While these ingredients are controversial, there’s no conclusive evidence that they are certain to negatively impact our skin and health. But if your current products have not been working well for you, it doesn’t hurt to try products that are free of these and see if they actually improve your skin.
Parabens and phenoxyethanol: These have long been widely used as preservatives in skincare products and have been proven to be safe for use, provided they are utilised in low concentrations approved by regulating bodies. Still there are reasons for not wanting them in our skincare products. According to Thomas, these ingredients behave like large-spectrum antibiotics. “They’re supposed to kill bacteria in the formula – that’s their job. Unfortunately, they will also kill a few things in your skin that they should not – your skin’s self-defence mechanisms, or microorganisms that your skin needs,” he explained.
Mineral oils: Petrochemical derivatives like mineral oil are typically used for their softening, smoothening and hydrating properties. They act like an occlusive moisturiser but are often accused of being comedogenic. “Mineral oil is like plastic, so they may clog your pores and unbalance your skin. They are great for formulating because they create soft textures, but why would you want to be putting plastic on your face?” said Thomas. One good reason you might want to avoid this ingredient is if you have acne-prone skin.
Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulphate (SLES): These are foaming agents and surfactants used in facial cleansers, shower gels and shampoos that serve to remove dirt and provide that “clean” sensation post-use. Even if it can’t be scientifically proven that they are linked to health issues, the problem with them is that they can often strip skin of essential moisture, which will result in unbalanced skin. If you have dry or mature skin, a facial cleanser that do not contain these sulphates may help it hold on to the moisture it needs.
Phthalates: These are used as binding agents or solvents in many cosmetics, skincare and personal care products, but have been found to be endocrine disruptors that bring about hormonal imbalance. While the exact harmful effects of phthalates cannot be conclusively determined, several types of them have been banned for use in Europe.