The Best Gifts To Give Someone With Sensitive Skin

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
  • Mirrors
  • Artwork
  • Vases
  • …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 honeycitruses 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.


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

Healthy Living Skin

Top 10 Gifts NOT To Give Someone With Sensitive Skin

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!