Skincare: 6 Ingredients To Watch Out For In Beauty Products

A mascara wand. Image from

After splurging your hard earned money on skin care and attained that flawless look, you do not want to reverse this glow with make-up that lets you down. After all, makeup should only complement your natural beauty and not sabotage it. Therefore, as you buy your beauty products learn to watch out for these ingredients. They are not only harmful to your skin but can lead to allergies, cancer, hormonal imbalance and other incurable diseases like Leukemia.

Ingredients in your makeup. Image from
  1. Parabens/Methylparaben

This ingredient should never be in your food, hair or make-up products. Parabens are preservatives that prevent the growth of mould and bacteria in cosmetics, foods and drugs. They mimic estrogen causing hormonal imbalance hence reproductive toxicity. Due to this effect, Parabens are linked to breast cancer, low sperm count in men and from animal studies, they cause skin irritations. To avoid them look for Paraben free products or stick to a line that makes paraben-free products. Shea moisture is a good example.

  1. Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Found in hair products and foundations. SLS is usually added in shampoos, to aid in cleansing as in the absorption of products in foundations and concealers.  While this may be a plus, sulfates are concerning because they break down proteins which may lead to the degenerative effect of cell membranes. They cause eye damage, canker sores, acne, skin irritation. On the hair, they cause dryness, scalp irritation and hair loss. Look out for ingredients with listed variations of sulfates and polyethylene glycol. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review states that if sulfates are properly rinsed off from the skin, they are safe up to a maximum concentration of 50%.

  1. Lead

There’s no “safe route not sorry” for Lead. According to the CDC, Lead causes brain damage, hearing and speech problems and that is why you should not buy any product with this ingredient. It is popular in face paints and lip products some brands containing up to 51% of Lead.

  1. Formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasing preservatives.

As I write this paragraph, I am in shock because while I knew formaldehyde is harmful I didn’t think of the compounds that could decompose to form this substance. I am also shocked because I have noticed that my shampoo and conditioner (both) contain these ingredients.

So some companies won’t just add formaldehyde (helps prevent microbes from growing in water-based products) on the ingredients. Instead, they will add other preservatives which eventually decompose to form this substance. These preservatives include:

  • DMDM Hydantoin, (my shampoo and conditioner has this)
  • Methenamine
  • Quaternium-15 ranked as the most sensitizing, (my shampoo and conditioner has this)
  • Diazolidinyl Urea
  • Sodium hydroxymethyl glycinate
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Bronopol (2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1, 3-diol)
  • 5-Bromo-5nitro-1,3-dioxane
  • Glyoxal

Formaldehyde is found in shampoos, conditioners, body soap, body wash, baby shampoo, colour cosmetics like lipsticks and nail polish, nail glue and hair smoothing products like gel.  The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers Formaldehyde found in these personal care products, a carcinogen. Occupational exposure to this chemical shows a link to Leukemia with the vulnerable population, including hairdressers, nail salon workers, and infants. In 2015, this chemical was named the allergen of the year.

In high concentration, it is known to cause irritation and burns.  Animal studies show that Formaldehyde and its preservatives can be absorbed through the skin when applied which is a risk to users.

  1. Fragrance

While many products contain fragrance as an ingredient, many do not list what is contained in these fragrances. Found in many personal care products different people react differently to different fragrances.

Most fragrances cause irritation and allergies, which is why you might find yourself sneezing when you smell a certain perfume (contains fragrance) and okay when you smell another. Try to avoid fragrances altogether or keep them to a minimal, avoiding irritants.

  1. Retinol/Retinoic acid

With the Korean skincare wave, anti-ageing products are now more popular than ever. However, this is what you need to know before you apply an anti-ageing product. Anti-ageing products are okay to apply during the night what’s dangerous is applying them, during the day.

Exposed to sunlight, Retinol becomes a carcinogen, which is harmful to your skin and health. Therefore, if it reads apply during the night, do not forward its application to the next day. This also translates to avoiding sunscreens, moisturisers, foundations and lip products with retinol. As the above products are normally applied during the day.

Otherwise to be on the safe side keep both your hair and skin products as organic as possible. What’s inside always counts.

Related: Organic Makeup and its Benefits

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I am a writer with interest in hair, beauty and fashion. I also like telling stories, but most of all I enjoy listening and reading them. If I'm not doing any of the above, I will be trying to crack a game of chess or monopoly. My biggest fear is being ordinary.