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Many people don’t think twice about what’s in their skincare products. Much less know that there are tons of skincare ingredients to avoid!
What if I told you that many of the skincare products on the market today have harmful ingredients that are damaging to your skin and your health?
Unfortunately, it’s very true.
However, there are tons of great products out there with proven, effective and safe ingredients! You might just have to do a little searching to find them.
If you’ve read my Skincare Mistakes post then you know how important the right products are. Ingredients can make or break your skincare routine!
Before I got serious about skincare, I was using random products without actually researching what was in them. And my skin was horrible.
I had was breaking out everyday. My skin was extremely oily and irritated. And nothing was helping.
Finally, I had had enough with my problematic skin and I started doing research. That’s when I realized that all of the products I was using were absolutely terrible!
Why Skincare Ingredients Matter
Your skin is one of your primary defenses to harmful pathogens like bacteria and viruses that can make you sick. Your skin has certain characteristics, like pH, salinity and oils, that help protect you from pathogens. If you disrupt those characteristics, you’re putting yourself at risk.
Not only that, but your skin is also your body’s protection!
Your skin is your largest organ and whatever you put on your skin gets absorbed into your body! Many people don’t think of skin as being an organ, but it’s one of the most important organs and plays a crucial role in our health.
My skin has improved dramatically in the last few years. And it’s all because I’m using better products. With better ingredients!
No more skincare products packed with irritating and harmful chemicals. I couldn’t believe how much of a difference it made.
Now, my skin is breakout free, balanced and healthy. Plus, I’m spending less time and money on skincare.
Because the products I’m using are formulated better.
Why It’s Important To Do Your Own Research
The past few years, the clean beauty industry has exploded and many companies are more mindful of putting better ingredients in products. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just choosing a “clean” beauty brand.
Just because it’s from a clean beauty brand, doesn’t mean it’s an effective product or has the best ingredients.
I’ve seen plenty of products from big name clean brands that are not as clean as you’d think. Yes, they avoid the big ones like parabens, phthalates, and formaldehyde, but they still have sulfates or fragrances in their product.
Those are just as bad!
So, in order to make sure your skincare ingredients are safe and effective, you need to read the labels.
Don’t worry, I’ve made this guide to help make reading ingredient labels as painless as possible. I’ve included lots of useful info on why these particular ingredients are bad and common names of how they appear on the labels so you know what to look out for.
I’m also including a comprehensive list of ingredients that are not only harmful to your health but could also be irritating to your skin.
So, keep reading to find to out the skincare ingredients to avoid in your routine.
The Skincare Ingredients To Avoid
- What’s it found in? soap, cleansers, face wash, body wash, scrubs, shampoo, toothpaste, pretty much anything that cleans or foams
- Why is it bad? sulfates are not only super irritating to the skin, but they can also trigger allergic reactions and skin conditions like dermatitis. Sulfates are the same thing that dish soap uses to clean your dishes! Why would you want to put that on your face?? Using sulfates will destroy your moisture barrier, strip your skin and cause a slew of skin issues like dermatitis, acne and sensitivity.
- Most commonly Found As: sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, sodium dodecyl sulfate, mono dodecyl ester, sodium sulfate
- What’s it found in? body wash, face cleanser, serums, lotions, shampoo, conditioner, scrubs, masks
- Why is it bad? essential oils are potent plant extracts that can cause serious irritation and chemical burns if used incorrectly. Essential oils can be ok in body care, but keep them away from your face. If you do use them be sure do dilute them properly and never ever apply them without a carrier oil or lotion.
- Most commonly Found As: these are a little tricky to pick out, so you will mostly likely need to do some googling. If you see an oil on an ingredients list you’ve never heard of before, it’s most likely an essential oil. Sometimes they will appear as lavender oil or orange peel oil, other times they will appear as their scientific name like menthe piperita.
- What’s it found in? almost everything! Beauty products are the worst offenders for artificial fragrances.
- Why is it bad? Unfortunately, companies aren’t required to disclose what is in their “fragrance” so that means they can had tons of harmful chemicals and compounds and simply list it as “fragrance” or “parfum.” Without guidelines in place, you can be exposing yourself to many different harmful ingredients without ever knowing! Many common ingredients found in fragrance cause skin irritation, allergies, acne, dermatitis and bigger health problems like hormone disruption.
- Most commonly Found As: fragrance, parfum, perfume
- What’s it found in? very common preservative found in nearly every kind of beauty or cosmetic product
- Why is it bad? parabens are believed mimic hormones like estrogen, which can cause hormone imbalances, reproductive issues and potentially cause certain cancers like breast cancer
- Most commonly Found As: methylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, anything with “Paraben” you should avoid it.
- What’s it found in? shampoo, perfume, nail polish, hairspray, hair gel, deodorant, lotion
- Why is it bad? phthalates, or plasticizers, are added to plastic products and also work as a binding agent in beauty products. Phthalates are known to cause hormone disruptions, reproductive issues, allergies, asthma, eczema and also known to be a probable carcinogen
- Most commonly Found As: commonly found in fragrance, so avoid anything with fragrance listed, phthalate, DEP, DEHP and DBP
- What’s it found in? acne products, deodorant, toothpaste, mouthwash, soap
- Why is it bad? triclosan is a very effective antibacterial compound that is commonly found in many personal care products. However, triclosan is a known endocrine disrupter which can cause reproductive issues, hormone imbalances and more.
