As a general rule, the best type of moisturizer for men with sensitive skin is the one with the fewest ingredients [source: WebMD]. But even within that category, some moisturizers work better than others on certain kinds of sensitive skin.
Acne sufferers should avoid oils at all cost. This includes plant-derived fats and oils like shea butter, coconut oil or olive oil. There are several moisturizers, designed for both men and women, that tout themselves as "oil-free". Don't be tricked into buying something that's "not oily" or "not greasy." Read the ingredient list to make sure that the manufacturer didn't simply cover up the oils with other chemicals. Some of the most common oils in moisturizers are petroleum jelly (petrolatum), dimethicone, mineral oil and lanolin.
The symptoms of rosacea -- flushed cheeks and splotchy red complexion -- can be alleviated by ingredients with anti-inflammatory properties. If you don't have any allergies or sensitivities to any natural oils and extracts, look for moisturizers with chamomile, green tea, licorice extract and even caffeine [source: AAD]. Ingredients to avoid include vitamin C and alpha hydroxy acids (AHA).
Stinging or burning skin is most sensitive to acids like lactic acid, benzoic acid, glycolic acid, AHA and vitamin C [source: AAD]. Luckily, it's uncommon for a moisturizer to include acids, so you should be fine with most products.
Contact dermatitis is most commonly triggered by two sets of ingredients: fragrances and preservatives [source: AAD]. There are literally thousands of different artificial fragrances that are used in cosmetic products, often in multiple combinations. Look for products labeled as "fragrance-free," not "odor-free." Odor-free could simply mean that the natural smell of the ingredients has been neutralized by other fragrances. Preservatives are essential for increasing a product's shelf life, but are a potent irritant for some users. If you can't find a product that's "preservative-free," choose one that only uses methylparaben or butylparaben as preservatives [source: WebMD].
And just because a product is labeled as "natural," "organic" or "botanical" doesn't mean that you won't have a negative reaction to the ingredients. Remember, poison ivy is natural, too.
To browse ingredient lists before you hit the stores, consult the hugely informative Household Products Database maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Then take a look at the links below for lots more information on skin care.
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Sensitive Skin" (Accessed Jan. 2, 2011)http://www.aad.org/media/press/_doc/SensitiveSkinFactSheet.html
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Cosmeceutical Facts and Your Skin" (Accessed Jan. 2, 2011)http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/general_cosmeceutical.html
- Berardesca, Enzo et al. "Sensitive Skin Syndrome." Informa Health Care, 2006 http://books.google.com/books?id=6j5OJBoNhNAC&pg=PA77&lpg=PA77& dq=percentage+of+population+sensitive+skin&source=bl&ots=v3yyirYNcr&sig=QGX2fHZwAdbybxcxDXBVwynp9zY&hl=en&ei=Pw2c SqXFBtag8QaJzMXBBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9 #v=onepage&q=&f=false
- Lewis, Carol. "Clearing Up Cosmetic Confusion." FDA Consumer. May-June 1998 (Accessed Jan. 3, 2011)http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/health/cosmetic-confusion/398_cosm.html
- Kam, Katherine. "Sensitive Skin Solutions." WebMD. (Accessed Jan. 2, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/anti-aging-skin-care-10/sensitive-skin?page=1
- WebMD. "20 Common Questions About Sensitive Skin" (Accessed Jan. 2, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/sensitive-skin-20-questions