Warning: this is NOT your usual toxic-skincare-ingredients-to-avoid list.
The truth is there’s nothing in your skincare that’s toxic or will give you cancer. But, there are quite a few ingredients that can give you a bad rash, cause an allergy or make your skin breakout.
I’d rather avoid those, don’t you? Here’s the list of all the skincare ingredients I avoid:
NOTE: Concentration and skin type matters. A high dose of a comedogenic ingredient will give you pimples, a smaller one won’t. Likewise, an ingredient that upsets sensitive skin may be perfectly fine for other skin types.
1. Palmitates and Myristates
These are two families of ingredients that include anything with Palmitate and Myristate in the name, such as Isopropyl Palmitate, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Isopropyl Myristate and Myristyl Myristate. They’re fatty acids that moisturise skin, leaving it soft and smooth.
There’s no scientific proof (yet!) they cause pimples but every time I use a cream that has one of them near the top of the ingredient list, my face erupts in zits. I’m not the only one, judging from the emails I get from you.
If you have dry skin, these ingredients will probably be fine for you. But if you’re oily or acne-prone, beware!
Related: Is Isopropyl Myristate Comedogenic?
Let’s be clear: not all types of alcohol are bad for skin. Fatty alcohols like Cetyl Alcohol and Stearyl Alcohol are very moisturising. Keep using them.
These alcohols are used to thin down solutions and help other ingredients penetrate the skin better. But, they do this by disrupting the skin’s protective barrier. Overtime, this dries out your skin.
There’s a workaround: if your serum or moisturiser is also loaded with moisturising ingredients, they’ll be able to counteract the drying effects of the alcohol. But I still don’t recommend them to anyone with dry skin.
Related: What Does Alcohol-Free Really Mean?
3. Witch Hazel
Witch Hazel is one of the few natural ingredients I prefer to avoid whenever possible. The extract from this plant is used in toners as a gentler alternative to alcohol.
It’s true that witch hazel has soothing properties. But, it also contain a lot of tannins, a group of antioxidants that can irritate sensitive skin.
But what really worries me is the distillation process. During this phase, 14-15% of alcohol is added to witch hazel extract. If, like me, you’re trying to avoid alcohol in skincare as much as possible, you’d want to stay away from witch hazel, too.
4. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
I know I said you wouldn’t find the usual suspects here but Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is one of the very few ingredients that deserves its bad reputation.
SLS is a surfactant: it helps water mix with oil and dirt so that they can be rinsed away. But it’s also very drying and irritating. So irritating that when scientists want to determine how irritating another ingredient is they compare it to SLS!
5. Peppermint and Menthol
Ever wondered why peppermint and menthol are in so many lip products? It’s not just to give a fresh feel to your lips or give the lip balm a nice scent.
Both peppermint and menthol swell up your lips, making them look larger. This is NOT a good thing. They do the trick by irritating the skin. The swelling is a sign your skin is badly irritated!
6. Sodium Cocoate and Sodium Palmate
These are two of the main surfactants (that word again!) used in bar soaps. Their problem? They cleanse skin TOO well.
These surfactants are usually formulated at an alkaline (high, about 7 or higher) ph. But skin has a slightly acidic (low, about 5.5) ph.
In plain English, this means they disrupt the skin’s protective barrier, making skin dry and prone to irritations. Give your bar soap a pass and use a liquid formula instead.
Do you avoid any ingredients in your skincare? Share your undesirables in the comments below.
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