What could be more complicated than the ingredient list on your skin care products? In this article I’ll go through what to look for to find safe skincare ingredients as well as some of those to avoid.
One of the things I try to do for my students is take a complex subject and make it simple. Without a degree in chemistry, how do you know what’s safe? There are thousands of synthetic chemicals circulating out there and to be honest, some skin care product ingredient lists read like a chemical slurry recipe.
Some of those ingredients are nasty.
Thankfully, there are some great lists of the chemical nasties to avoid on sites such as the Breast Cancer Fund and the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep websites. These are great resources especially if you are so inclined to commit synthetic chemical names to memory.
But add in a few complexities. Sometimes synthetic chemicals are hidden behind other chemical names or worse hidden under the general and perfectly legal term “fragrance”. That’s where you find nasty phthalates.
To complicate the issue a bit further, many chemicals widely used and widely believed safe at one point turn out to be not safe at all later down the road. Some have never been proven to be safe, just thrown out into the marketplace with best wishes. Sometimes we are the animal in animal testing… (not that furry four-legged ones should EVER endure testing)!
So how do we figure out what safe skincare ingredients are without making ourselves crazy? Here are a few tips to make it less complicated.
- Look for simple ingredient lists. The more ingredients, the higher the chance for one or more of those to be unsafe. It only takes a few ingredients to be amazingly effective. Think homemade food versus canned.
- Use fewer products. Again you’ll reduce your potential exposure to unsafe ingredients.
- Make your own with known safe skincare ingredients. This is trickier for cleansers and moisturizers but you can easily make a simple homemade mask of raw honey, mashed avocado or even cooked oatmeal (my favorite).
- Can’t find the time to make homemade? Purchase from small companies making “darn close” to homemade in small batches.
- Botanical ingredient names can sometimes look like synthetic chemical names but will usually include the more recognizable common name in parenthesis.
- Avoid any product that lists fragrance as an ingredient. If the product has an aroma, make sure it’s due to essential oils.
- Stay away from antibacterial soaps. These often contain triclosan.
- Avoid skin lighteners such as AHA, glycolic and lactic acids.
- The nasties list for skin care products is shorter than for beauty products in general. When shopping for your skin care regimen, focus on these most common ingredients to avoid:
- Parabens, or words containing paraben