Tried and tested solutions for touchy skin

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If beauty products cause you problems, you’ll want to know the winners in the Free From Skincare Awards

One of the things we always tell our Beauty Bible testers is to stop using a product immediately if it causes any sensitivity. It doesn't matter how expensive it is, what the ads promise, how many A-listers endorse it – or even how natural it claims to be, there can still be ingredients in there that cause your skin to throw a wobbly.

We’ve both suffered from this, mostly with our eyes. Jo, for instance, used an eyelash enhancer that made her eyes red and sore, Sarah has tried some eye make up removers, mascaras and skincare products that caused her eyes to swell so much they looked like peepholes for days after a single use.

We pretty well know the ingredients that cause these sensitivity reactions without having patch tests. But some people suffer so badly they do get allergy tested via their GPs and discover they’re allergic to named ingredients. For instance, MI (stands for methylisothiazolinone) was causing such an epidemic of facial eczema a few years back that dermatologists ended up going to journalists like us to highlight the issue because neither the regulators nor the brands took much notice. (More about this here.)

There may also be food ingredients in products that can cause problems. In January this year, Alex Gazzola, editor of, wrote a blog about the case of a nut allergic student who had a severe reaction after using a Nivea lip balm containing sweet almond oil. Alex lists the 14 EU food allergens, many of which are used in beauty products. Read the blog here.

However, while most people know about food allergies and sensitivities/intolerances, the cosmetic issue was and is much less widely recognised. Which means the support for sufferers is limited. That’s why the Free From Skincare Awards have such an important role focusing public attention on the concerns, and putting products through rigorous trialling and judging to find those that may suit sufferers.

The Free From Skincare Awards, which started in 2012, run as a sister to the long-established Free From Food Awards. Alex Gazzola, who adds organising the Awards to his day job (#Dontknowhowhedoesit) explains that they stemmed from peoples’ difficulties trying to decipher labels, which is a struggle for many. (We know, we’ve poured over labels with a magnifying glass to try and decipher what’s really in the product from the welter of often incomprehensible ingredient names.)

While the Awards can’t actually help you decipher labels you can find a steer at the Skins Matter website (, the mother ship of the Awards. New labelling regulations may help but, by trying to avoid demonising some common ingredients, may also add to the confusion. Alex Gazzola agrees with regulators that ‘fearmongering’ free from labeling is undesirable. ‘We also don't like “free from chemicals” as everything’s a chemical – the brands mean “synthetic chemicals”.’ ‘Free from nasties’ and ‘Free from toxins’ are virtually meaningless and definitely unhelpful. (We agree with all that.)

What the Awards can do is to signpost consumers towards products that have suited carefully selected testers with a variety of sensitivity concerns. Based on the testers’ feedback forms, the expert judges then scrutinise products that have done well to see that the labelling conforms to regulations and is helpful to the consumer. (Sarah is one of the judges and can testify to their thoroughness and the level of vigorous debate.)

As Alex Gazzola also points out, ‘the issues aren’t just about allergy or sensitivity. Some people choose to avoid certain ingredients for ethical, religious or environmental reason or simply personal preference.’

So, here now are the Gold Award winners, with links so you can order online if you wish. For a complete list of winners, together with testers’ comments, visit 

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Overall Winner – Best Free From Skincare Product

Weleda Skin Food Body Butter – £18.95 for 150ml

Family Skincare

GOLD Bloom and Blossom Anti Stretch Mark Cream – £24 for 150ml

Hair Care

GOLD The Handmade Soap Company, Lemongrass & Cedarwood Shampoo – £15.95 for 300ml

Body Care (Take Off)

GOLD Odylique Coconut Candy Scrub – £25 for 175g

Oils and Oil-based Serums

GOLD Fiini Naturally Oat-sea Buckthorn Oil Serum – £31.98 for 30ml

Eye Care

GOLD Kinvara Skincare, Eye WOW! Eye Serum – £27.29 for 10ml

Hands Nails and Feet Care

GOLD NATHEO Natural Skincare Overnight Treat for Hands & Feet – £15 for 60ml

Hard Soaps

GOLD Lucy Bee Fragrance Free Natural Soap – £6 for 150g

Lip Care

GOLD #LipGlam 100% Natural Lip Balm – £9.99

Face Care (Leave On)

GOLD Kinvara Skincare, Active Rosehip Day Cream – £23.65 for 60ml

Laponie of Scandinavia Face Cream – 32 euros for 40ml

Face Care (Take Off)

GOLD Casa Mencarelli Crema di Pomodoro - Nourishing Tomato Night Cream & Cleanser, from £15 for 15ml


Fresh & Fragrant

GOLD Casa Mencarelli, Acqua di Miele - Honey & Orange Toner from £8 for 100ml

Problem Skin

GOLD Fiini Naturally Oat-Shea Butter – £17.32 for 50ml