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Does your skin react to certain cleansers? Try these unscented soaps (for both your face and body) to prevent redness and irritation.

By Kathleen Felton
November 12, 2018

If, like me, you have sensitive skin, you're probably familiar with that internal struggle each time you consider investing in a new skincare product: Will it break me out or give me a rash? Or will it live up to its claims and actually transform my skin?

In my experience, cleansers are often particularly risky, and many formulas leave my skin red and inflamed instead of squeaky-clean. A likely culprit? Fragrance. "It's the number-one cause of skin sensitivity and skin allergy," says New York City dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD.

If you're sensitive to fragrance, you might notice symptoms like itching, redness, swelling, rashes, and flaking skin after applying scented products, says Kenneth Mark, MD, a dermatologist and skin cancer expert based in New York City. "A lot of people should use fragrance-free skincare," he says.

One issue with actually shopping for fragrance-free soap, though, is that it's not always obvious which formulas contain fragrance. "Some natural, botanical products also contain fragrant components that can cause skin sensitivity," explains Arash Akhavan, MD, a dermatologist at the Dermatology and Laser Group in New York.

A simple sniff test doesn't always work, either. "[Some] unscented products may have what is known as a neutralizing fragrance," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "These potentially can cause allergic reactions in the skin, however the neutralizing fragrance blocks the smell so your nose cannot detect that it is there."

As a result, when shopping, experts recommend looking for the words "fragrance-free" or "free of added fragrance" on the label instead of "unscented," which could still contain irritating ingredients. Below, six truly fragrance-free soaps and cleansers that your skin will thank you for.

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