Your Hypoallergenic Gift Guide For The Most “Sensitive” On Your List
When choosing a gift for someone with very sensitive or allergic skin, it’s mostly a matter of what not to give. But as “Top 10 Gifts NOT To Give Someone With Sensitive Skin” shows…that’s a lot of no-go gifts. What are you left with? More than you might think. While each individual is unique — and their patch test results, too! — here are some presents you can confidently give the most “sensitive” people you know.
1. Truly-Truly Fragrance-Free Anything
Perfume is one of the most common contact allergens, and that means no perfume-perfume or anything with perfume. This includes organic, natural fragrances in skincare and cosmetics. Watch out: many products that say they’re unscented contain fragrances (there are regulatory loopholes). Reading ingredients lists may not help either as the fragrances might be listed under different names. It’s so hard to find completely fragrance-free skincare and makeup that almost any gift in this category is going to be welcome! Some ideas:
- For a comprehensive range that’s 100% free of all-types-of-fragrances, including scents, essential oils, and masking fragrances (which don’t smell perfume-y but mask the inherent, often lab-like smell of a product), check out VMV Hypoallergenics skincare and makeup — which also excludes all 109 published contact allergens from almost everything they make. Thoughtfully curated gift sets are available, too, that are pre-wrapped and ready for gifting.
- Unscented candles
- Dried flowers
- Picture frames
- …other items that are unscented and not handled frequently.
2. Preservative-Free Items
Classic top contact allergens include parabens, MCI/MI and other preservatives. “Preservative-free” is the way to go, in everything from skincare to makeup, and food. Some fabrics use preservatives, too. If you’re giving clothing to someone very allergic, it’s a good idea to wash the item with a hypoallergenic laundry detergent for multiple cycles (3-5) to rinse away traces of preservatives (of course this would probably be for a real close loved one!) Or, give something really unique that you know they’ll use every day: a hypoallergenic laundry wash!
3. Paper Floral Arrangements
We love flowers, herbs, and plants, but so many are top triggers for contact and other allergies. Consider alternatives like paper floral bouquets and arrangements like those from The Paper Flower Market. To be on the ultra-safe side, choose flowers from paper that is unbleached, un-dyed and untreated with chlorine, or at least arrangements that aren’t too vivid in color, especially in a bouquet that’s meant to be held. Even if you can’t find un-colored options, any paper floral arrangement reduces the risk of a reaction significantly. Other pluses: paper flowers last longer (while still being biodegradable) and don’t come with floral farming or air transport issues.
On a similar “note”…
4. Raw, Natural Stationary Items
Stationary can be an issue for people with allergies due to the presence of dyes. Natural, handmade paper can be a pretty alternative. Just choose subtler hues or paper that is completely without added color. And, of course, no scented paper.
As inks are also common contact allergens, natural wooden pencils that are unpainted on their outsides (or pens encased in subtly colored wood) are welcome gifts, too.
5. Nickel- and Gold-Free Jewelry and Accessories
The number one contact allergen is nickel, and it is in almost anything metal: watches, earrings, necklaces, rings; digital cases (like for your phone or tablet), phone cases, pens, belt buckles, hair clips, eyeglass frames, and more. While gold was long thought to be an alternative metal for those with nickel allergy, it is now listed as a common contact allergen. If you’d really like to give jewelry, look for…
- Nickel-free options (there are a few you can find online).
- Other, less allergenic metals like brass or copper.
- Very high-quality steel (in this material, the nickel is often bonded strongly enough to not come off when in contact with skin, which is when the problem happens).
- Shells, crystals, gemstones, or stones on ties made of natural, unbleached, uncolored, organic material (just nothing scratchy or rough).
6. Flatware With Non-Metal Handles
Because we use them so regularly, a set of knives, forks, and spoons with bamboo or natural fiber handles is such a great gift for someone with nickel allergies! Up the safety factor even more by making sure that the parts that go into the mouth are made of high-quality steel.
