A one-time application of these compounds won’t damage your skin, but unpleasant effects can occur after years of continuous exposure to skin care products containing harmful ingredients.

To avoid harmful ingredients in face creams, body lotions and other skin care products, all one needs to do is read the labels and check for compounds and substances known to damage the skin or to cause allergic reactions and other unpleasant side effects.

However, this is not possible unless one is familiar with these harmful ingredients and knows exactly which substances listed on creams’ labels can alter the skin’s surface, composition and functions, and which are helpful and free of adverse reactions.

Choosing skin care products with 100% natural ingredients – such as plants, extracts and essential oils – is a smart strategy for avoiding harmful ingredient, but this isn’t always possible due to budget limitations. Organic products are often more expensive than non-organic products, so it’s not a surprise that consumers tend to opt for the less expensive non-organic skin care products.

Rich in synthetic compounds, chemicals, additives and fillers, creams and lotions can cause an increase in or too low production of sebum, making the skin too oily or, on the contrary, very dry and prone to cracking. Also, skin care products rich in chemicals can accelerate the aging process, clog skin pores and promote the occurrence of acne.

Given below are the most common ingredients considered unfriendly to skin but incorporated in creams, gels, lotions and other skin care products.


Synthetic fragrances
• Parabens
• Ureas
• Petrochemicals
• Sulfates
• Quats
• Chemical sunscreens
• Synthetic colors
• Chelators
• Phthalates
• 1,4-dioxane
• Aluminum A


  • Parabens is a group of chemical compounds used as preservatives in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products due to their low cost and ability to extend the shelf life of these products. Incorporated into body moisturizers, face creams, cleansers and body washes, parabens – such as methyl, butyl, propyl and ethyl – have been proven to have estrogenic effects and to increase the risk of developing breast cancer. More commonly, they cause skin irritation, rashes and allergic reactions.
  • Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate, a well known ingredient in skin care products, shampoos and cosmetics, is also incorporated into floor cleaners so it’s obvious that this substance is not exactly skin friendly. However, it’s very cheap and creates foam, which is why many of manufacturers incorporate it into their skin care products. The interesting fact about SLS is that researchers use it in labs for creating skin irritations and according to studies, when mixed with other chemicals this ingredient can form carcinogenic compounds.
  • Phthalates are used in skin care products because they speed up the absorption of the creams, gels and lotions into skin. However, certain companies have decided not to use these ingredients anymore as they have been linked with severe allergic reactions and have been classified as potentially carcinogenic by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).
  • Polyethylene Glycol, or PEG, is another ingredient whose side effects outweigh the benefits. Used as a thickener in creams and ointments for skin care, this compound alters the skin’s natural production of sebum and sweat, leaving it more prone to developing infections and speeding up the aging process.
  • Alpha-Hydroxy Acids, although useful as exfoliating agents, are harmful as they remove not only dead skin cells but also healthy ones, altering the skin’s natural protective layer and making it more prone to ailments caused by UV rays, bacteria and pathogens in the external environment.

By Andreea Macoveiciuc