- Most commonly Found As: triclosan, triclocarban, TSC, TCC
- What’s it found in? shampoo, nail polish, deodorant, soap, lotion, hair products, and many others personal care products
- Why is it bad? formaldehyde is used a preservative and helps prevent bacterial growth. It is also a known carcinogen, irritant and can cause skin issues like allergies, eczema, dermatitis, etc.
- Most commonly Found As: formaldehyde, DMDM, 2-bromo-2nitropropane-1,3 diol, bromopol, glyoxal, imidazolidinyl urea quaternium -15, Cormalin, formic aldehyde, methenamine
- What’s it found in? scrubs, body wash, face wash, toothpaste
- Why is it bad? Many exfoliants use synthetic polyethylene beads.Unfortunately, these beads are not filtered out and end up in our oceans and waterways. These beads can also collect other pollutants and have been known to cause hormone imbalances and skin issues like dermatitis, eczema and irritation.
- Most commonly Found As: diethylene glycol, propylene glycol, ethylene glycol, polyethylene glycol, DEG, PG, PEG
- What’s it found in? soap, body wash, lotion, moisturizer, serum, toner, acne treatments, sunscreen
- Why is it bad? denatured alcohol, or rubbing alcohol, is found in many skincare products, especially acne products. Alcohol in skincare will irritate your skin, destroy your skin’s protective barrier leading to acne, irritation, oily skin, dermatitis, eczema, etc.
- Most commonly Found As: SD alcohol, denatured alcohol, ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, alcohol denat, methanol (disclaimer: there are good alcohols in skincare too, so don’t avoid it just because it has the word alcohol in it! Only avoid the ones in the list above)
- What’s it found in? soap, bubble bath, face wash, shampoo, shaving cream
- Why is it bad? diethanolamine and related compounds cause respiratory issues, skin irritation and when they react with nitrites in products can become carcinogenic
- Most commonly Found As: DEA, lauramide DEA triethanolamin, cocamide DEA, DEA-cetyl, DEA oleth-3 phosphate, cocamide MEA, linoleamide MEA, myristamide, TEA lauryl sulfate (disclaimer: this list only includes the most common ones, but there are tons of other ways they could be listed so be sure to do your own research)
Picking Out Skincare Ingredients To Avoid
The best way to see if there are any skincare ingredients you should avoid is by reading labels. No, it’s not very fun, but it’s reliable. Plus, your skin will thank you for it!
There are two ways I like to do this:
- use a database like skincarisma or cosdna. Both of these databases will allow you to search for products and quickly read through the ingredients list to see if there are any harmful ingredients.
- read through the labels yourself. I do this if I’m out shopping and see a product that catches my eye. I don’t recommend this for beginners though as it’s hard to remember all the bad ingredients at first. Once you get used to it, you’ll be able to read through them like a pro.
These two tools I use regularly when looking at products. I never buy a skincare product without looking at the label first. Even if it says “clean.” Always look at the label no matter what.
Both databases are super easy and convenient to use. You can search for your products in the database. Or, if they don’t have it listed you can copy and paste the ingredients list to analyze it.
I will do a quick run-through below on how to use these databases, but if anyone wants a more in-depth post on these let me know in the comments!
Both of these resources make it super easy to pick out any skincare ingredients to avoid in your products.
I like skincarisma a lot more for this because they give you a great overview of the product shown below:
Then, it shows each ingredient, how safe it is, and any notes like if it’s comedogenic, an irritant, etc:
Skincarisma also has a great database to browse through products if you’re looking for a new one. When I’m in the market for a new skincare product I will usually start there.
CosDNA is one of my favorite tools to use to pick out ingredients that may break me out or cause irritation.
Sometimes products don’t work. I’ve tried plenty of skincare products that break me out or give me dermatitis.
Cosdna makes it easy to pick out the products that may be causing your skin issues.
Here is a screenshot of my moisturizer ingredients:
It ranks each ingredient by how likely it is to cause acne or irritation and gives a safety rating. The higher the number, the more likely it is to cause acne or irritation.
What To Do With Your Bad Products
I recommend looking through all your products. Yes, all of them. Just to see how many have any ingredients to avoid. Then, do some research on a replacement.
I don’t recommend just throwing them out. You can if you want to, but I don’t like doing that because it’s wasteful. I will typically use up a product and then not repurchase it.
Just do some research and find a suitable replacement.
That way you’re not forking over a ton of money on a completely new routine at once. Just slowly replace everything with better alternatives.
Many people think that if a product is on the shelf then it’s safe to use. That is, unfortunately, not true. It’s up to us to do our own research. And make sure the products we are using daily are safe.
However, with awesome resources and databases this is really easy now!
Looking through all your products can be scary. And overwhelming. But, it’s something that is super important to your health and skin.
Obviously, there are a lot of other skincare ingredients to avoid in your products, so it’s impossible to list them all. I’ve included the worst offenders in this list.
If anyone is interested in a followup post with more skincare ingredients to avoid, comment down below!
Be sure to check out my 10 Commandments For Healthy Skin post to get your best skin ever!