Looking for skincare and slowly turning THAT bottle to the HUGE text on the back [there’s like lists and lists of it right] can be a tad daunting. It doesn’t have to be my friend! We got most of it sorted, but when it comes to the ingredients list it is a little… secretive! How are we supposed to make sense of those crazy chemistry sounding words?
The ingredients list on your skincare is the MOST important thing on the bottle. Think back to your last food shop visit. If you’re choosing a healthy soup that says it’s carrot and parsnip (yum!, and go you healthy pro!), then you’re likely gonna end up looking for added sugar (all 57 names of sugar!), added salt, added oils etc. That is awesome because you know what to look for right! You know the baddies that turn a health food into a less fun dessert. BUT when it comes to skincare, that is harder. That is why, you’ll find this trusty list of 4 key skincare ingredients to avoid super helpful for your next skincare picking treat!
NO.1 SKINCARE INGREDIENT TO AVOID – SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE (SLS)
Sodium Laureth Sulfate is a great ingredient to AVOID in your skincare. This skincare ingredient’s favourite place to hang out is in your face wash or facial cleansers, basically any skincare product aimed to clean your skin or to have LOTS of bubbles. The reason to avoid SLS is simple. SLS is a proven skin irritant. Owch right!
SLS is such a well known irritant that it’s used TO irritate peoples skin SO companies can test how good their soothing skincare products are. There’s nothing fancy to this, a bit is put on a plaster on the skin and quickly irritation and redness get ‘a happening. SLS’s job is to get rid of everything on whatever its used on, it just doesn’t know when to stop! This is why SLS irritates skin, because it just can’t tell when enough is enough, a bit like our inner over-excited child self, it just keeps working away. What that means for your skin, is that skin’s protective ‘sebum’ layer (skin’s raincoat to the world) is washed down the plug-hole!
When skin is all naked, like actually doubly naked ‘n without that protective layer you can’t see, it is super vulnerable. That means it’ll be irritated more easily, get dry more quickly and you’re more prone to skin redness, inflammation and even skin infections! All great reasons to avoid the skincare ingredient of SLS (sodium Laureth Sulfate).
If you have HARD water, then this is a more important skincare ingredient to avoid. The reason – soap scum!! Ok, so normally you won’t have a LOT of contact time with this ingredient, it is still irritating, BUT you aren’t using it for an hour. Thing is IF you have hard water there’s a chemical reaction that happens WHICH makes it a LOT harder to wash off and therefore it gets to dance on your skin for a LOT longer. If you have moved to a harder water area and you suddenly find your skin itching – this could be why!
NO.2 SKINCARE INGREDIENT TO AVOID – ALCOHOL
There are 2 types of alcohol in skincare, fatty acid alcohols which are skin conditioning AND the stripping kind of alcohols. This is how to avoid the stripping kinda skincare alcohol in your carefully chosen skincare selection. The stripping kind of skincare alcohol is like the feeling of KNOWING you’ve had a cocktail or 2 many the next morning. Your body is dehydrated and a bit off balance. That’s what stripping (yes, they just can’t keep their clothes on *wink wink*) kind of alcohols do to your skin. They remove that protective skin raincoat and let skin hydration out.
Not only do they leave your skin all naked and out in the cold alone, there is also research to show they can ‘kill off’ healthy skin cells and speed up their aging. It’s like those hand rubs where you don’t need water to wash with – you might see them in the doctors, they kill off all bacteria and germs on your hands. That is the thing, alcohol is a ‘sanitiser’ because it KILLS stuff. Not really something you want on your skin ‘ey!
Stripping skincare alcohols are usually found in strong toners. If you read this and you’re thinking, I can’t possible part with my toner because it keeps my crazy (but awesomely youthful) oily skin under control [I hear you lovely!], you should check out this post on why Zinc is awesome in skincare (hint – one of its many powers is to control oilyness!) AND grab ‘3 awesome ingredient’s for oily skin’ by signing up for the newsletter.
There are a couple of different ‘stripping’ alcohols in skincare, these are the KEY ingredient names to avoid: Ethanol, Methanol, Isopropyl alcohol, Alcohol Denat, SD alcohol.
NO.3 SKINCARE INGREDIENT TO AVOID – PARFUM
Parfum, what’s that ‘ey? We know it smells, but what is in it? Anything from 2 to 50+ ingredients can be found under that 1 word in your skincare ingredient list. Holy Moly, that’s a lot. Usually ‘parfum’ needs to be really evaporable, otherwise you wouldn’t smell it, that means it contains a lotta alchol, the no.2 skincare ingredient to avoid.
If a skincare product does contain parfum, and THAT scent is NOT strong, then you might still be good with this, especially if you don’t have sensitive skin. If it doesn’t smell strongly, then there isn’t a lot in there AND if its low down on the ingredients list then there also isn’t a lot in there. These kinds of skincare are personal choice, because ‘parfum’/fragrance does awaken our senses and can feel just YUM! It’s part of the experience and a lotta people love that, if your skin can handle this and you don’t see any negative effects then that is super, keep goin with it lovely [just make sure that if you avoided those for a couple of weeks, there’s also no difference to your skin – then you know you’re set!]. I would definitely recommend anyone who has sensitive skin to think about avoiding this, and maybe get an oil burner for those YUM smells.
NO.4 SKINCARE INGREDIENT TO AVOID – DYES/COLOURANTS
I’m not talking face paint, but I am talking coloured skincare! Sometimes things get added to skincare that are just there to make it look pretty and have nothing to give your skin. They are beauty without substance – oops. That would (kinda) be fine, if they didn’t have any negative effect on skin, but some do, some are known pore-blockers. That means they can give you breakouts and spots. doh!
Of course some stuff has a natural colour, like carrot oil is orange – lovely, vivid natural orange. Hemp oil is a bit green, and pumpkin oil is almost red. It’s when artificial dyes get added that there’s no benefit to ’em and they could actually not be great for your skin.
Most good skincare brands know this and they have CUT them out, selling their skincare on the super awesome ingredients instead of how the product looks. That’s important too, but it’s not something you wanna sacrifice good skin for! You’ll also find a lot of colourants in makeup, if you get a new blusher, or foundation and suddenly get more spots, then colourants could be the reason why!
Colourants will be called things like, D&C red (then a number) or CI then a number.
Do you have any NO-GO skincare ingredients that you avoid?
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.