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Skin SOS: Skincare Ingredients to AVOID

by Ella Goodman 11 Apr 2024

Listen up, skincare lovers! 

If you're on the quest for glowing and healthy skin, your personal care product line-up is your arsenal. 

It's not just what you slather on that counts; it's also what you AVOID like it's a bad date.

Nothing dulls your radiance faster than bad ingredients, babe! 

Grab a mirror, take a good look at that gorgeous reflection, and say it with me: 'I deserve the best!' 

Ready to break bad skincare habits forever? O

What chemicals are NOT good for your skin?

Strap in, folks: we're diving deep into the topic of chemicals that have no business partying with your skin! 

Forget the glitz and glam for a minute. Here, we’re talking about the lesser-known villains of the skincare world.

Let's start with a word you’ll have seen on virtually every product in your bathroom cabinet: parabens

‘Parabens’ actually means ‘congratulations’ in Portuguese, but as it turns out, the translation couldn’t be less fitting.

Used as preservatives, these unwelcome intruders have been found in breast tumors and are believed to disrupt hormone function by mimicking estrogen. You don’t need Sherlock-esque deductive reasoning to figure out why this would be problematic.

Then we have mind-boggling substances called phthalates

It's a mouthful, we know, but bear with us. These gremlins are used in products to increase flexibility and softness. But while they're making your cosmetics pliable, research suggests that they might unfortunately also increase your risk of certain types of cancer, including breast cancer. 

Enter next: the infamous sulfates. You might recognise them as the key players in all those sudsy bubbles in your shower. But behind the scenes, they can strip the skin of its natural oils, causing dryness, irritation, and redness. Sure, you want a clean face, but not at the expense of looking like you've lost a brawl with a rose bush.

Now imagine a chemical that sounds like it should be powering a spaceship, not slathered on your face. 

Formaldehyde, anyone? Used as a preservative in cosmetics, it’s known to cause allergic reactions and, worse, it's a known carcinogen. Nobody invited it to the skin-loving party!

Next up, ever hear of chemical sunscreens? Jam-packed with oxybenzone and octinoxate, these UV-trapping nasties are believed to disrupt hormones and cause skin allergies. To make matters worse, they’ve been found guilty of messing with coral reefs. Not cool, guys. 

And a beer-fuelled karaoke night has nothing on the burning sensation caused by alcohol denat (or denatured alcohol). While it might help your product dry quickly, it can dehydrate skin faster than you can say "moisturizer."

If you’re looking for an award-winning skin offender, though, it’s hard to beat coal tar. Despite being a known carcinogen, it's still used in some psoriasis and dandruff treatments. “Tar” is right there in the name – it shouts 'avoid me'!

Lastly, we can’t forget about the unpronounceable: methylisothiazolinone (yeah, try saying that three times fast! Or… well, saying it once). This preservative can cause allergic reactions and neurotoxicity. Its fondness for irritating skin brings new meaning to the phrase “beauty is pain.”

Alright, we’ve named and shamed the usual suspects. Above all, the key is to read product labels diligently and understand what you're applying to your skin.

That’s our whistle-stop tour of skin-wrecking chemicals.

Now let’s take a magnifying glass to some of the more egregious offenders… 

Is formaldehyde bad in skincare?

Skin and beauty products can sometimes seem like a chemistry experiment gone wild, with ingredients that would make your science teacher blush. 

One that often raises eyebrows is formaldehyde. 

So, let's delve into the relationship between formaldehyde and skincare, unwrap the mystery and let the science do the talking.

Formaldehyde? Yes, the very same compound used in mortuaries and labs as a disinfectant and preservative. How it ended up in skincare is another story altogether. 

But let's allay your fears first: Is formaldehyde bad in skincare? 

The verdict isn't a solid yes…but it isn't a definitive no either. Let's navigate through this fascinating, complex world of skincare science together.

For starters, formaldehyde isn't generally added into cosmetics explicitly. Rather, it's a by-product, something that other ingredients in your skincare products may release over time. 

These are often referred to as "formaldehyde releasers". Quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, bronopol - these are just a few of the substances that whisper formaldehyde into existence.

But why is it there in the first place, you ask? Formaldehyde helps prevent bacteria growth in products, extending shelf life and keeping your creams and serums safer longer. After all, nobody wants to slather on a bacteria-infested night cream!

Now onto potential downsides. 

On one hand, formaldehyde is a known allergen. Some people may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions, especially with prolonged exposure. This is why patch-testing your skincare products is an absolute must. Listen to what your skin is telling you!

On the other hand, high concentrations of formaldehyde are classified by the World Health Organization as a human carcinogen. 

Sounds scary, doesn't it? But before you bin your beauty cabinet, remember the devil’s in the doses.

