Top 20 Cosmetics Ingredients to Steer Clear Of

Thre is so much misinformation about the ingredients lurking in your skincare.

So you could be forgiven for feeling a little bit confused.

We recommend becoming your own label detective and learn the ingredients to avoid.

To help you on your journey, we have taken the leg work out of it for you, and put together a list of the ingredients that you can avoid:

Cosmetic ingredients that aren’t beneficial for the skin

Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT): Research has shown this ingredient could be a possible carcinogenic.

Borax Sodium Borate: This ingredient is a strong irritant, and again it may be carcinogenic.

Cobalt chloride: This cosmetic ingredient is considered a metal; it is used in many applications, such as hair dye and antiperspirants, an interesting ingredient but nonetheless, one I choose to avoid in my formulas because it is considered an irritant in skincare.

Essential oils: Not all essential oils are created equally, some volatile oils can be irritating and sensitising to the skin, these include Cardamom, Bay Leaf, and Bergamot.

We’re not suggesting you should avoid all essential oils in your products, many of these oils have wonderful properties especially when blended with other cosmetics ingredients, but like everything in nature, too much of a good thing can sometimes not be a good thing. Follow the link to find more information on essential oils in skincare.

Galbanum: A fragrant substance that can be extremely irritating, due to its resin and volatile oil content.

Isopropyl myristate: This is a substance known to clog pores, research shows when used on the skin there is an increased risk of nitrosamine absorption. See Nitrosamines below.

Lanolin: Although purified, there is still a chance this cosmetic ingredient is contaminated with pesticides from sheep dip e.g. DDT. With so many other great substitutes available, I feel it is wise to avoid this ingredient.

Citrus essential oils: These oils are photo-sensitive – this means they react to sunlight and are considered sensitising agents.

Menthol and Peppermint: These can have a sensitising and irritating effect on the skin, so must be avoided at all costs in facial formulations.

Nitrosamines: This ingredient can be found in formulas when the Dea, Mea, or Tea amines, are combined with a formaldehyde preservative, such as bronopol or quaternion 15, nitrosamines are known for their carcinogenic properties, whilst there is a question about just how much of this penetrates the skin and presents a problem, here at the Naked Chemist we prefer to avoid ingredients with amines in!

Surfactants: Some surfactants should be avoided like sodium lauryl sulfate. However natural surfactants do have their place – they are agents that are used for emulsifying oils and fats, breaking down dirt and grease on the skin, so they can effectively be washed away. Follow the link, to read about some of the more natural surfactants.

Sodium C14-16 Olefin sulphonate: This ingredient is also derived from Coconut, making it similar in composition to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. It is used as a detergent for cleaning products and can be potentially irritating and very drying on the skin.

Tallow: Often used in soaps, it contains heavy metals and pesticides.

Triethanolamine: These cosmetics ingredients are used as a pH balancer. Like the family of Almines, it has the potential for creating Nitrosamines, see above.


There are literally hundreds of ingredients out there that may be potentially irritating, so this list is by no means complete.

If you are interested to find out about other ingredients, that could be potential irritants, this article does a great job of extensively covering this topic.


3 thoughts on “Top 20 Cosmetics Ingredients to Steer Clear Of

    • Verified Author Samantha Miller replied:

      Hi Sabine

      i am not a fan they do have a lovely feel on the skin, but they are far from anatural, research natural silicones instead, there are a few out there that have a great skin feel. We love to use Squalane its natural, full of lovely fatty acids, has a great skin feel and is 100 % natural yay 🙂

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