The question is: what skincare ingredients should you avoid? Especially if you have sensitive skin, these are the potentially irritating skincare ingredients to steer clear from.
You may have an affinity for fragrances in your products, but they can be seriously irritating (even on normal skin types) and can cause everything from headaches to allergic reactions. “Fragrance” is a catchall term that can mask any number of potentially skin-irritating chemicals that companies aren’t required by the FDA to disclose. So, this begs the question: why do companies use synthetic fragrance in their products if they’re so likely to cause irritation? The answer: to mask any unpleasant scents created by skincare ingredients. Plus, they’re more cost-effective than using naturally-derived scents. “Fragrance” or “Parfum” on an ingredient label, though not regulated by the FDA, is a vague term, and should definitely be avoided.
Parabens are used as a preservative in many personal care products—from skincare to makeup—but savvy consumers have caught on to their health risks in recent years. While the FDA hasn’t deemed Parabens to be a risk to human health, several studies exist that demonstrate their endocrine-disrupting qualities (this means they can interfere with certain reproductive hormones in the body) (1). Not to mention, they can be irritating to the skin. Look out for Isobutyl-, Butyl-, Isopropyl- and Propylparaben in your skincare products.
Like Parabens, Phthalates also serve as preservatives and are used heavily in skincare products. Also like Parabens, they’ve been studied to have an effect on hormones in the body. What’s more, the harmful effect of Phthalates is cumulative and therefore increases in line with the number of products you use containing them. For example, if you use a cleanser, serum, SPF, and moisturizer that all contain Phthalates then you will have a large amount of them accumulating in your body.
PEGs (Polyethylene Glycol)
Beauty companies use PEGs, a synthetic petrochemical, in their products for three main reasons: they help soften the skin with their emollient-rich properties, they increase ingredient absorption, and they work to emulsify water- and oil-based ingredients. Sounds all fine and dandy, but PEGs can contain impurities that can be harmful to one’s health. Namely, Ethylene Oxide (which the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies as a known human carcinogen) and 1,4-dioxane (which is classified as a possible human carcinogen) (2). Need we say more?
Used for its ability to prevent bacterial contamination in beauty and personal care products (mainly in soaps and face washes), Triclosan has been found to potentially have an effect on the immune system. And, the ingredient can have a negative impact on the environment too;it’s been found that it doesn’t biodegrade easily, which means it can build up in the environment even after it’s been rinsed down the drain.