7. Nickel-Testing or -Blocking Solutions
For the friend who has a nickel allergy, these are uniquely thoughtful and incredibly functional gifts. There are a growing number to choose from, including Nickel Alert and Nick-L-Block. The latter has a testing solution for nickel, one for cobalt, and even a barrier cream that prevents the skin from coming into contact with nickel.
8. Leather Alternatives
So many things that are needed for the processing of leather are top allergens. Look for vegan materials like pineapple leather (particularly if they’re organic and subtly colored or uncolored). Natural canvas bags and pouches are also good choices and easy to shop for.
9. Soft, Loose, Subtly-Colored Fabrics
When giving clothing, linens, sheets, and towels, choose subtly colored, un-dyed and unbleached fabrics. Textiles labeled “organic” tend to ensure the absence of preservatives and other allergenic chemicals, and less processing in general. Stretchy fabrics tend to not be a good idea as rubber, elastics, and latex are allergens. Rough, scratchy materials can cause irritations more than allergic reactions. Soft, loose, flowy garments are the way to go.
One excellent source: Cottonique. They use organic cotton in loungewear and basics, accessories like shawls and headbands, and hard-to-find essentials like socks, underwear, and face masks.
10. Natural Fiber Alternatives
Rubber is a top allergen and can be found in lots of things, from flip flops to travel mugs (the handles) and rubberized phone cases. Try natural fibers or wood instead.
11. Ceramic or Glassware
Ceramics and clay are a problem when wet (so no pottery-making or clay-handling craft kits, please), but tend to be fine when dry. Glassware — like a pair of pretty champagne flutes or set of artisanal mason jar drinking glasses — is always appreciated.
12. Food Gifts
Yummy treats and healthy hampers are go-to classics for almost any occasion: the holidays, for celebrating a milestone, or for someone’s birthday. Go organic as much as possible (this helps ensure no pesticides or preservatives), make sure to avoid foods with dyes and added flavors, and steer clear of foods that are known contact allergens like honey, citruses and mangoes.
Note: food allergies (type B cells are involved) and skin allergies (type T cells) operate differently. A prick or blood test tells you if you can eat certain foods, and a skin patch test tells you if you can come into contact with them. If your friend is allergic to certain foods, it is important to take that into account when choosing a gift. But remember that if a friend can eat a food, it doesn’t mean that they can come into contact with it. With mangoes, for example, the skin itself is a contact allergen.
13. Wine or Alcohol
If your friend drinks, good wines and alcohols like a quality craft gin are normally appreciated, especially as there are so many to choose from! They’re a fun way to introduce enthusiasts to new variants from different countries. You’ll want to give fruity, flavored and/or colored drinks a pass, however, as the dyes and flavors are common contact allergens.
14. Tree Ornaments & Holiday Decor
Holiday baubles and doodads are thoughtful presents that turn one’s home into a cheerful reminder of friends and loved ones. Since tree ornaments, faux wreaths, and other holiday decorations aren’t handled frequently, and come in lots of materials that are less allergenic, you’re spoiled with a choice of options in wood, beads, pipe cleaner, tin, shells, paper, felt, and more!
15. Hypoallergenic Pampering
A facial or spa hour is such a great gift for someone who needs a break — and who doesn’t! But so many spa services make use of top contact allergens like essential oils. Mint, lavender and ylang-ylang are faves for good reason…they do smell and feel really, really good. For someone with very sensitive skin, however, these substances can mean more pain than pampering. Choose truly hypoallergenic facials and spa services that make use of fragrance- and allergen-free products, don’t use aromatic diffusers, and choose skin-safer options in everything from towels to sheets and other equipment.
If a facial or spa hour just can’t happen, bring the spa to your friend! Instead of essential oils, choose a pure, organic virgin coconut oil (not RBD coconut oil) with no additives whatsoever. Virgin coconut oil is a special multi-tasking gift: it’s awesome on skin as well as on hair, for oil-pulling, salads and cooking!
Not entirely sure what your friend is allergic to? Proven hypoallergenic choices — that are meticulous about excluding all published contact allergens — are the way to go.