The Top Skin Care Ingredients to Avoid

When it comes to a healthy diet, we know how much ingredients matter. The same can be said about our skin care routines and what ingredients go into the products we use. Your lotions, moisturizers, cleansers, and serums can all affect the health of your skin, and they can either nourish or damage your natural skin barrier as well as the skin’s microbiome. 

The good news is there are healthy choices you can make to support healthy, radiant skin. The first step is knowing the potentially harmful ingredients that are commonly found in personal care products. While there are many questionable ingredients out there, we put together a list of ingredients you should especially be on the alert for. 


Parabens are a group of chemicals that can be found in many personal care products. They’re used as a preservative to prolong shelf life and prevent bacteria and mold from growing. While this may be good for the product they’re in, it’s not so good for our bodies. Parabens are endocrine disruptors, which means they can affect our hormone system and function. This can have negative effects on human growth, development, and even reproduction.


Another common ingredient found in personal care products is phthalates. These chemicals help a product stick to your skin longer, so it’s used in many scented products. But like parabens, phthalates are also endocrine disruptors that increase production of certain hormones while decreasing production of others. This can lead to many different health problems. 

Chemical Sunscreens 

While protecting your skin from the sun is important, you should also know what goes into your sunscreen. There are two types of sunscreen—mineral and chemical. Chemical sunscreens are made of ingredients that sink into your skin and absorb UV rays. But because they are absorbed by the skin, chemical sunscreens can be harmful not only to the human body but to the ocean as well. If you swim with a chemical sunscreen, it can leach into the ocean, which is harmful to reefs and other aquatic life. 


Watch out for this ingredient that’s highly toxic and extremely harmful. Formaldehyde can be found in skin care products and makeup as a preservative, but it is a known carcinogen. Exposure to high amounts of this ingredient can lead to short-term health issues like eye, nose, and throat irritation, and it can lead to long-term health issues like asthma and neurotoxicity. It’s important to know that there are also chemicals that can release formaldehyde, like DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, and others. 


Polyethylene glycols are added to products for moisturizing effects and to make them softer on skin. But PEGs can sometimes include impurities like ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane that are known carcinogens. PEGs can also cause the skin to absorb other harmful ingredients. 


BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are synthetic antioxidants that prolong the shelf life of lipsticks, moisturizers, and other cosmetics. These are potential carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. Some people may have allergic reactions to these ingredients as well. 


Sulfates like sodium lauryl sulfate are often found in soaps, cleansers, and shampoos to help products foam, lather, and remove dirt. The problem is that sulfates can dehydrate skin or damage the skin barrier. Sulfates can also become a toxic chemical to your organs when they are used long-term. 

Aluminum Salts 

Antiperspirants contain aluminum salts (aluminum chlorohydrate) that absorb into your skin, temporarily halting the production of sweat by blocking your pores to prevent sweat from reaching the skin’s surface. While this may help fight body odor and cut down on underarm wetness, it works against the body’s natural process of perspiration that serves to regulate body temperature and release toxins.  

Plastic Microbeads 

These tiny plastic particles can be found in exfoliating products, but they are dangerous because they don’t dissolve or degrade. Microbeads have the risk of being stuck in the skin or under it, which can lead to irritation or infections. They are also harmful to the environment. Microbeads are too small to be filtered out during normal sewage treatment, so they can end up in rivers, lakes, and ocean

What Personal Care Products Should You Choose? 

Clean and sustainable EWG verified beauty products

While this list isn’t exhaustive, there are so many products out there with one or more of the ingredients listed above. So what options do you have? Here are some products you can look for to swap into your skin care routine. 

Clean Beauty 

One of the best ways to avoid the ingredients above is to choose clean beauty products. A clean beauty product doesn’t contain any potentially harmful ingredients—fragrances, colors, or other chemicals that could have a negative effect on your skin and your health. Our favorite clean beauty option is the YOUTH® skin care line. All products in the YOUTH line are free of over 2,500 questionable or potentially harmful chemicals and ingredients. We take clean beauty so seriously that the list of ingredients we WON’T use in our YOUTH skin care line is far greater than the list of ingredients we do use. And each of those ingredients is screened for over 350 contaminants, pesticides, and impurities—that’s three times more than what’s required by US Pharmacopeia standards. 


Another marker of a clean product is the EWG VERIFIED® seal. Products with the EWG Verified mark have been extensively reviewed by a team of unbiased scientists and toxicologists from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to ensure they fully disclose their ingredients, are free from EWG’s list of toxic ingredients of concern, and meet the most rigorous health and safety standards. EWG Verified is the only third-party certification or evaluation program that publicly discloses its full criteria, has scientists on staff, and requires full transparency of ingredients—including fragrance. At Shaklee, we have partnered with the EWG as part of our commitment to health and wellness, and now a select number of Shaklee, YOUTH, and Pomifera™ products have the EWG Verified seal. You can learn more about what EWG Verified means here. 

9 Skin Care and Beauty Ingredients You Should Avoid, Shaklee Corporation

Healthy Skin Is Beautiful Skin 

Beauty is more than just skin deep, and the health of your skin is much more important than how a product makes you look. As you build your skin care regimen or make clean swaps, look for clean beauty or EWG Verified skincare solutions to add to your lineup. 

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