In cosmetics, levels are typically kept below a concentration of 0.2%. This tiny amount is usually deemed safe by regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and European Union Cosmetic Regulation.

So what should the discerning skincare aficionado do? Steer clear of all formaldehyde-releasing products? 

Well, yeah-nah-kind-not-necessarily. If your skin doesn't show any sensitivity and you use products with low concentrations, you should be A-okay. 

But if you're still unnerved, consider formaldehyde-free alternatives. There are plenty of natural and organic preservatives that can keep your skincare fresh and bacteria-free.

What are parabens and are they harmful?

Whisper the word 'parabens' and you can almost hear a collective gasp in the world of beauty and skincare aficionados.

But why? What exactly are these parabens, what's their role, and should we be wary of them? 

Buckle up, skincare crusaders, as we unravel the mystery of parabens for good!

Parabens - the name is actually a blanket term for a variety of chemicals. 

Most common among them are methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben. Now, what role do they tackle? 

They're preservatives – the unsung heroes who keep your precious skincare potions free from harmful bacteria and fungi. Imagine the horror of patting rancid cream onto your gorgeous skin – yuck! And parabens help to keep that nightmare at bay.

Alright, but why all the hullabaloo around them? 

It traces back to research conducted way back in 2004. A study found traces of parabens in breast tissue samples from 19 out of 20 women studied. 

Now that sounds spooky, right? But hold your horses before you banish all your paraben-laced cosmetics to the bin.

The study did indeed detect parabens in breast tissue, but it technically did not demonstrate the parabens causing any harm. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), an industry-sponsored organization, subsequently evaluated this study. 

Guess what they found? The CIR concluded that parabens are safe for use in cosmetics, and that concentration levels used typically don't pose a risk.

However, science is a continuously evolving realm. Claims that parabens mimic estrogen, a hormone associated with certain cancers, has further fanned the flames of paraben fear. 

So if the paraben buzz has you hesitating with your skincare and makeup choices, there's no harm in exploring alternatives. After all, you want your beauty regime to bring joy, not stress! 

These days, the cosmetics industry is responding to consumers' concerns about parabens. Many 'paraben-free' options are now readily available. Like ours, we might add! 

Just a quick note - 'paraben-free' doesn't always mean 'preservative-free.' 

Alternative preservatives like sodium benzoate and phenoxyethanol may be used instead. It's always a good practice to fully read the labels and make sure you know what's in your products.

Is organic skincare better for your skin?

Demystifying organic skincare

Is organic skincare as beneficial as the rumors suggest? Organic skincare suggests images of untouched nature and wellness - it's all about beauty potions crafted from the finest, chemical-free ingredients. 

We’re talking time-tested ingredients free from harmful side effects (If we had to pick one? Retinol is a total no-brainer).

And first off, yes — organic is great. Given a choice between organic and non-organic, it’s a no-brainer. After all, this is your skin we’re talking about.

But, let's not take things at face value. Certain organic products can still contain a few eyebrow-raising additions if you aren’t careful, so let's play detective and dissect the secrets hidden in the ingredient lists.

The secret language of ingredients

It's about time skincare products stop feeling like a secret society we're trying to decode. You'd think they'd make it out of hieroglyphics just to protect their magic potions. 

Ready for some beauty espionage?

Choose your skincare weapon - the product. 

Now, turn that bottle around, don't be shy. Have a rendezvous with its contents; it's more than just some unspeakable words. The devil is in the detail, and darling, we're about to banish him.

Sneaky toxins like to disguise themselves, using pseudonyms you'd barely think twice about. 

Keep your eyes peeled for tail-enders like '-benzone' or '-paraben'. If you see these suffixes creeping into the scene, that's your cue to exit stage left.

'Fragrance' sounds so innocent and appealing, doesn't it? 

In skincare lingo, it's a mystery man, an alias for a cocktail of potential skin-aggravating ingredients. 

And our bad boy 'propylene glycol,' if flirtatiously sitting amongst the top five ingredients, signals you're about to enter a less than dreamy skin experience.

Can you feel that? The excitement of being a skincare super-sleuth, the thrill of the chase, the power in knowledge? 

My friend, you're on the verge of a skincare uprising!

An ode to your skin

Don't you forget what a trooper your skin is, working around the clock to keep you protected. 

It doesn't ask for much - just the best troops to stand guard by its side. 

Now, you wouldn’t settle for less, would you?

Keep this guide close by your side; it's your secret weapon. Wisdom and knowledge emit an unparalleled glow, radiating warmth and self-confidence. 

Now take a bow, skincare gladiator! Keep flashing that radiant smile and spread your newfound knowledge like confetti. 

Here's to healthier choices and ravishingly glowing skin!

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