The Ingredients to Avoid in Skincare

Like me, you have often looked at the cosmetic ingredients list on your new face moisturizer and wondering if these are bad ingredients, are they toxic, or simply they are safe and derived by a natural process?


skincare ingredients to avoid


What if there are couple easy ways to determinate if an ingredient is toxic and harmful for your health and skin?


First, let's look into some numbers:


skincare habits in America


In this blog post we will suggest how to dig on the side effects on each single ingredient in your skin care routine and describe a bunch or known harmful chemicals that are proven by studies to be toxic.


Chemicals in Cosmetics


Your skin is your largest organ and what you put on your skin matters. 


It is estimated that the average American uses between 12 and 15 personal care products per day. 


Each personal care product can have anywhere from 10 to 30 different ingredients.


That means your body is being exposed to roughly 400 different ingredients each day just from your skin care routine.


Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t require testing of personal care products and the industry is far from regulated.


In fact, the European Union banned over 1,300 chemicals in cosmetics and the United States has banned, just eight. 


That means that European governments believe there are 1,292 ingredients that we potentially use every day that are dangerous, and warrant being banned, US only 8.


A Toxic Beauty Product


Some may argue that the top layer of your skin, the epidermis is designed to protect your skin from pollutants, pathogens and potentially dangerous chemicals from being absorbed. 


Unfortunately, in 2019 the FDA conducted a study that found that the active ingredients within chemical sunscreens enter the bloodstream at levels that exceed the FDA’s recommended thresholds. 


an example of toxic skincare product


For the study, the FDA had 24 adults apply either sunscreen spray, lotion or cream to three quarters of their bodies, four times a day for four days.


Each participant gave a blood sample over the week to see which chemicals were absorbed if any.


Researchers found that the levels of oxybenzone, avobenzone and octocrylene increased in the bloodstream, urine and breast milk after sunscreen use. Click to Tweet This


Studies like these show that what you put on your skin can be absorbed into your body and that there is so much we don’t know about the ingredients we use, and we need to be knowledgeable about what we use on our skin.


List of Harmful Chemicals


Found in all sorts of personal care products, from lotions to makeup to even plain soap.

Parabens are used as a preservative to prevent skin care products and cosmetics from growing mold or bacteria. Unfortunately, parabens also have been linked to cancer.

Parabens have can be absorbed through the skin and have even been found in breast biopsy samples in women with breast cancer. 


Found in deodorants, perfumes, lotions, shampoos and moisturizers.  Phthalates is a chemical used in products to make them smoother or liquid.

Phthalates have been found to be endocrine disruptors linked to increased breast cancer risk, early puberty and reproductive birth defects.


Found in most personal care products to cover the “natural” look for products and give them a more beautiful and marketable appearance. 

Usually listed as FD&C or D&C or listed as artificial colors or sometimes as natural colors.  These colors are made from petroleum, tar or other chemical sources.

Studies have found links between synthetic colors and skin irritation in users and attention deficit disorder in young children


Most products have an added fragrance to mask chemical or unpopular scents.

Linked to respiratory illnesses, allergies and eczema and other skin irritations.

ESSENTIAL OILS Although some may argue that these are harmless and healthier alternatives to fragrances and perfumes, these oils can trigger skin inflammation and allergies

commonly found in shampoos, face wash, soaps and other personal care products that lather. 

Found to be an eye, skin and respiratory irritant.


Used a preservative in cosmetics and skin care.  Found to be a carcinogen, skin irritant, and harmful to overall immune system.

Usually found in nail polish, shampoos, cleansers and other skin care products


Oxybenzone, Avobenzone, Homosalate, PABA 

Used to deflect UV light can be absorbed into the blood stream. The effects of these chemicals on our bodies is unknown. 


That’s not all….


As a side note, this list is not at all comprehensive. 


There are an infinite number of ingredients that companies use in their products and there is still so much that needs to be understood about how these ingredients effect our bodies.


If you curious about a certain ingredient or you want to learn more about which additional ingredients should be avoided a good place to start is at the Environment Working Group (EWG)’s website.


