I'm allergic to stuff. What natural lotion/oil/foundation should I try?
December 15, 2017 9:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm allergic to new stuff (did the North American 80 patch test) and my previous lotions and foundation are no longer working. Please help me find face and body lotion and foundation that meet my criteria and don't make my skin want to part ways with my body!

I've spent way too much time researching this, as I unfortunately have to do every time a lotion stops working, so I'm hoping to get some recommendations that jump-start my research a bit.

Here's what I don't want in a lotion, body oil, foundation, and/or BB cream.
  • Does not contain formaldehyde resin or formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, so no formaldehyde, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol), or glyoxal. This is nonnegotiable; I'm allergic.
  • Does not contain paratertiary butylphenol (PTBP) formaldehyde resin, which even though it's an industrial adhesive, is bizarrely enough in the occasional skin product (which makes me so mad). This is also nonnegotiable; I'm allergic.
  • Does not contain benzalkonium chloride, which even though it's a disinfectant is sometimes in skin products, like Aveeno lotion (which WTF, Aveeno, so much for hypoallergenic). I'm now allergic to this too, so nonnegotiable.
  • Does not contain parabens or a bunch of phthlatates, so no butylparaben, methylparaben, isoparaben, propylparaben, alkyl parahydroxy benzoate, diethyl phthlate, dimethyl phthalate, etc. Polyethylene terephthalate may be OK. I've already got nonnegligible cancer risk and endocrine issues, so I'd like to eliminate anything that adds to that, while I'm at it.
  • Does not contain talc, which has a possible link to ovarian cancer.
  • Does not contain teratogenic stuff like retinol, tretinoin, a lot of eugenol, borage oil, etc. I'm not pregnant and I'm not currently trying to become pregnant, but I'd like to be able to keep using whatever I get if that ever were to occur someday, rather than having to go through this again.
  • Ideally doesn't contain a ton of alcohols, since my skin is already dry and flaking and generally freaking out all over my face and torso, so I'd like to avoid a lot of ethanol, ethyl alcohol, denatured alcohol, methanol, isopropyl alcohol, SD alcohol, benzyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, lanolin alcohol, etc. Not all alcohols are created equal, but my skin is so dry.
  • Ideally doesn't contain a bunch of petroleum products, so no paraffin, petrolatum, mineral oil, etc.
Here's what I've been using that's no longer working.
  • JĀSÖN Hydrating Hemp lotion, which was discontinued and my skin doesn't seem to be cool with anymore anyway. This worked so well for so long, but this year it stopped working.
  • JĀSÖN Softening Cocoa Butter lotion, which is still being produced but no longer keeps my skin from flaking off, I suspect because of all the alcohols in it (my irritated skin burns when I put it on now).
  • Yes to Cucumbers Daily Calming moisturizer—I suspect that it also has too much drying alcohol for me right now, 'cause my face starts flaking again really quickly after I use it.
  • Maybelline Fit Me! 120 Classic Ivory Dewy + Smooth foundation—this stuff dries me out almost instantly now and highlights the dry skin, which is a super cool effect. Also it includes a bunch of parabens and other questionable ingredients.
  • Olive oil—I tried this when I ran out of jojoba oil, and for me it is a poor substitute all around. It doesn't stop my skin from trying to flake off of my face and body.
Here's what I've been using that still works.
  • Jojoba oil on my face (on my torso it really does nothing useful).
  • 0.1 percent triamcinolone ointment (prescribed by my dermatologist) on flaky areas (lower back, flanks, top of stomach, inner elbows, backs of hands).
Here's what I want.
  • I would like to find some foundation or BB cream that I can use with the jojoba oil to even things out on my face.
  • I'd like to find a moisturizer for my body that actually helps calm down my skin and stop the flaking, 'cause triamcinolone ointment is really a temporary solution that I don't want to use all the time, due to all the various downsides of topical corticosteroids.
  • I'm ideally looking for something natural, organic, oil- or plant butter–based, with very few ingredients. But I don't really want to use coconut oil 'cause of the scent; olive oil alone isn't doing the trick; and jojoba oil is only effective on my face.
Here's one final important note.
  • A lot of the stuff commonly recommended here (Aquaphor, Cetaphil, Aveeno, Lubriderm, etc.) has ingredients that don't meet my criteria, so please take care! I've tried almost all of those before, with painful results.
Thanks for any recommendations you can give me! My skin really appreciates it.
posted by limeonaire to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have super sensitive skin, and the best face lotion I’ve found is Osmia purely simple face cream. It’s made by a small company founded by a former ER doctor, and their products were born by her own quest with perioral dermatitis.
Body lotion wise, CV Skinlabs makes an unscented body lotion that is perfect for winter (and summer). The backstory on that brand deals with (chemotherapy induced) skin sensitivity as well.
They both have a tiny bit of benzyl alcohol as a preservative, but it’s at the end of the ingredient list for both. Obviously, they cost more than drugstore products, so if that’s an issue, go the DIY route. You can make a body butter with Shea butter and any carrier oil of your choice and know exactly what the ingredients are.
posted by Champagne Supernova at 9:41 PM on December 15, 2017

