5 popular skincare ingredients to avoid for healthier skin

Updated: Nov 14, 2019

Skincare is a vital part of maintaining healthy skin. We all want beautiful, healthy skin for a variety of reasons. Whether you want your makeup to sit better on your skin, you don't want to wear makeup at all, or you're preparing for your wedding - knowing what to look out for in your skincare products is vital.

This simple list will help guide you through the main culprits to watch out for in popular skincare products, so you can curate an effective skincare regime for yourself that will protect your skins integrity and health. Knowledge is power!

1) Alcohol

Also known as “denatured alcohol” and often seen on ingredients labels as "denat. alcohol", this ingredient can cause some serious aggravation and damage to your skin. Denatured alcohol is a drying type of alcohol, and should not be present within the first 5 ingredients of a skincare product. Alcohol harms the protective surface of your skin and can cause excess dryness and even enlarged pores, while also making it difficult for your skin to replenish itself. If you see Denat. Alcohol in the ingredients, skip it!

2) Synthetic Fragrance

Fragrance is one of the leading causes of skin irritation in cosmetic products. Adding fragrance provides a pleasant smell in the product, but causes more harm than good. Fragrance is composed of hundreds of individual chemincal components, something you definitely don’t want on your delicate face.

3) Fragrant Plant Extracts

A common misconception is that if something is natural, it must be good for your skin. This is untrue! Several plant extracts are added to products for fragrance, or even shelf appeal due to the “natural” origin, but can cause serious irritation and sensitization. Common culprits are eucalyptus, witch hazel, lavender extract, citrus oils and extracts, rose oil, or ylang yang.

4) Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

This is an ingredient you’re most likely to find in facial cleansers, hand soaps or shampoo. Sodium laurel sulfate is a surfactant that helps provide lather to your products, and you’ll actually see this ingredient quite often! Unfortunately, it’s one of the most sensitizing ingredients in skincare, so much so that if scientific researchers want to determine whether or not an ingredient is problematic for skin, they compare it to the effects of sodium laurel sulfate.

5) Menthol

You’re probably already familiar with menthol, often used in mints and gum, it gives you that cool, tingly minty feeling. While great in toothpastes, mints and gum, it doesn’t belong in skincare. That cooling sensation it has on skin is not a sign your skin is being “refreshed”, it’s a sign of skin irritation. Menthol can also be labelled as menthone, menthyl lactate, or mentha viridis.

In short, ingredients that are sensitizing, harsh, irritating or fragrant are really detrimental to your skin's health and appearance. A good skincare product should maximize beneficial ingredients while leaving out those pesky ingredients that can cause damage. Irritation can cause damage over time, depleting skin health and leading way for premature aging, redness, dryness, acne and more.

References: Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, May 2012, pages 1,410-1,419 Experimental Dermatology, October 2009, pages 821-832 International Journal of Toxicology, Volume 27, 2008, Supplement pages 1-43 Archives of Dermatological Research, 1996, issue 5-6, pages 245-248

Somatosensory & Motor Research,1992, issue 3, pages 235-244 Journal of Clinical & Experimental Dermatology Research, November 2014, ePublication

British Journal of Dermatology, July 2014, pages 115-123

International Journal of Toxicology, July 2010, pages S151-S161