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Ingredients To Avoid In Skin Care

Have you ever read that list of ingredients on the back of your cleanser or shampoo? Go to your bathroom, pick up that bottle and have a read of everything on the label. Tricky, right? For most of us, analyzing the incomprehensible ingredients in our personal care products can be a difficult task, but it’s important to understand what we’re putting on our skin. 

From skin care and makeup, to household detergents and bath soaps, the formulations we use every day are lurking with harsh ingredients. We come into contact with these skin care products daily but remain unaware of their potential to trigger symptoms such as itchy, dry skin or dermatitis (thanks, dishwashing liquid!). To keep our skin in its best condition, we’ve researched the top ingredients to avoid in skin care and beauty products. Read on for tips on dodging iffy, so-so or downright bad ingredients for the skin and how you can nurture a strong and healthy complexion.

washing hands with soup

Why You Want To Avoid Harmful Ingredients In Skin Care

Have you noticed any recent changes in the skin on your face, hands or across your body? If your scalp has become itchy, your hands unusually dry or you’re experiencing abnormal skin changes, check the labels of the products you’re using. If all else fails, remember to consult a dermatologist with a list of all the skin care products you’re using. 

Unusual skin symptoms include: 

  • Itchiness 
  • Increasingly sensitive skin
  • Breakouts in new places
  • Severe dryness and flaky skin
  • Scaly skin
  • Redness
  • Dermatitis
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Rosacea

In case these symptoms aren’t enough of a red flag, some specific ingredients in skin care and beauty products should be avoided for the following reasons: 

Harming Your Skin Barrier 

The skin barrier (or your skin’s acid mantle) is a naturally secreted protective film over your skin. This protective barrier consists of natural oils, fatty acids, amino acids and lactic acid and provides an acidic environment to keep bacteria from forming. If your skin barrier is healthy, it protects your skin from bacteria, fungi, diseases and environmental pollutants. It also maintains the integrity of our skin’s moisture barrier and microbiome (i.e. the healthy bacteria on our skin). Unfortunately, some harmful ingredients can leave skin sensitive, dry, red, flaky and prone to infection. 

Allergic Reactions or Breakouts

Harsh ingredients can also cause an allergic reaction, resulting in itchy or dry skin, a flare up of eczema or dermatitis. According to the U.S Food & Drug Administration (FDA), allergic reactions strike when the immune system overreacts to substances that may otherwise be harmless: “Allergic reactions to cosmetics most often appear as itchy, red rashes on the skin – or contact dermatitis.” 

An Imbalance Of Your Skin’s pH Level

The wrong ingredients can also send your skin’s pH level off-kilter. Your skin’s pH is impacted by your age, genetics, sweat and skin moisture, along with other factors like products and medications you’re using. According to scientific studies, changes in our skin’s pH level are reported to play a vital role in skin diseases like acne, contact dermatitis and psoriasis. Watch the latest In The Mix video on an in-depth look at the ingredients to avoid in skin care here. 

Ingredients To Avoid In Skin Care

1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) & Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

These chemicals are found in shampoo, soap, detergent and almost anything with suds or foam. You’re probably wondering, are they toxic ingredients in skin care? If you’ve ever suffered from an itchy scalp or body, check your shampoo or cleanser for these ingredients as they are notorious for causing dry, itchy skin. Beyond beauty products, household soaps and detergents containing SLS and SLES can wreak havoc on the skin. If you’re noticing dry, cracked or itchy hands after touching laundry or washing the dishes, this might be a direct result of your skin coming into contact with these soaps.

2. Phthalates: Friend Or Foe?

Phthalates can be found in soaps, shampoos, perfumes, nail polishes, aftershave and more. As this scientific journal states: “The main phthalates in cosmetics and personal care products are dibutyl phthalate in nail polish, diethyl phthalate in perfumes and lotions, and dimethyl phthalate in hair spray. Often, their presence is not noted on labels.” 

According to some scientific studies, phthalates are believed to be an endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) that can alter hormonal balance and potentially cause reproductive, developmental and other health issues. Due to limitations of the exposure methods and models in the experiment, this states that support for the findings is fragmented. However, it still suggests that “the current evidence points in the direction of concern. Further research is warranted to identify the most critical windows of exposure, the importance of exposure pathways, interactions with social factors, and the effects of co-exposure to phthalates and other environmental contaminants.”

3. Propylene Glycol (PG) & Butylene Glycol

Both propylene glycol and butylene glycol are used in a variety of products such as toothpaste, cleansers, serums, moisturizers and shampoos. And in sheet masks, they’re also typically the top ingredient (after water).

According to science educator and skin care blogger Michelle Wong, if you’re sensitive to propylene or butylene glycol, you’ll notice that "skin care products with large quantities [of these ingredients] might make your skin itchy and irritated.” If you’ve never noticed this type of reaction, fortunately, it’s likely that you’re not allergic to these chemicals.

4. Are Parabens Bad Ingredients For The Skin?

Parabens are an inexpensive and common type of preservative used in many different skin care products to keep the product fresh. They also prevent the product from harboring harmful bacteria. Parabens resist the growth of bacteria, fungi and other micro-organisms in skin care products, particularly in hot and humid conditions. 

