The One Ingredient a Beauty Editor Wants You to Nix from Your Winter Skincare Routine

We are currently facing the coldest months of the year, which means things are feeling especially dry lately. Constant exposure to dry air—be it from the whipping winds outside or the blasting heat of your radiator—draws moisture away from your skin, making it more likely for your skin barrier to get compromised.

As you might recall, your skin barrier is made up of the outermost layer of skin cells (aka the stratum corneum), plus various lipids that hold those cells together. You can think of the skin barrier as a brick wall: The cells are the bricks, and the lipids are the mortar. Together they act as a protective barrier, so when your skin barrier is damaged, other irritants can get in. This can lead to a host of issues from redness and stinging to itching and flaking.

One ingredient that's known for being especially irritating is fragrance.

Whether they’re manmade or all natural (via essential oils and/or plant extracts), fragrance can trigger a reaction for those with sensitive skin or compromised skin barriers, so if you’re feeling more inflamed that usual, you might want to switch over to fragrance-free products (and scale back on any overly abrasive or oil-stripping products while you’re at it).

On that note, there is a difference between “fragrance-free” and “unscented” products. “Fragrance-free” means that a product doesn’t have any fragrance or materials that mask other scents in it; “unscented” products can contain chemicals that mask other odors, so they have a more neutral scent to them. In short, read your labels carefully (or shop some of our tried-and-true fragrance-free picks below).

And if you’re nervous about trying a new product, we always recommend doing a patch test along your inner arm before using it all over your skin.

Jenny Jin Headshot Vertical 2023

Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...