For more information on cleanser ingredients and how they affect your skin, take a look at the links on the following page.