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Protect Your Skin: A Guide to Avoiding Harmful Skincare Ingredients

Discover the power of skincare ingredients, and how to choose the best products for your skin.
12 Harmful Skincare Ingredients - Woman siting on window sill applying lotion to her legs

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We all want healthy, glowing skin, but sometimes the skincare products we use contain commonly used ingredients that can actually harm our skin. Parabens, sulfates, and more can cause irritation, dryness, and even long-term damage. Yikes!

In this post, we’ll cover the most common harmful skin care ingredients found in products being sold to us daily and how to avoid them in your routine.

Being an informed consumer is key to staying safe and keeping your skin healthy and radiant. Let’s dive in and learn more about protecting your skin from harmful ingredients.

Best Sellers: Non Toxic Skin Care

12 Harmful Skincare Ingredients You Should Avoid


Start by looking out for and avoiding the following 12 commonly used, harmful skincare ingredients, and check out our chemical-free product recommendations.

1. Parabens

Can be found in almost every cosmetics, skincare, and personal care product category including lotions, shampoos, and cleansers.

Parabens have been linked to many health risks including hormonal disruption and breast cancer. Studies have shown parabens can also prevent the breakdown of estrogen.


2. Artificial Fragrance, Parfum

Can be found in almost every cosmetics, skincare, and personal care product category.

More than 5000 different fragrances are used in personal care products and fragrance allergies/sensitivities can become dangerous.


3. Coal Tar / Aminophenol / Diaminobenzene

Found in shampoos and scalp treatments, soaps, lotions, and mainly hair dyes.

Coal tar is a known carcinogen, and studies have shown that application of and exposure to coal tar produce skin tumors and neurological damage.


4. Formaldehyde / Formalin

Found mainly in nail polish, nail hardeners, and other nail products.

Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRPs) are absorbed through the skin and have been linked to cancer and allergic skin reactions.


5. Dibutyl Phthalate / DMDM HYDANTOIN

Found mainly in hair shampoos & conditioners and can be found in body wash/cleansers and lotions.

DMDM Hydantoin can release or be contaminated with the known carcinogen formaldehyde.

DMDM Hydantoin is also known as a human skin toxicant and allergen. Scary stuff!

6. PEG Compounds / Polyethylene

PEG compounds have been found to open the pores of the skin, enabling environmental toxins to enter the body.

Examples of these environmental toxins are DDT and DDE, both of which have the ability to influence the endocrine and reproductive systems.

7. Triclosan / Triclocarban

Found in toothpaste and deodorant.

Exposure to triclosan has been linked to hormone disruption and increased risk of breast cancer.


8. Toluene

Mainly found in nail products.

Exposure to toluene has been linked to reproductive damage and respiratory complications.

9. Oxybenzone

Found in sunscreen products.

Oxybenzone is a known photoallergen.

A photoallergic reaction occurs when UV rays (for example, when exposed to the sun) interact with the ingredients and products applied directly to the skin. The body’s immune system recognizes changes caused by sun exposure as a foreign threat. The body produces antibodies and attacks, causing a reaction.

A photoallergic reaction can leave you with a rash, blisters, red bumps, or even oozing lesions one to three days after application and exposure to the sun.

10. Petroleum Distillates

Found in lipstick and mascara.

Petroleum distillates are banned for use in cosmetics by the European Union but are still allowed to be used in the United States.

Currently, there is some, yet limited, evidence linking petroleum distillates to cancer and other health risks.


11. Hydroquinone

Found in skin-lightening and skin-brightening facial skin care products.

Hydroquinone is banned for use in cosmetics in Japan, Europe, and other parts of the world but is still allowed to be used in the United States.

If overused, hydroquinone can kill healthy cells and chromosomes, which can lead to cancer and other health risks.

12. Phthalates

Found in color cosmetics, fragranced lotions, body washes, and hair care products, and also found in nail polish and treatment.

Phthalates are banned for use in cosmetics by the European Union but are still allowed to be used in the United States.

Phthalates are linked to endocrine disruption, and developmental and reproductive toxicity, and have been known to be linked to certain forms of cancer.

Last update on 2024-05-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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