7 Harmful Ingredients In Makeup And Skincare That You Must Avoid


When we use makeup and skincare, we do it to make our skin healthier. But did you know that some makeup and skincare products can damage your skin? Yes! Some cosmetic ingredients not only cause skin irritation but also long-term damage. 

Inspect the ingredients list of any product that you are planning to purchase. Always check for potential irritants or harmful elements. The ingredient information is usually provided on the product packaging or the brand website. In some cases, only the key ingredients may be mentioned, along with labels such as fragrance-free or paraben-free. If the product packaging does not offer enough information about what’s in the product, you can check the brand website or even send them your inquiry over email. 

Good sources of information on harmful skincare ingredients are health and wellness web magazines, as well as ingredient decoder websites. With the help of these resources, you can stay away from beauty products that contain harmful ingredients. Avoiding ingredients like fragrance, alcohol, SLS, parabens, and formaldehyde can save your hair and skin from long-term damage.’

7 Harmful Ingredients In Cosmetics And What To Use Instead

1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or SLS is a popular surfactant present in foaming face washes and shampoos. Despite being a common skincare ingredient, SLS is a potential skin irritant. It can cause dryness, redness, or skin and scalp itching with regular use. 

To avoid this ingredient, look for products that have an SLS-free or sulfate-free label. You can use cleansers that have gentler surfactants like Sodium Cocoyl Glycinate, Decyl glucoside, and Lauryl glucoside instead.

2. Drying Alcohols

Drying Alcohols
Not all alcohols used in cosmetic products are bad for your skin. While fatty alcohols can moisturize your skin, drying alcohols can cause dryness and irritation. Some of the drying alcohols commonly found in makeup and skincare go by the names of Ethanol or Ethyl Alcohol, Methanol or Methyl Alcohol, and Denatured Alcohol. They are commonly present in serums, toners, lotions, and sprays. 

These act as solvents to improve the texture of the product and encourage better absorption of the other ingredients into the skin. However, they can dry out and irritate the skin. So, those with dry or sensitive skin types should avoid using products with drying alcohol on a regular basis.

3. Retinoids

Retinoids are Vitamin A derivatives that are popular anti-aging ingredients. They are commonly found in anti-aging serums and creams because they boost collagen and improve skin texture. However, concentrated retinoids can potentially irritate the skin, increasing dryness, flakiness, and photosensitivity. 

Moreover, studies explain topical retinoids are not safe for pregnant women as they can cause embryotoxicity. Some safer anti-aging ingredients that you can use instead are Ceramides, Peptides, and Bakuchiol. If you are not pregnant or planning a baby, you can try milder retinol serums but be careful when using stronger retinoids.

4. Essential Oil

The therapeutic benefits of essential oils are popular, but you may not be aware that these oils can cause skin irritation. Essential oils are derived from plant extracts and concentrated sources of botanical ingredients. They are present in a variety of beauty products, such as soaps, creams, and hair products. Since these oils contain a potent amalgamation of ingredients, you might be allergic to one or more of their constituents. 

Apart from allergic reactions, essential oils can also irritate the skin when used in a concentrated form. Since they are very potent oils, you must always dilute them in a carrier oil and avoid products that contain essential oils in high doses.

5. Fragrance

Fragrance is added to most skincare and makeup products to enhance the user experience. It also masks the unpleasant scent of certain active ingredients used in skincare. While you may enjoy using fragranced products for the feel-good factor, it can potentially irritate your skin. Not only can perfume or fragrance cause contact dermatitis, rashes, or skin allergies, but it may also cause respiratory or reproductive disorders. The risk increases when you use multiple fragranced products every day. So, try to avoid products with fragrance, perfume, or limonene listed as one of the ingredients. Choose fragrance-free or lightly fragranced products instead.

6. Formaldehyde Releasers

Formaldehyde is a gas that cannot be added directly to beauty products. However, certain compounds that slowly release Formaldehyde work as preservatives in skincare and haircare products because of the antibacterial action of the gas. In low doses, Formaldehyde may not pose any health risk. However, if you use multiple products with formaldehyde-releasers, it can cause some damage. 

According to studies, formaldehyde may cause allergies and hypersensitivity and can also be carcinogenic. Therefore, it is safest to stay away from products with formaldehyde releasers like Imidazolidinyl Urea, Diazolidinyl Urea, Bronopol, and DMDM Hydantoin. Pick products with safer preservatives like Phenoxyethanol, Benzyl Alcohol, and Sodium Benzoate.

7. Parabens

Parabens are a popular class of preservatives widely used in skincare and makeup products. While they are effective preservatives, the skincare community is divided on their safety. When used in large concentrations, they can potentially behave like endocrine disruptors and could be carcinogenic. To err on the side of caution, it is best to avoid products with parabens such as Methylparaben or Ethylparaben. You can pick products with safe preservatives like Benzyl Alcohol or Potassium Sorbate as an alternative.


Whenever we pick up a beauty product, we intend to make ourselves look more beautiful. However, some harmful ingredients in these products could do more damage than good! Unfortunately, this damage may not manifest instantly but show up with long-term use. To avoid this, it is best to look at the ingredients list of every skincare or makeup product that you buy. Keep an eye out for potential irritants like SLS, fragrance, or formaldehyde. If you are unable to identify the ingredients of a product, use an ingredient analyzer online to understand them better. 

If you make this little effort to avoid harmful beauty ingredients, your skin and hair will look much healthier. So, start reading the ingredients lists on your beauty products to save your hair and skin!

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