Have you tried shea butter? Just natural shea butter. Same with cocoa butter. I bought job Lots of both on amazon. Both products incredibly moisturising and wholly additive free. A bit fiddly with the cocoa butter as it's solid and you have to melt it a little before using it, but skins feels SO nice afterwards.
posted by stevedawg at 9:50 PM on December 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

I use almond oil on my body, putting it on right after my shower while I’m still damp. Skin still feels nice and soft at the end of the day.
posted by jshort at 9:57 PM on December 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

With sensitive skin you will want a non-comedogenic oil like argan or hemp seed on your face. (Although for a few people no oils really work.) Pure coconut, olive, shea & cocoa are pore-clogging and likely to break you out, but may be tolerable on thicker body skin. Also recommend cold to lukewarm showers, apple cider vinegar toner, and air or pat-drying to preserve your natural skin oils.
posted by fritillary at 11:09 PM on December 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

It may be worth looking at CeraVe Baby Lotion and CeraVe Baby Moisturizing Cream.

Double-check, but I think they may fulfill many of your conditions. The lotion contains cetostearyl alcohol and cetyl alcohol, but these may be non-drying for many/most people - because people in the Amazon comments mention the lotion helps with dry skin. The cream doesn't contain them.

Note that the Amazon comments may randomly be about the baby shampoo or baby sunscreen, because reasons.

I don't know what these words mean, but:

active ingredient: dimethicone inactive ingredients: purified
water, caprylic/capric triglyceride, cetostearyl alcohol, cetyl
alcohol, emulsifying wax, niacinamide, ceramide 3, ceramide 6-ii,
ceramide 1, hyaluronic acid, allantoin, tocopheryl acetate,
lauric acid, zinc citrate, polygylceryl-3 diisotearate,
behentrimonium methosulfate, sodium lauroyl lactylate, arginine
pca, potassium phosphate, dipotassium phosphate, edta, sodium
pca, phytosphingosine, cholesterol, xanthan gum, carbomer
Behentrimonium methosulfate, Edetate disodium, Polyaminopropyl biguanide, Potassium chloride, Purified water, Sodium borate, Sodium chloride
(I've just started using generic Cerave, which has parabens.)
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:14 AM on December 16, 2017

Seconding plain almond oil for moisturizer. It works wonders on my dry, flaky skin--body and face. I sometimes also add coconut oil but it is a bit greasier. I added a few drops of rose hip oil for while too, and it seemed to help some of my keratosis pilaris. As far as avoiding the ingredients you've listed, I don't have any specific recommendations, but do you have a Whole Foods or Pharmaca near you? If so, you might want to have a look around their cosmetics aisles as they generally have lots on offer that avoids many mainstream additives.
posted by stillmoving at 1:13 AM on December 16, 2017

Third the almond oil.

Also: does it help to occasionally exfoliate your body first? It does for me. Try sugar!
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 1:31 AM on December 16, 2017

For your body, palm oil? My boyfriend has an enormous jar of coconut oil and a slightly smaller jar of palm oil (for soapmaking); he says both are commonly used in skin products, and palm oil has a slightly different smell than coconut oil.
posted by batter_my_heart at 3:02 AM on December 16, 2017

Hey there, if I were you I'd go on Skinsafe and set up an account and plug in your allergens. It'll be much quicker than going through individual suggestions in terms of identifying products that are safe for you.

