By Serina Tatham
As we move into the colder months, our skin has a tendency to become drier and more sensitive. Naturally, then, our routines need updating. But, when buying new products, you have to be careful about the ingredients and not be fooled by any claims of “organic” or “natural”. These can be misleading and don’t tell the full story.
So, keep reading for our lowdown on the ingredients you should avoid when it comes to skincare, the no-nos.
Found in: makeup, moisturiser, shampoo, lotions, spray tan
Parabens are found in a whole range of products, and anything that is water-based will likely have this listed. Used as a preservative to stop the growth of bacteria, it’s inexpensive and highly effective.
Several studies have suggested links between parabens – something that mimics oestrogen – to breast and cancer as well decreased sperm count. While it’s something that the FDA are acknowledging, they’ve not concretely ruled that it’s harmful. However, if you can avoid it, it’s not something that you should risk.
Various research also shows that parabens may disrupt the endocrine system, leading to hormone imbalances and reproductive and developmental disorders. So, when shopping for skincare products, avoid anything with the suffix “-paraben” or choose products labelled “paraben free”.
Found in: hairspray, moisturisers, nail polish, perfume, deodorants, lotions
Phthalates are everywhere, from cosmetics to cleaning products to food packaging. Used to help a product adhere better to our skin, phthalates are highly dangerous chemicals.
In a similar way to parabens, they’re an endocrine disruptor that can lead to hormonal and reproductive issues. Research has also linked exposure to asthma, low IQ, neurodevelopmental disorders, diabetes and a whole host of other concerning health issues.
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3. FORMALDEHYDE/FORMALDEHYDE RELEASERS
Found in: nail polish, perfume, makeup remover, shampoo, conditioner, body wash
Included in products to help extend shelf life, formaldehyde releasers are preservatives that can cause allergic reactions and skin sensitivity.
Most commonly known as something that is used to preserve dead bodies, it shockingly is just as common within the cosmetics industry. Whilst it does prevent bacterial growth, it is a known carcinogen that’s been linked to asthma, neurological diseases and developmental issues. So, if you see formaldehyde listed as an ingredient, put the product back on the shelf immediately.
Found in: moisturisers, deodorant, lotion, face cream, shampoo, conditioner
For most consumers, scented products are a relaxing treat and feel like a well-deserved element of self-care. But for many, fragrance can lead to skin irritation and strong reactions. It’s not just a few individuals, though, as the American Academy of Dermatology consider fragrances to be the leading cause of allergic reactions on the skin.
The problem is that without fragrance products can smell unpleasant and so, by using chemicals, manufacturers can increase sales and appeal to buyers. But, with these products worsening conditions like dermatitis, eczema and even asthma, is the scent really worth it? Our advice?
Look for “fragrance free” indicators on labels or choose products scented with essential oils instead.
5. POLYETHYLENE GLYCOL (PEG’S)
Found in: scrubs, body wash, makeup, toothpaste
Remember when the tiny plastic beads in scrubs and exfoliators were all over the news? Horrifyingly, they’re still a common ingredient in many skincare products today as they’re gentler on the skin than natural exfoliants. As they aren’t able to be filtered by the sewage systems, they collect pollutants and make their way into the water. Consumed by marine life, they eventually end up on our plates.
Also used to help thicken products, PEG helps other components in the product to be absorbed by the skin. But, due to its structure, it can strip the skin of moisture and irritate. Whilst they are considered safe, PEGs are often contaminated during the manufacturing process by ethylene oxide and 1,4 dioxane which are carcinogens. Not worth risking, look out for ‘polyethylene glycol’ (PEG) or ‘polypropylene glycol’ (PPG) in the ingredients.
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Found in: sunscreen
As we move into winter, sunscreen still has an important role to play as the sun’s rays can be just as harmful to our skin. A common ingredient, oxybenzone is one of the highest-risk chemicals found in sunscreen. Acting like oestrogen in the body, it has been shown to alter sperm production in animals and is associated with endometriosis in women. It has also been found in almost all water sources and some species of fish.
When purchasing a sunscreen choose safe, physical sunscreens. To discover our favourites, read our round-up of the best chemical-free SPFs that protect your skin and the ocean.
Found in: shampoo, toothpaste, cleansers, body wash
Steadily acquiring a bad reputation, many brands are developing sulphate-free formulas. With many speculating that they’re a possible carcinogen, this claim is currently unsubstantiated (unlike many ingredients discussed in this article).
Sulphates help products like shampoo and cleansers lather up, but they’re also present in household cleaners to provide the same soapy levels of cleanliness. The abrasiveness in cleaning products is the same in cosmetics and can be very drying; something those with sensitive skin should definitely steer clear of.
Derived from sulphur, our dependence on fossil fuels has also meant that this naturally occurring ingredient is now predominantly synthetic as it’s cheaper. As petroleum is running out and simultaneously driving climate change, going sulphate-free is the most responsible choice for both companies and consumers alike.
When trying to switch to a more sustainable beauty routine, it’s easy to get sucked in by claims on the label. “Organic” and “natural” tend to be misleading, so it’s important that you know what to look out for within the ingredients list to make sure you don’t inadvertently damage your skin.
But there are definitely some that, however small a concentration, you really want to avoid wherever possible.
If you’re making the switch to a more sustainable skincare routine, our round-up of our favourite sustainable self-care products is a great place to start. To learn more about what you should be doing for your specific skin type, we’ve collated the best products for dry, oily, sensitive and combination skin here.
Are you an eco-beauty expert? Leave a comment down below to share your favourite ethical beauty and skincare brands with the KeiSei community, or join in the conversation on our Instagram @keiseimgz.