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5 Makeup Ingredients to Avoid if You Have Dry Skin, According to Dermatologists

makeup ingredients to avoid

As someone who has experienced the perils of both oily and dehydrated skin, I know all too well the struggles of finding skincare and makeup products that work. When it comes to dry skin in particular, finding a product that won’t cause your skin to feel even tighter is key. Yes, it’s a fine line to walk, but no, it’s not impossible.

Considering that, next to skincare, makeup is high on the list of things people apply to their faces each day, it’s important to identify a few formulas you know work for you (whatever your skin type). You can do this by identifying the ingredients recommended for your skin type, and going from there. For dry skin types, dermatologists tend to recommend hydrating ingredients that will really plump up and protect your skin, like hyaluronic acid. “Humectants and emollients [are good ingredients to look for if you have dry skin],” Deanne Robinson M.D., FAAD, a dermatologist at Modern Dermatology in Westport, CT, explains. “Humectants attract water to the skin. Some of the most common ones are glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and urea. And emollients are ingredients that soften skin and seal in moisture, [like] mineral oil and lanolin,” she continues. “[But use emollients] with caution if you’re also prone to breakouts.”

Of course, for every good ingredient, there are a ton of detrimental ones. Below, find the ingredients you should avoid in your makeup if you have dry skin, according to dermatologists.


This ingredient may appear in your products in a few different forms according to Rhonda Klein, M.D., MPH, FAAD, a dermatologist at Modern Dermatology. “SD Alcohol, Denatured Alcohol, or Isopropyl Alcohol, are all terms to look out for—the commonality in each of them is they’re drying to the skin,” she says. “You’ll often find it on a makeup label that also touts benefits like ‘quick-drying or matte finish,” Klein adds. What’s more, alcohol is a common trigger of eczema, rosacea and psoriasis.” Shari Sperling, M.D., a dermatologist at Sperling Dermatology agrees, calling alcohol “drying and irritating.”


While synthetic and natural fragrances are often added to products to make them smell nice, they can be damaging if you have sensitive or dry skin, because your skin considers them an irritant. Sperling, Robinson, and Klein each recommend staying away from products that have added fragrances no matter your skin type. “Fragrances are a common skin irritant and can irritate dry skin and spur breakouts of eczema,” Klein explains.


Parabens are mentioned a lot in the “clean” and “natural” beauty conversation, but seldom is the word actually defined for us. So, what are they? Simply put: They’re preservatives and synthetic ingredients added to products that are meant to lengthen their shelf life. Chances are, you come into contact with parabens daily—and according to Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, M.D., the founder of Mudgil Dermatology, they might be irritating to dry skin simply because, “Those with dry skin are more prone to irritation and allergy.” While this doesn’t mean you have to change your swap out your skincare routine for only natural products, a cleaner line-up is worth considering. Plus, some parabens are actually banned in the EU, so, there’s that.

Glycolic Acid

Mudgil also recommends staying away from glycolic acid, which is a chemical exfoliant generally used to reduce and clear blackheads and clogged pores. While it’s important to keep dead skin cells at bay, if you have dry skin, you don’t need glycolic acid in your makeup formulas.

Salicylic Acid

This ingredient is generally found in skincare products marketed to those with oily and acne-prone skin. Both Mudgil and Robinson recommend staying away from salicylic acid in makeup if you have dry skin because it may ultimately lead to even more dryness. “Salicylic acid can be drying and is often used in fighting oily skin conditions like acne,” Robinson explains.

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