Common Skin Care Products Dermatologists Won't Use

Dermatolagist checking girl's skin
Image Point Fr/Shutterstock

Just about every dermatologist I meet seems gifted with a preternaturally glowing, wrinkle-free complexion, and I don’t think that’s just because they get Botox at cost. Sure, dermatologists probably wear sunscreen and slather themselves with high-end moisturizers -- but could it be that what goes on their skin is just as important as what doesn’t

We rounded up dermatologists to find out which products and ingredients they ban from their medicine cabinets, lest their secret fountains of youth become contaminated.

Sandalwood and tea tree oil

"If there’s one set of ingredients that dermatologists dislike, it’s those that are ‘natural’ but lead to allergies. Sandalwood is one of these, and tea tree oil, interestingly enough, is another. This doesn't mean that they are undesirable as a whole, but they do cause more than their share of mayhem in people who use them." -- Dr. Joel Schlessinger for RealSelf

Neosporin and Polysporin

"I hate Neosporin. It can cause severe allergic contact dermatitis in many people, and it can cause anaphylaxis in a small percentage of people. For most cuts and scrapes, all we need is soap and water and something to keep the area moisturized, like Vaseline, to help it heal. Patients should really only use topical antibiotic ointment if they have a skin injury that suddenly starts to get worse and has redness, pain, oozing, and pus." -- Dr. Kate Holcomb, board-certified dermatologist at Lupo Center

"I don’t keep Polysporin, or any over-the-counter microbial cream, in my medicine cabinet or house. Two of its main ingredients, bacitracin zinc and gramicidin, are highly allergenic... Our skin is very sensitive, and people can develop an allergy to bacitracin zinc and gramicidin slowly, over time, and they might not even notice. The initial allergic reaction is often delayed, sometimes up to a week, so patients don’t make the connection. Next time they use the product, symptoms such as red, itchy skin, eczematous, and weepy, swollen eyes set in faster and worse than before." -- Dr. Jillian Macdonald, dermatologist and co-founder of The Ottawa Clinic. 

Woman wiping face

Facial wipes

"These can contain an ingredient called methylisothiazolinone (MI) that many dermatologists are now linking to skin reactions. It’s a preservative to prevent bacteria growth, but in some people it can cause contact dermatitis, which causes the skin to go red, itch, and blister. Many companies are now removing MI, so check labels if you like to use wipes to make sure your brand doesn’t contain it. It can also be found in some skin washes and moisturizers." --Dr. Nigma Talib, naturopathic doctor

Man spraying cologne


"Personally, I hate fragrance. It is in many products and is not necessary. I think it causes irritation in patients who are actually not atopic or eczema-prone at all. And I feel it is the culprit in a considerable amount of dermatitis." -- Dr. Kate Holcomb

"Many fragrances lead to issues, so most dermatologists prefer fragrance-free or natural fragranced (and minimally so) products." -- Dr. Joel Schlessinger

Deanol/dimethylethanolamine (DMAE)

"This ingredient is found in many ‘boutique’ skincare products that sell for as much as $500 an ounce. I would avoid it at all costs. This anti-wrinkle ingredient causes swelling of individual cells, which likely accounts for its temporary anti-wrinkle effects, and ultimately, cell death." -- Dr. Fayne Frey, board-certified dermatologist

Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate

"If you have sensitive skin like I do, I would avoid sodium lauryl sulfate/sodium laureth sulfate. These chemicals are found in many cleansers and shampoos and are extremely drying." -- Dr. Debra Jaliman, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine

Parabens, phthalates, and plenty of other chemicals

"I’d prefer you not to use products that contain sodium laurel sulfate, parabens (a type of preservative), phthalates (contained in fragrances), dyes and colors or perfumes. These chemicals can enter your bloodstream and cause changes in the hormone balance, which stresses the skin." -- Dr. Nigma Talib

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Missy Wilkinson is glad she never bought into the facial wipe trend. Follow her tweets at @missy_wilkinson.