6 Toxic Ingredients to Avoid in Skincare Products – Learn How to Read Labels


Deciding on which skincare regime to adopt is difficult enough without the added task of learning about the toxic skincare ingredients listed on the back of the packaging. Still, this is a skill one must master – what we put on our skin has to be not only effective, but also safe.

Many cosmetic products promise quick-fixes and flawless skin, but we have to stop and ask ourselves – what is the long-term price our skin will pay for these quick and miraculous solutions?

I have created a list of toxic skincare ingredients to absolutely steer clear from, so you can become not only a wise shopper, but a true guardian of your precious skin.

toxic skincare ingredients

Starting from the top

When we say starting from the top, it is meant in a literal sense. As skincare expert Sunday Riley says – ingredients are listed in descending order, starting with the largest amount in the product (usually water). If a product touts a particular ingredient, but it is listed near the end of the list, then not much of that ingredient is present.

What this means is, if a particular product claims to have natural oils and herbs, but they are at the bottom of the list – way below all the almost unreadable ingredients – it is definitely not natural and herbal.

toxic skincare ingredients

Beware of parabens

Parabens are defined as a class of widely used preservatives in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. Chemically, they are a series of parahydroxybenzoates or esters of para-hydroxybenzoic acid. This is not almost, but completely unpronounceable.

Aside from the popular saying, “If you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it”, there are other reasons to stay away from products containing this chemical.

They’ve been linked to hormone disruption, DNA damage, increased skin ageing, and even some cancers. The lesson is – always go with products on which it’s explicitly stated that they are paraben and fragrance-free, such as the products by Ultraceuticals. If the label doesn’t say so, don’t buy it.


avoid toxic skincare ingredients

Formaldehyde – forma what?

Parabens is a word you could at least pronounce, but this one takes a minute. One of the main reasons to avoid products containing this ingredient is it’s known to cause skin irritation (in some cases very extreme irritation) and has been linked to cancer.

You should also avoid DD hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, methenamine, and quarterium-15, as these toxic skincare ingredients release formaldehyde and are just as damaging, not only for your skin, but according to a study, potentially to your nervous system as well.

toxic skincare ingredients linked to cancer

The lather maker

The ingredient responsible for that foam and in many cleansers and face gels goes by the name sulfate. While many cosmetic companies think sulfates are effective in cleaning skin, they’re actually surfactants that cut oil from your skin.

They’re just too strong and lead to surface dehydration. The good news is they’re easy to spot, so look out for anything that ends in sulfate: ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, and sodium lauryl sulfate.

toxic skincare ingredients in foaming products

The Ph-balance restorer

Many cosmetics companies claim that Triethanolamine (TEA) is used to balance PH and is a common ingredient in “gentle” cosmetic products, but unfortunately it’s been known to cause allergic reactions, is an eye irritant and can cause dry hair and skin.

With consistent use, TEA is absorbed into the body and accumulates, where it can become toxic. Lesson learnt: if you see this ingredient listed, run from the aisle and never look back.

toxic skincare ingredients

The blemish and pimple remover

The popularity of products promising to free you of pimples and give you blemish-free skin has soared through the roof. The ingredient to ‘thank’ for this ‘miracle fix’ is benzoyl peroxide.

It comes in different strengths in lotions, gels, soaps, and liquids. However, you should be wary about using it at it’s been linked with the promotion of tumour growth. On top of that, according to WebMD, it can cause rash and irritation, blisters, burning sensation, redness and swelling.

Make it your goal to eat healthy, and look for gentle and natural products to tackle your acne problems, but don’t resort to products with this ingredient – the harmful effects definitely trump the possible positive ones.

Prepare for your next shop & avoid toxic skincare ingredients

Now that you’re in the know, you are ready to become an expert when it comes to shopping and caring for your face. If all the information is too much to remember, write it down and use it as a cheat-sheet the next time you go shopping.

Stay safe, stay beautiful.


nicole noel toxic skincare ingredientsArticle by Nicole Noel: lifestyle blogger passionate about yoga, travel and healthy living. She enjoys sharing her experiences and ideas on how to lead a happy and healthy life. In her free time she likes to prepare healthy and delicious food for her friends.

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