Why am I avoiding these three skincare ingredients?

There's a long list of skincare ingredients to avoid of late, but does anyone really know why exactly we're avoiding certain ones? Here are Aisling Keenan's reasons...

Not all ingredients billed in 2019 as 'toxic' or 'bad' or 'unclean' are actually as terrible and bad for us as brands might lead us to believe, especially versus things billed as natural, clean or organic by marketing campaigns.

Of course, there are studies showing that we should probably be avoiding certain ingredients, certainly in large volumes. Some of the ones I generally try to avoid are below - but again, if I do happen to use a product with them accidentally, it wouldn't be a massive panic for me.



Sulfates are essentially what allow dead skin cells to be removed from your skin and scalp and washed away in water. Sulphates (sometimes listed as sodium lauryl sulphate or versions of that) hare a type of surfactant (which is a term for detergents, emulsifiers, and foaming agents) that pulls in both oil and water.

If you have sensitive skin, or a sensitive scalp, sulfates can cause irritation like redness, dryness, and itching. If you find, like me, that from time to time your scalp flares up, swapping to a sulphate-free product is advisable. Other than that, they're not the worst ingredient.


Generally, people know to avoid fragrance ingredients in skincare if their skin is in any way sensitive. Lots of brands billing themselves as 'natural', 'clean' and 'organic' say they're fragrance-free. They tend not to always smell the best.

One of my favourite skincare brands, Biologique Recherche, have products that smell neutral or else slightly weird, but because I know the logic, I don't mind at all. If you're someone who's fussy about the smell of their skincare and opt for something fragranced, you run the risk of triggering things like, allergies, asthma, eczema, headaches and other irritations.


Pronounced 'thah-lates', these play the role of plasticisers in cosmetics and skincare, making them more flexible and sometimes binding them too. Listed sometimes as DBP, DEP, DEHP or DMP, they are typically used in perfumes, hair sprays, nail polish, deodorants and other types of fragranced products. It is sometimes called 'the everywhere chemical' which indicates its prevalence outside the beauty sphere.


There are some scientific studies that show potential links between phthalates and things like damage to the liver, kidneys and the reproductive systems of both males and females. The studies also show these side effects can affect an unborn baby, which is why sometimes your skincare or cosmetic won't be suitable for those who are pregnant.

Photography by Jason Lloyd Evans.

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