Skincare Ingredients – the Good and the Bad

Have you ever read the label on your facewash, moisturiser or serum? There are words that I can’t pronounce, much less know what they are good for or why it’s in there! You’ve probably heard words like hyaluronic acid and ceramides before – these are good! Unfortunately, sometimes there are ingredients included that’s not as good for your skin as you would like it to be. Some ingredients have been banned in some countries, unfortunately this is not the worldwide scenario yet. Let’s have a look at some.


Words ending in -paraben. This is a preservative and found in almost anything. It prevents the growing of bacteria in some cosmetic items. Parabens are known endocrine disruptors (can lead to hormonal imbalances) and some studies indicate it to cause breast cancer.

Artificial anything
The most well know artificial ingredient would be fragrances. Even unscented ones. Artificial anything is never good.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate / Sodium Laureth Sulfate
These are foaming agents that are used in numerous cosmetic items including shampoo and toothpaste. It’s a surfactant that can cause allergies and irritations.

This ingredient is most commonly found in nail polish and hair dyes (think of the strong smell). It’s a petrochemical solvent (doesn’t that sound nice) that’s toxic to the immune system. Most nail polish companies these days have removed this ingredient from their products.

Also seen as an endocrine disruptor; it’s a plasticizer added to plastic to prevent it from becoming brittle. It’s mostly found in fragrances, as well as nail polish and hair spray.

Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)
Used as a thickener in items such as shampoo, sunscreen and body lotion. Often this ingredient is contaminated with other known carcinogens.

A known carcinogen used as a preservative in cosmetics.

The most common sunscreens on the marked use chemical filters such as this ingredient that is a known endocrine disruptor and can cause skin allergies. It’s also found in lip balm, makeup and moisturizers. Rather use a mineral filter sunscreen.

Diethanolamine (DEA)
A known carcinogen used as a foaming agent. It’s been banned in the EU in personal care products. Unfortunately, it’s still used in items such as shampoo, bubble bath and body wash in most countries.

A once popular antibacterial agent used in soaps, hand washes and the like, it was banned in 2016 from soap used in health care settings, yet still allowed in personal cosmetics. It contributes to antibiotic resistant bacteria and is an endocrine disruptor. It was also shown to contribute to gut inflammation and tumour growth in mice.

The word “carcinogen” comes up a lot hey? Not good. Not good at all.

person holding laboratory flask
Photo by Chokniti Khongchum on

What ingredients should we look for then? Here are some:


Glycolic acid
A powerful exfoliant derived from sugar cane (natural!). It’s an alpha hydroxy acid that removes dead skin cells and surface discolouration. Often an ingredient in chemical peels.

Lactic acid
Also an alpha hydroxy acid, it dissolves the top layer of dead skin gently.

Hyaluronic acid
It helps to bind moisture to the skin, increasing hydration.

A form of Vitamin A most commonly associated with anti-aging products! The one go-to item if you don’t use anything else. It speeds up cell turnover, prevents clogged pores and treats acne. It reduces fine lines and wrinkles, lighten discolouration and improve skin clarity and texture.

Beta Glucan
Sounds like an energy drink doesn’t it? It helps produce immune cells and gives skin a smoother appearance and glow.

Working against free radicals (sunlight, pollution, stress) it helps prevent and repair damage to cells. Look for beta carotene, lycopene, Vitamin C and E.

Amino acids that helps skin to produce more collagen, thereby reducing wrinkles and fine lines. It helps skin feel firmer and plumper.

These ingredients are definitely not the only good and/or bad ones, so it might be worth having a look at some of the labels on your cosmetics to see what’s going on. It helps to be informed! Also remember to throw away any old or expired items, it can cause more damage than good to keep on using old stuff!


Note: I am not a dermatologist or a scientist, I’m just relaying info! Don’t go chucking out all your stuff just cause you saw something listed here on the label!

Info from:


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