The EWG has a every growing database of ingredients that they’ve researched and tested.  You can input any ingredient and the database will provide you with a hazard rating.  Ingredients rated with 1 or 0 are ideal.  The database also provides you with a detailed description of the ingredient and the potential side effects.  A great resource to rely on when shopping for any personal care products or any products in general.



Skin care Ingredients to Avoid when Pregnant

Being pregnant is a special and beautiful time.  However, the products you put on your skin can be absorbed into your bloodstream and effect the baby’s development.  In addition, to the chemicals listed above, here are some additional ingredients pregnant woman should avoid:


the ingredients to avoid when pregnant



The Natural Skin Care Approach

Going clean with  personal care products seems like such a huge undertaking and expense, but it doesn’t have to be.  You can start with one or two products a month.  Simple, pick one product look at the ingredient list and determine if you need to replace it with a cleaner product. 


Sadly, chances are you do.  There are numerous places you can now find cleaner, healthier alternatives.  The most difficult and important step is the first one.  Switching that first product for a non-toxic one is a huge step in the right direction.


Say bye bye to toxic skincare and look for cleaner, healthier alternatives.  At first you might worry you won’t get the same anti-aging benefits, smooth skin, UV protection or fragrance that you’ve grown to love. 


You must be persistent and try a new product for at least three weeks to determine whether its working or not.  The best place to start is by choosing a product you apply and leave on you face. 


So, a moisturizer would be better than say a body wash.  The longer the product stays on your face the more exposure you have to its ingredients. 


What Should be in a Good Moisturizer


Any basic moisturizer includes vitamins, minerals and some sort of oil or humectant.  Some may include glycerin or mineral oil.


Additional good to have ingredients are CQ10 and collagen.  CQ10 is naturally occurring antioxidant in your body.   CQ10 has been shown to help increase collagen and elastin production, reduce the appearance of crow’s feet, protect against photoaging and assist in cell turn over.  As we age, the amount of CQ10 in our bodies decreases.  CQ10 is a small molecule and can easily be absorbed into the skin.



Adaptogens and superfruits are nutrient dense ingredients that have beneficial effects on your skin.  Herbs that help regulate your body or skin, if used in skincare and help reduce the appearances of stress, inflammation and photo damage. 

 gotu kola, licorice, reishi mushroom

Key adaptogens, like licorice and gotu kola have been used in Ayuvedic practices for centuries to heal, soothe and protect skin from inflammation and damage.  Superfruits are  extracts of potent superfruits (fruits with high concentrations of antioxidants) like bayberry and raspberries can help provide anti-aging protection. 


When choosing a moisturizer, choose one that has a good combination of hydrating ingredients, vitamins and nutrient dense ingredients.   Piperberry’s Adaptogen + Superfruits moisturizer as designed to be a comprehensive moisturize with a key balance of these ingredients.


A moisturizer should not include silicones, parabens, sulfates, fragrance or essential oils.  All these ingredients are known irritants and not necessary.


What should be in a Good Toner


Another popular step in skin care routines are toners.  It is not necessary to use a fancy toner.  Rose water is ideal for sensitive and normal skin tones.  It is just roses and water.


For oily  skin tones I would recommend basic witch hazel.  It is not necessary to have too many ingredients or additives in your products. 


What should be in a Good Cleanser

kale cleanser

Of course, gentle toxic free cleansers would be best.  Try to avoid cleansers with fragrances and colors. A gentle foaming cleanser is best with as few ingredients as possible.  Remember that those with sensitive or dry skin may not need to cleanse twice a day.


Please remember that “going clean” is a journey.  We are exposed to so many different toxins every single day.  We are probably being exposed to things that haven’t even been identified as toxic yet.  We can’t worry and obsess about everything, but we can try to avoid our exposure to those things we know can be harmful.  Doing this will take time and patience.  Replacing our current skin care routing for non-toxic alternative takes time.  This first clean product you try might now be the best for your skin, but with time and persistence you will find amazing clean alternatives. 


Good luck on your going clean journey.


Note – The information in this blog is not meant to replace information or advice provided by your doctor.  If you have any questions or concerns, please discuss it with your doctor.

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