Top 9 common skin care ingredients to avoid

Were you aware that, aside from color additives, skincare components do not necessitate FDA approval prior to occupying a place on your bathroom shelves? Furthermore, the FDA categorizes a wide range of products, such as moisturizers, lipsticks, perfumes, hair colors, perms, shampoos, other cosmetics, and even deodorants, under the umbrella term "skincare ingredients." On a daily basis, we rely on numerous such products, each potentially containing a myriad of ingredients. The concerning reality is that certain skincare ingredients can be detrimental to your skin, body, and overall well-being. However, there's no need to despair, as you don't have to relinquish all your skincare items! Making healthier and safer choices can actually be an enjoyable and straightforward endeavor, provided you're aware of which skincare ingredients to steer clear of. So, without further ado, let's delve into the subject and unveil the top nine common skincare ingredients that should be avoided at all costs!


Parabens encompass a group of chemical compounds, such as propylparaben, isobutylparabens, and methylparabens, which find application in skincare products to ward off the growth of mold and bacteria. They are commonly present in items like moisturizers, shampoos, shaving gels, spray tanning solutions, and personal lubricants.

Studies have revealed that these preservatives can disrupt the endocrine system, adversely affecting crucial hormonal processes within the body. Additionally, there is evidence suggesting that parabens may contribute to skin cancer, breast cancer, and a decrease in sperm count, although these connections have not been officially acknowledged by the FDA.

Given that skincare products are part of our daily routines, prolonged exposure to this category of ingredients poses potential risks, particularly with longer-chain parabens like butyl and propyl, as well as their branched variants. These substances may disrupt the endocrine system and lead to developmental or reproductive disorders, as well as provoke allergic reactions. To safeguard your health, it is advisable to seek out products that are free from parabens and to steer clear of skincare ingredients bearing the "-parabens" suffix.


MEA, DEA, and TEA (also known as ethanolamines)

Found in lotions, dyes, moisturizers, facial cleansers, and shampoos, Monoethanolamine (MEA), diethanolamine (DEA), and triethanolamine (TEA) are pH adjusters and foam boosters (surfactants). This ingredient family is restricted in Europe given their link to liver cancers and precancerous changes in the thyroid and skin of users.

Despite limited scientific testing on these chemicals, they can cause allergies, hormone disruption, skin toxicity, and inhibited brain development of fetuses. They are still used in skin care products in Australia and the US. Therefore, next time when you go shopping, check the list of ingredients carefully before making a purchase.

Polyethylene glycol (PEGs)

You might find this ingredient in many skin care products as a moisture carrier and thickener. The tiny plastic beads from polyethylene glycol are also used as a softener or solvent in your cosmetics.

The problem with this synthetic chemical is that it is typically contaminated with 1,4-dioxane and ethylene oxide, both of which readily penetrate the skin and are listed by the US government as probable human carcinogens [2]. Noted as a skin irritant, polyethylene glycol should not be used for broken skin. Besides, this chemical in body washes and scrubs is not filtered by our sewage system. It can travel into waterways and collect pollutants to be eventually consumed by marine organisms.


Phthalates, such as DEP, DEHP, and DBP, belong to a group of chemical additives used to enhance the flexibility of cosmetic products and help them adhere better to your skin. They are commonly present in a variety of personal care items, including body lotions, deodorants, shampoos, soaps, hairsprays, and virtually any scented skincare product.

Numerous studies have conclusively demonstrated the harmful effects of these chemicals on both reproductive and non-reproductive organs, as well as their capacity to disrupt the endocrine system. In fact, they have been linked to the occurrence of birth defects. Phthalates are particularly perilous for children and, as a result, Congress has prohibited their inclusion in products designed for kids. While the US FDA continues to monitor their use, the European Union has already imposed a ban on the use of phthalates in skincare and cosmetic items.

However, manufacturers sometimes incorporate these ingredients into their products while hiding behind the label of "trade secrets." Consequently, it remains possible to encounter undisclosed phthalates in your skincare products.


Ingredients like formaldehyde can be found in a variety of personal care products such as shampoos, hair dyes, bath lotions, nail polish, and bubble bath products. Its primary role is to prevent the growth of bacteria in water-based products, serving as a preservative.

It's worth noting that formaldehyde has been classified as a carcinogen by both the US National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Consequently, it has been banned in Europe due to its potential health risks. Moreover, formaldehyde has been linked to several health issues, including asthma, dermatitis, neurotoxicity, joint pains, headaches, liver problems, and immune system toxicity. Even at low concentrations, it can lead to irritation of the lungs, eyes, and skin


This one is surprising, isn’t it? Marketers always boast about its anti-aging effects, but retinol also comes with negative sides. When used on your skin, it speeds the growth of skin tumors and damages DNA. This makes it a no-no for those with skin cancers and pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Notwithstanding this, retinol is still great to soften wrinkles, heal breakouts, and give you a glowy complexion. As a result, you can try bakuchiol, a new natural retinol alternative with amazing anti-aging results. You can enjoy incredible benefits without side effects. It is also highly recommended by dermatologists!

Coal tar

Another one on the list of skin care ingredients banned by the European Union. Why? Coal tar is easily contaminated with heavy metals that are detrimental to your brain. 

It is a known carcinogen but sadly, coal tar is still used in the US in products like cosmetics, toothpaste, mouthwash, anti-itch creams, hair dyes, and shampoos. Sometimes you cannot find coal tar on the labels of skin care products if only its constituent parts are used.


Lead is naturally found in the environment, but you will also find it as a contaminant in cosmetics like eye shadows, lipsticks, compact powders, blushes, body lotions, and even shampoos.

Although it is not listed on the label as an ingredient, the US FDA detected lead in all chemicals tested in a study in 2009. While there is not a limit for lead in cosmetics, the lead levels found were ten times as high as the FDA’s safety limit for candy.

There is strong evidence suggesting that lead is a carcinogen and a hormone disrupter. As part of skin care ingredients, it is absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream and accumulated in bone, causing damage to your blood, kidneys, and nervous system. Exposed to lead in the womb, babies can develop serious complications such as attention disorders, seizures, and brain damage.

Until now, no safe levels of lead have been established for skin care products by the FDA irrespective of the many efforts being put into them. Definitely, one of the most dangerous skin care ingredients to avoid!


When it comes to sunscreen, one ingredient that should raise a red flag is oxybenzone.

Extensive research conducted on laboratory animals and cells has revealed alarming findings about oxybenzone and its metabolites. It turns out that oxybenzone is an endocrine disruptor, which means it can interfere with hormone function. This disruption can have serious consequences, particularly on fertility. If you're pregnant or planning to be, it's crucial to steer clear of products containing oxybenzone, as it has been linked to an increased risk of birth defects.

But that's not all – oxybenzone also boasts high rates of causing skin allergies, making it a double concern for those with sensitive skin or young children.

In fact, parents are strongly advised to avoid sunscreens containing oxybenzone for their kids. In Hawaii, the detrimental impact of oxybenzone on coral reefs has led to its banning in sunscreens. This serves as a compelling reason to opt for safer alternatives, such as sunscreens with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which are mineral-based and free from harmful chemicals.

In conclusion, being mindful of the ingredients in your skincare products is crucial for your overall health. Oxybenzone is just one of the nine common harmful substances you should steer clear of when shopping for skincare and cosmetics. With this informative guide, making informed choices for your skin's health and safety has never been easier. Additionally, we offer supplements made from natural ingredients that can effectively promote your skin's health and beauty. Learn more by clicking here!


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