Reading the list of ingredients on the back of a skin care product box isn't the most thrilling experience, but it could help isolate the cause of your skin sensitivities.
For example, if you try a new moisturizer and it burns or irritates your skin, take a look at the ingredients and pay close attention to the items near the top of the list. Ingredients are always listed in order of volume, from largest to smallest [source: Noble].
The two major sets of ingredients in most moisturizers are emollients and humectants. Emollients are oils and lipids designed to replace depleted the lipid barriers between skin cells [source: Kraft et al]. Some common emollients are lanolin, mineral oil, coconut oil, palm oil, petrolatum, shea butter and sunflower seed oil. Emollients are responsible for the slightly greasy, slippery feel of some moisturizers.
Humectants are ingredients that absorb water molecules from the air and hold them to the skin's surface [source: Mayo Clinic]. Some common humectants used in moisturizers are glycerin, propylene glycol and certain proteins.
Many of the most common emollients and humectants have been linked to allergic reactions in people with sensitive skin. If the trial-and-error system doesn't work for you, make an appointment with a dermatologist. He or she can conduct a patch test to determine the specific synthetic and natural ingredients that irritate your skin the most.