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Skincare Ingredients to Avoid in Your Facial Serum

What is in Your Facial Serum: Skincare Ingredients to Avoid

Take a look in your bathroom cabinet. Pull out your favourite skincare products. Do you recognise all of the ingredients written on the label? Can you even pronounce them all?

While many skincare products on the market claim to be organic and to include helpful natural ingredients, you may be surprised to find out that some are packed with unsafe chemicals and ineffective fillers. Be on the lookout for these common ingredients so you can steer clear of them.

1. Alcohol

Printed on skincare product ingredient lists as ethanol, denatured alcohol, methanol, or ethyl alcohol, alcohol is common in perfumes, dry shampoos, hair sprays, lotions, serums, creams, and astringents. Alcohol is known for its drying properties as it evaporates quickly. Drying out facial skin is not likely on anyone’s list of skincare goals. Excessive dryness from alcohol usage can cause skin peeling and structural breakdown. Alcohol also stimulates more oil production, erasing any acne-fighting progress there may have been.

2. Parabens

Parabens are synthetic ingredients used to preserve skincare products and give them a longer shelf life. Parabens prevent the growth of bacteria that can spoil your products. These harmful chemicals can be found in all sorts of products, from makeup, shampoo, moisturiser, shaving cream, and even toothpaste. Parabens have been linked to allergies, hormone fluctuations, fertility problems, and some cancers. With the prevalence of parabens in so many daily-use products, even minimal concentration can build up in your skin and body over time.

To avoid the risks, look for hydrating skin products that use safer preservation alternatives. These alternatives include neem, rosemary, grapefruit seed, and essential oils like oregano, tea tree, and thyme. A shorter shelf life on your facial serum shouldn’t be seen as a negative but rather an indication that the ingredients used in your organic skin serum are indeed naturally derived.

3. Aluminium and Heavy Metals

It may seem obvious, but finding metal in the ingredient list on your makeup or skin cream is not a good thing. Aluminium is included in some lipsticks, eye makeup products, antiperspirants, and deodorants. Aluminum can cause irritation to the skin and create havoc on your hormones, and it is also a suspected cancer-causing substance.

You may also notice heavy metals such as mercury, zinc, and lead listed on your skincare products. Heavy metals are often used to give make up a metallic lustre. Avoid heavy metal ingredients to prevent possible hormonal, developmental, and neurological side effects.

4. Formaldehyde

You are probably aware of the powerful preservative formaldehyde used in the process of embalming bodies. This knowledge may convince you to try to avoid the ingredient in your skincare products. However, some skincare brands are sneaky and will slip it into products listed as formalin, bronopol, DMDM hydantoin, glyoxal, and others. The use of formaldehyde can cause inflammation of the nose, throat, and eyes, as well as nausea, skin irritation, and wheezing. It is also known to disrupt hormonal balances and lead to certain cancers.

Instead, look for raw organic skin care products made from natural ingredients. While they may not last as long on your cabinet shelf, raw products like those from Swiss skin care brand Swiss Toniq, use unbleached, uncooked natural ingredients with no need for chemical preservatives and harmful fillers.

5. Chemical Fragrances

While the scent of a skin cream can be a significant selling point, it's important to check that your products' fragrances come from natural ingredients and not hazardous synthetic chemicals. Synthetic fragrances can include a wide range of toxic, harmful ingredients, including phthalates and synthetic musks that can be absorbed into your bloodstream. Phthalates are linked to respiratory, reproductive, neurological, and behavioural issues.

You may also be surprised to learn that skincare brands do not have to define what the fragrances in their products are made from. Sticking to fragrance-free products or those scented using essential oils is best. Natural essential oils are made from concentrated plant extracts and have been used in healing practices throughout history.

6. Butylated Hydroxyanisole

Now, this one is a mouthful. Butylated Hydroxyanisole, or BHA, is a synthetic antioxidant widely used in food, skincare products, cosmetics, and perfumes. It is another preservative used to keep oils stable and prolong shelf life. BHA has also been shown to be cancer-causing. While the concentration of BHA in most skincare products is minimal, the toxicity can build up over time.

Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and it is vital to take good care of it. This care includes avoiding dangerous ingredients, such as synthetic chemicals and preservatives, in the products you use. Keep this list of ingredients in mind the next time you pick up a facial serum or body lotion. By reading labels and opting for natural, organic, and even raw skincare products, you can keep your skin beautiful and healthy.




Many skincare products claim to be organic and contain natural ingredients, but some contain unsafe chemicals and ineffective fillers. Watch out for these common ingredients and avoid them. Check out the infographic to learn more.

6 Skincare Ingredient Facts Infographic
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