You might also try these two brands: Weleda and Shea Moisture who both make largely natural products, although the preservatives are on a product by product basis.
posted by fshgrl at 3:06 AM on December 16, 2017

You can also buy basically straight hyraulonic acid now for your face which is very moisturizing and good for your skin. Sold in a serum, check Amazon.
posted by fshgrl at 3:10 AM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

You have my sympathies! It is no fun being allergic to everything. When this happened to me, I found it best to really, really simplify—as in, no lotions, just raw, natural oils. Fewer ingredients, less of a chance of sensitivities/reactions, and if you do have another reaction, you know exactly what's causing it, instead of trying to figure out what else you're allergic to by some convoluted process of elimination (which I'm sure you've had enough of by now!).

So you're on the right track, I think—one or two pure, plant-based oils/butters. I'm allergic to so many plants that I just use tallow now, but a lot of people find the idea of it off-putting. Lots of great recs for plant-based oils in the thread already. If you're not 100% happy with jojoba, I liked argan and rosehip seed oil for face too (they "sink in" a bit better than the jojoba for me) and hemp for body. I hated olive oil too—it doesn't absorb very well.

For foundation, would a mineral powder foundation work for you? They're the simplest thing you can get, really—they're just made of zinc & iron oxides and mica. I didn't think I could work a foundation that wasn't a cream, but I'm able to wear it just fine, even though I have dry and sometimes-flaky skin. (Just spritz with water before applying, it helps a lot to get a smooth finish.) Lots of natural/green brands have mineral foundations, but if you want to try something that can be found easily, Sephora carries Laura Mercier Mineral Powder, which is the one I use.

Lastly, Garden of Wisdom has been a godsend for me. They formulate specifically for sensitive, allergic skin, using a lot of odd natural ingredients with low allergen potential. Inexpensive, too. If you email them with a list of your skincare concerns & allergies they can recommend which specific products might work. Or you can skip their formulated stuff and order raw oils & butters directly (they stock some of the rarer ones).

Oh! Seconding fshgrl's suggestion of a hyaluronic acid serum. You apply it as an extra layer underneath a cream/oil, and it really helps moisturize and calm down flaky skin. There are gel-like ones with very basic ingredients that essentially just have hyaluronic acid plus a few things to get it to stay on your face.
posted by fire, water, earth, air at 3:52 AM on December 16, 2017

I think Intelligent Nutrients is going to work for you. I just looked at the ingredients on a discontinued lotion I have and it fit your list.
I think this fits your list too: Lotion

Intelligent Nutrients is the product line the Aveda owner started after he sold Aveda. It’s very natural and friendly to sensitive people.
posted by littlewater at 7:07 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh! The Aveda tinted moisturizer is really good, a beauty editor favorite, and it might work! Ingredient list on the page.
posted by littlewater at 7:11 AM on December 16, 2017

I have similar problems, and I got tired of constantly trying new things, and eventually finding something that will work only to have it start irritating my skin later, so now, I use just plain sunflower oil after I shower, and I make my own danged cold cream out of sunflower oil and beeswax with water and just a pinch of borax, which can also be used as lotion.

I can give you more detailed instructions if you want. It's pretty easy, really, and you can adjust the ingredients and the formula for your own needs.

I've been doing OK with Rimmel 9 in 1 BB cream (you can get to the ingredient list at the link), but my face isn't as sensitive as the rest of me, which is weird, I know.
posted by ernielundquist at 7:22 AM on December 16, 2017

Nthing using straight oils/butters. Olive oil didn't work for me either, but I've resorted to sunflower seed oil at times when I don't have shea or cocoa butter around.

You could also try straight aloe vera gel.

I haven't found a BB cream or foundation that my skin agrees with, unfortunately. I've read promising things about mineral makeup, though, so that's an option you might want to look into (I just haven't gotten around to figuring out which kinds for sale in my area don't contain iffy ingredients).
posted by ersatzhuman at 8:42 AM on December 16, 2017

When I was going through a phase where everything was irritating my skin I picked up Weleda's Calendula Baby Oil which I still use. I mean if the babies like it. It's plant based and the primary ingredients are sesame oil and almond oil with calendula. I get it at my local Amazon conglomerate.

