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The Top 6 Skin Care Ingredients To Avoid

Mar 4, 2008
If you have acne-prone skin, or your skin is often itchy and red, avoiding common ingredients in many skincare products and makeup may be the easiest way to calm irritated and blemished skin.

The first thing to remember about skincare products is that you get what you pay for. Cheap ingredients, while more easily obtained, are often harsh and pore-clogging. Secondly, ingredients are listed on product labels in order of quantity, so if you cannot avoid products containing bad ingredients, try to find products that list such ingredients near the end. Third, if you are purchasing products from behind a counter at the mall or from an online store, ask to see the ingredients - you may be surprised at what you find.

Although there are many ingredients you should avoid in skincare products and makeup, here are some of the worst offenders:

Octyl Stearate
This chemical is used in moisturizers, sunscreens, tanning oils, and eye creams, among others. It is both an irritant and comedogenic, meaning it clogs pores. Although proper moisturization is a must for healthy skin, avoid products containing octyl stearate. If you have ever noticed pimples in the delicate skin around your eye, consider switching your eye cream. Finally, while the dangers of tanning have been stressed due to the potential for skin cancer, harsh ingredients in tanning products is another reason to learn to love your pale skin. Products containing octyle stearate include Elizabeth Arden Flawless Finish Foundation, Almay Kinetin Eye Treatment, and Cellex-C Sun Care.

Algae Extract
While this ingredient sounds "natural," that doesn't mean your skin will be receptive to its irritatant and comedogenic properties. Algae Extract, also listed as seaweed extract or gelidiela acerosa extract, can be found in many products such as Clairol Hydrience Haircolor, Estee Lauder Re-Nutriv Eye Cream, Origins A Perfect World Eye Cream, and Murad Skin Perfecting Lotion, among many others. Two other algae-derived products, algin (or sodium alginate) and carrageenan, are also used to stabilize or emulsify skin and hair products such as facial cleansers, moisturizers, and exfoliants, shampoos and conditioners, and shaving cream. Fortunately, algin is easy to avoid; carrageenan is more prevalent.

Laureth-4
This coconut-derived surfactant, dispersant, and emulsifier (meaning it evenly suspends one liquid throughout another, rather than allowing it to settle) is an extremely common ingredient in all kinds of skincare products that can be difficult to avoid. Some Aveeno bath products and body scrubs contain Laureth-4, and it can also be found in Gillette shaving gels and even some acne treatments. It is worth your while to search out products free of this comedogenic and irritating alcohol.

Sodium Chloride
Otherwise known as salt - yes, the kind used to flavor food - sodium chloride is a pore-clogging chemical found in products too numerous to mention. Just because you can safely eat it doesn't mean you should put it on your skin! Aveeno- Ultra-Calming Foaming Cleanser is a good bet if you want to avoid sodium chloride and most other harsh ingredients, such as those listed in this article.

Isopropyl Myristate
Primarily comedogenic, isopropyl myrstate may also be somewhat irritating to sensitive skin. It is derived from both plant and animal fatty acids and helps the skin absorb the skincare product. Isopropyl myristate is a common ingredient found in body lotions, like Neutrogena Light Sesame Formula, tanning lotions by Banana Boat, and foundations by Estee Lauder and Cover Girl.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
This chemical is a detergent used in many hair and skin products. It helps the product to lather. Until recently, sodium lauryl sulfate was nearly impossible to avoid, but because of industry safety concerns and a little bad press, it is much less difficult to find alternative products. If you must use a product with sodium lauryl sulfate, make sure you rinse your skin and hair thoroughly. Never leave a product with this ingredient on your skin. Also avoid sodium laureth sulfate.

There are numerous other ingredients to avoid, if possible. Acne-causing ingredients include: hexadecyl alcohol, oleth-3, and wheat germ oil. Irritants include: acetone, isopropyl alcohol, and colloidal sulfur. Mineral oil (petrolatum) may dry out skin in the long run, as will propylene glycol.

Even if a chemical has been approved as "safe" for skincare, it is important to remember that it may not be ideal for individuals with sensitive and/or acne-prone skin. Although "natural" ingredients (like the algae ingredients listed above) are touted as better for your skin, you should still be discerning about which products you use. With care - and, perhaps, the sacrifice of a few more dollars - you can prevent many of the problems these products are intended to solve.
About the Author
Gina Buss, M.B.S. is a health and science writer. You can learn more about the benefits of using natural products at her website:
Naturalopolis - Natural Health, Preventive Health
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