6 Harmful Skincare Ingredients

Raise your hand if you read the list of ingredients on a beauty product? Even if you did, chances are, all the jargon probably confused you even more. I totally understand the struggle because I don’t always know the ingredients (usually can’t even pronounce them) either. What I do know is this: some ingredients are known irritants. Now, a general disclaimer, these ingredients won’t irritate everyone’s skin (maybe only one or two of these irritate you) and may work just fine with your skin so take this information with a grain of salt and make sure to get to know your own skin first. Also, if you have a serious skin condition, seek the help of a dermatologist, pretty please. For a list of harmful skincare ingredients, just keep reading.

  1. Silicones
    Silicones can dehydrate skin and clog pores which leads to breakouts. It also means that the key active ingredients in your other skincare products aren’t being properly absorbed (that vitamin C serum you spent so much money on may be going to waste!!). You could find silicones in moisturizers and also in the pore-filling primers we all love. In my case, silicones give me breakouts very easily so I don’t use any moisturizers with them but I still use a pore-filling primer occasionally (moderation is key with these primers).
    Found on ingredient lists as: ingredients ending in -cone or -siloxane.
  2. Chemical Sunscreens
    Chemical sunscreen (also located in most foundations with SPF) enters the skin and then absorbs UV rays and converts them into heat before releasing them from the body. The only problem with them is that they are too harsh for some skin types which leads to irritation and breakouts. So if you avoid sunscreen because it irritates your skin, try switching to a physical sunscreen.
    Found on ingredient lists as: avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, octinoxate, and octisalate.
  3. SLS
    A very popular harmful skincare ingredients, SLS is usually found in foaming products but could also be found in other products as well (including shampoos). It is a cleansing agent that sensitizes skin because of its harshness which affects the strength of the skin’s natural barrier. A weaker barrier means your skin won’t be able to fight bacteria and pollution.
    Found on ingredient lists as: sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate.
  4. Drying Alcohols
    You guessed the drying part right?? These alcohols also sensitize and irritate skin which eventually causes damage to the skin’s natural protective barrier. Unfortunately, it is very popular for toners to include alcohol as an ingredient and in high concentrations (towards the beginning of the ingredient list). This is especially true for oil-minimizing toners due to the drying effect of alcohol which may actually cause your oil glands to overproduce oils to compensate.
    Found on ingredient lists as: SD alcohol, denatured alcohol, alcohol denat, natural alcohol, grain alcohol, ethyl alcohol or just alcohol.
  5. Fragrances and Dyes
    These ingredients are just useless and are usually very irritating. They offer zero benefits and are only used for aesthetic and marketing purposes. If you will be using a product for a long time (moisturizer that stays on your skin for 8+ hours vs. foundation that stays on your skin for < 2 hours), start with eliminating that skincare product first since it may be hard to eliminate all products that use fragrances and dyes.
    Found on ingredient lists as: fragrance, perfume, parfum, dye
  6. Essential Oils
    Essential oils are very concentrated and can be harsh on the skin. This of course depends on your skin’s sensitivity but if you have sensitive skin, they may irritate your skin and keep it in a reactive mode which inhibits its functions. You may find these oils in acne treatments, masks, serums, or moisturizers.
    Found on ingredient lists as: rose, orange, tea tree, mint, limonene, linalool, geraniol, eugenol, lavender

Now, I want to say this one more time: everyone’s skin is different and none of these may be irritating your skin. But, if your skin is constantly irritated, try the process of elimination to seek out if any of these are the culprit. I hope this helps any of you out there that are struggling with skin issues and if you have any questions, I’ll try my best to find an answer for you or I’ll ask my dermatologist for help.



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