What are the 7 worst ingredients in skin care products? They’re ingredients you should always avoid, either because they’re harmful to your skin in the long run – or worse, strongly suspected of being dangerous.
First a confession: It’s hard to make a legitimate “7 Worst” list. There are a lot more than 7 bad ingredients. And exactly how do you measure the worst? Put a panel of seven top scientists together, and they’d probably have seven different opinions. It reminds me of those “Top 10 skin care” lists you often see, especially at the beginning of a new year. I never believe those “Top 10” lists. I think they’re mostly fiction, created to help sell product for whoever makes up the list.
The difference is this: My 7 Worst Ingredients list includes facts (not just my opinion) on why they’re included. And hey, if I manage to leave out a real loser, let me know. I promise to add to my list.
So here goes:
1. Petroleum jelly. No, it’s not a terrible hazard. I include it because it’s so common, it’s got so many names for basically the same chemical, and it worsens the main problem that people use it for – dry skin. It’s also called petrolatum, mineral oil, liquid paraffin and paraffin wax. It’s a petroleum byproduct that coats the skin to keep in moisture. It clogs the pores and strips the natural oils from your skin (causing chapping and dryness, making your skin dependent on more, always more).
2. Fragrance. Two problems. First, it can mean so many things; the term “fragrance” can refer to 4,000 separate ingredients, many toxic or carcinogenic. Second, if you like some fragrance, please, please, use a little perfume or body spray – much safer than rubbing these unknown and potentially dangerous chemicals into your skin.
3. Triclosan: Antibacterial, widely used in skincare products and deodorants (also weed killers). Triclosan has been found in public water supplies and may contribute to creating strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, due to its wide use in skincare products.
4. Polyethylene glycol (PEG). Widely used emulsifier (keeps incompatible liquids in suspension) and humectant (moisturizer). Suspected of interfering with reproductive hormones and of being carcinogenic.
5. Parabens. Mostly listed as methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and ethylparaben – all preservatives in skincare products (including moisturizers). May cause allergic reactions and skin rashes, and possibly interfere with the body’s endocrine system. Accepted by the FDA, but under ever-growing challenge as new studies come in.
6. Alcohols. Ethanol, ethyl alcohol, methanol, benzyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol and SD alcohol. All very drying and irritating to your skin. Petroleum-based alcohols all fit this description. Vegetable-based alcohols, actually waxes, are safe and effective skin care ingredients.
7, Dioxane. Derived from coconuts. Widely used in skincare products. The most serious problem is that it can contain high concentrations of 1,4-dioxane, considered a chemical “known to the State of California to cause cancer.”
The most important fact to know about my entire list of 7 Worst Ingredients is that they aren’t necessary. I don’t use a single skin care product that contains any of them.