5 Ingredients to Avoid When Purchasing Skincare

There are some things you want on your skin, and there are other things you definitely do not. We want our makeup to be as natural as possible. When it comes to skincare, the border between the two can be murky. Here is a shortlist of the top 5 ingredients to avoid when purchasing skincare products.

1. Avoid Mineral Oil in your Skincare

While the name may sound appealing (Mineral + Oil), this occlusive ingredient that does not allow water/moisture out should only be applied to the skin in VERY small amounts and massaged in thoroughly. This oil is so thick that, if not used properly, it will clog pores and cause breakouts so be mindful when applying it to your face. I learned this one the hard way.

Mineral oil is a strong ingredient that is found in petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline) and lip balm (such as Chapstick.) Often found in numerous kinds of moisturizer and various types of skincare products, mineral oil can be used for treating very dry skin. Baby oil, for example, is another product that is comprised mainly of scented mineral oil. Read more on the two sides of mineral oil from Dr. Whitney Bowe.

2. Artificial Scents

The term “fragrance” or “parfum” on a cosmetic ingredients list usually represents a complex mixture of dozens of chemicals. Some 3,000 chemicals are used as fragrances.

The Dirty Dozen: Parfum, David Suzuki Foundation

While natural fragrances are occasionally safer than synthetic ones, you should always steer clear of scented products – even if you don’t necessarily have ‘sensitive’ skin. The actual fragrance itself is comprised of approximately 20 ingredients alone and, although they’re not as harmful as they’re often made out to be, they can still irritate your skin. For very sensitive skin types, an aroma that is too powerful might actually cause nausea. If it has a scent, better to go for subtle and natural.

The term ‘Unscented’ is not at all the same as ‘fragrance-Free.’ Just because a product claims to be unscented, it still might contain a scented ingredient in the formulation. Individual ingredients that are often great for your skin sometimes have an aroma, such as soy or yeast extract, but give off a strong odor and you may not want to have it on your face. This is my philosophy – I’m not paying for a fragrance. I’m paying for a skincare product.

3. Unnatural Colors in Makeup and Cosmetics

Synthetic colors/dyes are formulated from the petroleum of a product or from tar. When left on the skin, as a moisturizer should be, these ingredients absorb into your body. They are often said to be irritating, to cause allergies, to trigger eye inflammation, and to create skin sensitivity. Artificial colorants have also been thought to be carcinogenic (may cause cancer.) Other colors are associated with allergies and behavioral issues, such as hyperactivity.

Again, I’m paying for a skincare product, not dyes or colorants. You need the best for your skin. The suggestion from the experts is to read the label. Look for ingredients such as Blue 1, Green 3, FD&C Yellow 6 and other suspiciously-named items.

4. Any Kinds of Alcohols

High concentrations of alcohols in skincare will weaken the protective barrier of your skin. Thus, your skin will not be able to retain moisture/water as well. Alcohols will also strip the skin’s surface of this moisture, causing your skin to be drier. A balance of just the right amount of oil is needed for healthy skin.

If a product is labeled “alcohol-free,” it will not contain ethyl alcohol, per the FDA. Yet one look at the ingredients list and you may be confused, as your product may include fatty alcohols like cetyl, stearyl, cetearyl, or lanolin alcohol. Those are an entirely different category.

Jessica Migala, Alcohol in Skin Care: Is it Ever Okay?, Everyday Health

Alcohols may also incite your skin to produce more oil, which may lead to breakouts if you tend to have oily skin. A good rule to remember: just avoid alcohols. They’re too difficult to deal with. As if you don’t have enough going on in your life.

5. Limit Lanolin

The positive aspects of lanolin are that is lightweight and it locks in moisture and prevents water loss, similar to mineral oil. Unlike mineral oil, however, it forms a non-occlusive barricade – it won’t suffocate the skin.

While lanolin is known to have remarkable healing properties and helps to soothe dry, dehydrated skin, lanolin has been known to be an irritating agent with aggravating allergies, not to mention that this irritation often causes extreme itchiness. More side effects of lanolin include skin stinging, burning, and redness.

These aren’t the only ingredients to avoid when purchasing skincare, there are many more. Lack of regulation is part of the problem, but maybe we just need to know where to shop (I’d advice looking at The Fox and She’s post on avoiding Toxic Skincare for some additional advice and recommendations). Nonetheless, these are definitely some of the most common and dangerous, and by watching for these you’ll keep your skin natural and beautiful.

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