According to Harvard Health, the jury is still out on the danger of parabens and similar compounds: “Many of the studies showing a direct relationship between these compounds and hormonal dysregulation have been performed in animals rather than in humans.” These animal studies are testing higher doses than people would typically be exposed to through a cosmetic or personal care product. Harvard Health also states that "some human studies have related an increase in urinary or blood levels of these chemicals to endocrine disruption; however, it is difficult to interpret if or how individual measurements of these chemicals in bodily fluids relate to exposure from cosmetics or personal care products.”

Nonetheless, responsible skin care companies are opting for paraben-free formulations to eliminate any risk of harm.

The Best Organic Skin Care Products With Safe Ingredients

Now you know which skin care ingredients to avoid, you may wonder what ingredients and products to consider instead. Fortunately, Eminence Organics products are free of parabens, animal by-products, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfates, harmful colorants and fragrances, petroleum, and other harsh cosmetic chemicals, and our Beyond Organic Collection is especially gentle and pure. Certified Esthetician and Eminence Organics Product Support Team Lead Alicia Hawthorne shares that this collection “not only has quite a short ingredient list, it’s made using Biodynamic® ingredients, which are 3 times more nutrient rich.” Formulated with ingredients from Demeter International Certified Biodynamic® farms, this collection represents the purest skin products for all skin types. Demeter is the official certifying body for Biodynamic® products and is the most stringent standard in the world, which is why there are very few skin care companies that can attain this certification. 

If you're ready to discover alternatives to products with harmful ingredients, here’s a full skin care routine that will treat your skin with kindness, not chemicals. Plus, this routine is suitable for all skin types.

Step 1: Cleanse 

The olive oil, sunflower and flax seed in our Lemon Grass Cleanser gently removes impurities from the skin, while organic and Biodynamic® herbal ingredients help calm and soothe dry skin. This hypoallergenic cream cleanser is perfect for sensitive or dehydrated skin

Step 2: Use A Facial Oil 

While lotions and serums are great for overall hydration, oil can tackle a range of specific issues (even for oily skin types!) such as fading the appearance of scars, smoothing the skin and even targeting excess oil on the face.  Formulated with clary sage oil, olive oil, sage leaf extract and ylang ylang, Facial Recovery Oil is one type of treatment that hydrates your complexion and targets individual concerns. 

Step 3: Protect Your Under-Eye Skin

The Bearberry Eye Repair Cream hydrates and rejuvenates that appearance of the delicate area around the eye. It also refines the contours of the eye area and minimizes the look of fine lines. Rich in antioxidants, bearberry extract visibly brightens the eye area, while red clover extract, parsley seed extract, and hops extract improve the appearance of skin radiance.


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Step 4: Treat With A Serum

Suitable for sensitive skin, the Cornflower Recovery Serum can be used before moisturizing. It contains chamomile which calms and balances the look of skin. Cornflower is a powerful antioxidant that’s also a gentle astringent.

Step 5: Use A Mask To Calm Irritation

The Seabuckthorn Balancing Masque is excellent for balancing out the appearance of irritated skin, says our Lead Skin Care Trainer, Natalie Pergar. This creamy face mask combines vitamin-rich seabuckthorn with ingredients like carrot juice and calendula to help protect and soothe red, dry skin. A little goes a long way with this highly concentrated formula. 

Step 6: Apply SPF 

Perhaps you’re dealing with sun damaged skin such as signs of hyperpigmentation or dark spots and you’re unsure how to treat it. No matter your age, or whether you have sun damage, you can reduce any further damage by wearing sunscreen. A sunscreen with an SPF of at least 40 should be applied every day to protect your skin. Not only does it ward off the visible signs of aging, but it reduces your chance of developing skin cancer. Keep your skin feeling healthy with our range of all mineral SPF moisturizers - specially formulated for the face and neck. For example, our Tropical Vanilla Day Cream SPF 40 is formulated with shea butter, a moisturizing ingredient that revitalizes and repairs dry skin. Our Red Currant Protective Moisturizer SPF 40 protects against the signs of aging and works well with oily and combination skin types.

How to Avoid Skin Reactions to Products

Whether you’re using gentle products like our Beyond Organic Collection or your usual beauty brand, it’s always wise to go slow when trying something new. When introducing any new product into your skin care routine, conduct a patch test first. Place a tiny amount on the inside of your elbow and wait 48 hours to 72 hours. If you experience any redness, swelling, itching, or burning, refrain from using that product. When deciding what to buy, remain skeptical and continue to patch test despite the terms you might see. For example, even though a label may claim a product is "hypoallergenic," "dermatologist tested," "sensitivity tested," or "non-irritating," these label terms are not always regulated.

Although the world of skin care products can be fraught with irritating or questionable ingredients, we are proud to offer only natural, organic and Biodynamic® skin care. If you would like to experience Eminence Organic Skin Care, visit our Spa Locator and find out about the Spa Partner nearest to you.


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