Skip to content
The Top 10 Skin Care Ingredients You Should Avoid

The Top 10 Skin Care Ingredients You Should Avoid

Did you know there are ingredients found in skincare products that you should actually avoid?

You may obsess over the foods that you eat, spending time pouring over the ingredients listed on food packaging, making sure you're checking that no harmful ingredients are included. When it comes to your health you don't want to do anything halfway. You're all-in, right?!

So why do you not put the same time and energy into your skincare regimen? Your skin is the largest organ of your body with many important functions. It's also one of the most sensitive when it comes to environmental insults.

We get it. There's a dizzying array of skincare products on the market. You probably usually reach for a brand name that's familiar, or a product you last saw a commercial for. Often, you'll grab your old security blanket; that one product line you've used for the last 15 years because it's what you know.

Learn to be a more savvy shopper when it comes to your skin. Here are the top 10 ingredients you should avoid.

Polyethylene/Polyethylene Glycol (PEG), Propylene Glycol (PG)

Used as a moisture sealer and a penetration enhancer, it's easily absorbed through the skin and can alter and reduce the skin's natural moisture factor. Polyethelene has been noted as a skin irritant and should never be used on broken skin. It's easily contaminated with molecules not listed on the label like 1,4 dioxane, lead, nickel, and arsenic. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 1,4 dioxane a probable human carcinogen that readily penetrates the skin. It also doesn't degrade easily and remains in the environment long after you rinse it down the drain.

Found In: shampoos, baby washes, lotions, soaps, scrubs, cosmetics

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

SLES and SLS penetrate the scalp quickly and the liver isn't able to metabolize them. These endocrine disruptors are widely believed to be a major contributors to acne (especially cystic acne) around the mouth and chin and have been shown to cause or contribute to skin irritation, canker sores, disruptions of the skin's natural balance, and eye damage, as well as lung irritation. SLES can also be contaminated with 1,4 -dioxane.

Found In: 90% of personal care and cleaning products; shampoo, body wash, bubble bath, foundation, face wash, mouthwash, toothpaste, mascara, conditioner, exfoliants

The Top 10 Skin Care Ingredients You Should Avoid


"Fragrance" is a term that is vaguely applied to many different things. The scary thing is fragrance is considered to be trade secret, so companies don't have to disclose what ingredients they use. They could include tons of chemicals that are hazardous to your health. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress, and potential reproductive system effects according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database.

Found In: Almost anything; moisturizers, hand creams, hair products, perfume, cologne, body wash

Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde-Releasing Substances

Formaldehyde can be useful in preventing bacterial growth . . . that's why it's commonly used in the embalming process of deceased people! It's a known carcinogen that is also linked to asthma, neurotoxicity, and developmental toxicity. Sadly, you're not going to spot it in the ingredients list, as companies are sneaky about trying to hide it. Common forms of formaldehyde used include Diazolidinyl urea, 3-diol Imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM Hydantoin, Quarternium-15, Nitropropane-1, Formalin, Methanol, Methyl Aldehyde, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol, Cormalin, formic aldehyde, sodium hydroxymethyl glycinate, methenamine, bronopol, and Methylene Oxide.

Found In: shampoo, body wash, bubble bath, nail products, shampoos, hair dyes, antiperspirant, makeup, liquid baby soap, bath lotions

The Top 10 Skin Care Ingredients You Should Avoid


They're used to protect cosmetics from the growth of organisms like bacteria and fungi so they can extend the shelflife of your products. Common parabens include methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben. You'll find them in sooo many of your old favorites, but they have been linked to a bunch of serious health problems like breast cancer and male reproductive issues and are a known endocrine disruptor. And they don't help your skin, either! Parabens increase sensitivity to the sun and cause premature aging. They're not disclosed on every product, as they could be in fragrances.

Found In: makeup, moisturizer, shaving gel, shampoo, personal lubricant, spray tan products, face cleanser, body wash, body lotion, foundation, deodorants, hair sprays, perfumes

Petroleum Distillates/Solvents

Don't sound too bad to you? They're produced in oil refineries at the same time as automobile fuel, heating oil, and chemical feedstocks. They could cause contact dermatitis and are often contaminated with cancer-causing impurities. Also keep your eyes open for Stoddard solvent, light liquid paraffin, mineral oil.

Found In: mascara, creams, lotions, ointments, cosmetics


They mimic estrogen, disrupting the delicate hormonal balance and the FDA has acknowledged studies linking phthalates to breast cancer, skin cancer, and decreased sperm count, but has yet to call it "harmful." They're also suspected carcinogens and are toxic to fetuses, causing birth defects in male babies. They're linked to possible Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, breast cancer, diabetes, obesity, and ADHD. Look for anything with the suffix -phthalate, or DBP, DEMP, DMP, DEP, or variations on dibutyl/diethyl ester or 1,2-benzenedicarboxylate.

Found In: Nearly everything; makeup, moisturizer, shaving gel, shampoo, personal lubricants, spray tan products, face wash, night cream, masks, body wash, foundation, hair products, fragrance


One of the highest-risk chemicals found in sunscreen, it acts like estrogen in the body. It alters sperm production and is associated with endometriosis in women. Oxybenzone (benzophenone) is absorbed very quickly by the skin and can accumulate in the fatty tissues of the body and is linked to cellular damage, low birth weight, allergies, and hormone disruption. It's found in the urine of 97% of people. Also look for avobenzone, homosalate and octyl methoxycinnamate.

Found In: sunscreen

The Top 10 Skin Care Ingredients You Should Avoid

Coal Tar

A byproduct of coal processing, it's a known human carcinogen, according to the National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. This ingredient derived from petroleum is banned in Europe and can be contaminated with heavy metals that are toxic to the brain. Also look for Aminophenol, Diaminobenzene, Phenylenediamine.

Found In: hair dye, dandruff and psoriasis shampoos, anti-itch creams, cosmetics, mouthwash, toothpaste


These are hormone-disrupting chemicals known to form nitrates and nitrosamines. TEA causes allergic reactions, eye problems, dryness of hair and skin and can be toxic if absorbed over long periods of time. DEA has been shown to cause cancer and hinder brain development in lab animals.

Found In: products that foam like facial cleansers and soaps, also eye makeup, fragrances, hair products, sunscreens

So how do you protect yourself? Start by researching the products you choose and make sure you trust the brand. Glowbiotics has your best skin care needs in mind. All of our products are 100% free from parabens, phthalates, sulfates, artificial dyes, and any known cancer-causing ingredients.

Back to blog