Top 20 Cosmetics Ingredients to Steer Clear Of

Are you aware of what’s in your skin care products?

Because unfortunately, there are some cosmetics ingredients, that just aren’t good for your skin.


Alcohols: These cosmetics ingredients have a wide range of uses in the skin care industry,

Alcohol has a low molecular weight, making it quite irritating to the skin.

  • Ethanol
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Ethyl alcohol
  • Methanol
  • Benzyl alcohol

Alcohols are cosmetics ingredients that are extremely irritating and drying, causing a cascade of inflammation in delicate skin tissue.

That’s why, I prefer to have, an alcohol free zone here at The Naked Chemist.

Ascorbic acid: These cosmetics ingredients are considered to be unstable in some solutions and may cause irritation, so beware all you sensitive skin beauties!

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 a 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 skin care.

Essential oils: Some volatile oils can be irritating and sensitising to the skin, these include Cardamom, Bay Leaf and Bergamot.

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 be bad.

Follow the link to find more information on essential oils in skin care.

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

Horsetail extract: Used in formulas as a skin constricting ingredient, it can be extremely irritating.

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 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.

Lemon: Although an Essential Oil, we feel Lemon deserves its own special mention, as it is often included in facial formulas for oily skin.

This oil is photo-sensitive, This means it reacts to sunlight and it is considered a potent sensitiser and irritant.

Whilst its fine for use on the body, it should be avoided in facial formulations, as it can harm the skins immune system.

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 quaternium 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, we prefer to air on the side of caution, and avoiding anything with amines in!

Surfactants: These 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.

Obviously they are widely used in the cosmetic industry for shampoos and body washes, but some can be very sensitising.

Follow the link, to read about some of the more natural surfactants.

Sodium Lauryl sulfate: Another surfactant which deserves its own special mention.

As discussed in the article benefits of coconut oil, this ingredient can be derived from the oil of a Coconut, which is obviously a natural cosmetic ingredient.

However the manufacturing process this ingredient goes through, renders it a potent irritant.

SLS is often used in research as the standard irritant substance, measuring and comparing the irritant potential of other ingredients, rather alarming really!

Sodium silicate: This ingredient is highly alkaline and is a potentially irritating antiseptic, it is often used in cosmetics.

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 cleansing 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.

Witch Hazel: Contains an Ethanol content of 70 to 80% which is essentially alcohol.

Witch Hazel is also high in tannins, so it can be extremely irritating to the skin.

If you suffer from sensitive skin conditions?

Then you may be interested to find out about other ingredients, that could be potential irritants, which are covered in this article.



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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