My favorite plant based moisturizing oil though is Everyday Oil which is a bit more spendy. It can be used everywhere - face, body, hair etc. It contains coconut oil but doesn't smell like it. It smells primarily, to me, of palo santo. So you'd have to be into that. It's great stuff though.
posted by rdnnyc at 8:56 AM on December 16, 2017

I have blended Shea butter with a bit of olive oil, put it in a mason jar, and I’m done.

You can do straight she’s butter, add a different oil, and even a nice scent if you want.

It’s bliss, heavy duty and lasts forever.

Additionally, I made a bit with tea tree oil and lavender that I use in my skin on the occasions when there is redness, etc. (Not for everyone)

(Commercial products are just so bizarre with all their ingredients.)
posted by Vaike at 9:27 AM on December 16, 2017

Also, more powder than foundation, but I use a blend of food grade cornstarch and cocoa powder for light powdered coverage if I need to.
posted by Vaike at 9:32 AM on December 16, 2017

So specifically, it's perineal talc usage that might be associated with ovarian cancer. I think you're ok if you're just putting it on your face, might open up some more foundation options.
posted by yeahlikethat at 10:07 AM on December 16, 2017

Also, I was using straight up jojoba oil last winter which worked great, but started making me itch when I pulled it out this year. Maybe the bottle went off, gonna try a fresh one, but I switched to almond oil with decent results. When things get really rough I use shea butter, which is annoying because it takes longer to rub in but doesn't feel gross and greasy once it absorbs.

When I lived in Chicago, I sprung for a tub Lush's Celestial moisturizer. Felt stupid expensive as a student but it was the one thing I tried that didn't make my face sting like the Dickens. It meets your non-negotiables (although it does have cetearyl alcohol and parabens), and it's not overloaded with (often irritating!!) essential oils like a lot of their products are.
posted by yeahlikethat at 10:22 AM on December 16, 2017

You should check out Elsen Oils products. You might contact them and see what they recommend for your issues.
posted by gudrun at 11:47 AM on December 16, 2017

If coconut oil works and it's just the scent that's the issue, there are whipped coconut oil butters with essential oils added to mask that. Agreeing you might try to take colder showers (or just finish the last minute at a cooler water temperature), and try to apply any oils while your skin is still damp.
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:53 AM on December 16, 2017

I'm always flogging their products, but I've been using them for over a decade: Silk Naturals Cream Foundation. You can get samples before buying full size. I have easily clogged pores and skin that is prone to breakouts and this stuff gives me no problems.

Re: alcohols: fatty alcohols can be extremely moisturizing to skin. "Alcohol" just indicates an organic compound in which (–OH) is bound to a saturated carbon atom. Cetyl, stearyl, and cetearyl alcohol are non-irritating fatty alcohols.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:12 PM on December 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the recommendations, everyone! I'm bit by bit investigating some of the stuff recommended here, so it's too early to mark any best answers, but thanks again.

By the way, on the subject of talc, I just saw this article about Claire's glitter powders including talc that tested positive for asbestos (one mom just happened to work for a law firm that specialized in mesothelioma and decided to get it tested). So I figured I'd add that for posterity, in case others are looking into this in the future! I feel like low-ingredient, simple, all-natural and/or organic formulations are increasingly what a lot of people want, and it's not just me. But it's still fairly difficult to find a lot of options to choose from in this regard. So hopefully this improves over time. But you've given me a good bit to look into so far, which is great.
posted by limeonaire at 3:18 PM on December 28, 2017

I pat a mixture of rosewater and glycerin on my face after showering, then after it dries pat a bit of water on and let that dry too. That's it.

Shea butter on hands once a week, cotton gloves on top. Shea butter anywhere else that needs it.
posted by salix at 3:24 PM on December 31, 2017

Response by poster: Heads up that I went with the Aveda one littlewater recommended, and it's been awesome, but now it's been discontinued. I'm getting close to running out of my first and only tube of it, so I'll be looking into other options recommended here. I also bought a bottle of the new Burt's Bees foundation line and disliked it; it's sticky and chalky-looking, highlighting rather than hiding every imperfection.
posted by limeonaire at 9:06 AM on July 9, 2018

Response by poster: Update: The Aveda Inner Light line is back!!
posted by limeonaire at 11:51 AM on November 18, 2018

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