The No-Go Gift Guide For Your most “Sensitive” Friends

Choosing a gift can be fun — who hasn’t smiled instantly at finding the perfect gift for someone they love? But shopping for people with very sensitive or allergic skin can be difficult. What was a thoughtful gesture can morph into the cause of an angry rash or trigger an eczema flare-up. You want your gifts to put smiles — and only smiles — on their faces! Here are the top 10 things NOT to give your most “sensitive” friends.

For alternatives and other safe gift ideas, check out The Best Gifts To Give Someone With Sensitive Skin.

1. Perfume; Scented Soaps, Lotions, Makeup

Perfume might be the most classic present of all but it’s also the most classic no-go gift for anyone allergic (skin or otherwise). Perfume is one of the most common contact allergens.

It’s not just bottled perfumes that can cause problems but anything that contains scents of any kind…no matter how natural or organic. Keep in mind that fragrances can be hard to spot in ingredients lists and some products that say “unscented” could still have fragrances in them, just under a different name. One way to check is to sniff: an obvious floral, fruity, mossy, musk, or perfume-y scent is a dead give away but so is a “nothing” smell. Most truly unscented makeup and skincare products will have a more lab-like odor.

2. Essential Oils, Aromatherapy, Incense, Scented Candles, Room Sprays

Airborne contact dermatitis is a thing. Even if a product isn’t spread on the skin and is instead diffused or sprayed in a room, its particulates can cause problems when they settle or are inhaled.

3. Stuff With Preservatives

If you’re giving food, makeup, or skincare, look for preservative-free options. Several preservatives like parabens and MCI/MI are top allergens.

4. Fresh Flowers, Herbs, Plants, Fruits

These are gorgeous gifts that bring nature into the home and are completely biodegradable (even yummy)…but so many flowers, herbs, plants, and fruits — even faves like lavender and citruses — are top triggers for contact allergies.

5. Jewelry; Metals

Nickel is regularly the top contact allergen overall and is very common in anything metal: earrings, watches, eyeglass frames, laptop and phone cases, pens, belt buckles, and more. Gold is a common contact allergen, too. If you’d really like to give jewelry, try options from our sensitive skin-safe gift guide.

6. Leather

Leather” as such isn’t listed as a common contact allergen, but a lot of the things that go into its processing are.

7. Brightly Colored Fabrics; Denim; Stretchy or Rough Textiles

Clothes, towels, and linens are great gifts but for someone with very sensitive skin, there are hidden dangers such as preservatives, dyes, latex, elastics, and chemicals called “mordants” (related to metal) that help colorants bind better to materials (particularly synthetic materials). Stretchy, tight fabrics and rough textiles can cause irritations.

8. Rubber Things

Flip-flops, sandals, and rubberized phone cases or travel mug handles can be a problem for those allergic to rubber and its cross-reactants.

9. E-Cigarettes/Vapes

Besides other issues, the liquids used in vaping contain common allergens like preservatives.

10. Brightly-Colored Stationary and Office Supplies; Paints, Inks; Ceramics and Clay (for Crafts)

Bright colors are often indicative of the presence of dyes. This can be a problem in papers but also in paints, inks, and even vividly-hued plastic items that may contain benzophenones or other allergens that help keep the colors bright over time. Ceramics and clay are actually pretty safe when dry but avoid them in gifts where you have to handle them wet, such as in crafts kits.

That may seem like a lot to avoid, but not to worry: The Best Gifts To Give Someone With Sensitive Skin has lots of safe gifting options for your sensitive-skinned loved ones!

Curious about what’s an allergen and what’s not? Check out our popular Allergen-Not An Allergen section.


Our team of “dew gooders” at VMV Hypoallergenics regularly shares “skinsider” tips! Follow us on Instagram for more of their hacks, “skintel” and tutorials!

The safest, most effective care on the planet