Fragrances, Phthalates, Dyes: The Skincare Ingredients to Avoid

Ever wondered which skincare ingredients you should be avoiding? The backs of our favourite products can be confusing, right? But, thankfully, Beth Hall of the Haut Clinic has us covered with this incredible article.

Organic. Natural. Clean. Free-from. Just a few terms you might come across while you hunt the shops & scroll through pages and pages of skincare products online. Pretty packaging, a nice logo, well-priced are some other things you might be considering when looking at said skincare products. But what does it all come down to, when we make our final product selection? Well, I can’t actually answer that. We all have our own influences which steer us towards certain products. But what I can answer quite easily are questions about potential toxins in the skincare we use. And this, for many, is becoming a huge influence when it comes to selecting their skincare products.

Skincare toxins

What do I mean by toxins? Well, these are the chemicals or ingredients that are often included within skincare products, which have the potential to cause harm.

Sounds worrying, doesn’t it?

Some of them, concerningly, are not even listed within the ingredients. However, that doesn’t prevent us from knowing what to keep an eye out for.

The aim of this article is to highlight some of the most common ingredients that are often included in skincare products – and why we should avoid them.

Fragrances

There’s nothing nicer than smelling great, right? Wrong. ‘Fragrance’ is one of the ingredients in which manufacturers are not required to specifically list the ingredients of the ‘fragrance’ – and need to only list the word itself. In reality, the word ‘fragrance’ could be accounting for over 100 (and up to 5000!) unknown, and potentially toxic, ingredients. Unfortunately, this also includes ‘natural’ fragrance – which can be equally irritating for the skin or, unfortunately, not ‘natural’ at all. The main issue with fragrance is, of course, the mysterious unknowns of it. Often, fragrances are considered ‘trade secrets’ and this is largely the reason behind the lack of information. As with any toxic chemical, it can easily pass from the surface of the skin, into the body.

The main point to note here is that fragrance does NOT enhance the performance of the product. No matter how good it smells – natural or synthetic. Aim for products without scents, and further avoid the risk of potential nasties! NB: Be careful with the word ‘unscented’! This can sometimes be a red flag, as further chemicals can be used in the product to reduce or avoid to fragrance.

Phthalates

All this talk of scents and perfumes leads us nicely onto the next toxin: phthalates!

Phthalates are commonly used in fragranced products to help the scent linger longer. Not cool, on the basis phthalates are commonly found in PVC children’s toys, backpacks, cling film, building materials (such as water pipes), vinyl flooring, adhesives, inks, dyes, mosquito repellents and other personal care products such a nail polish. Yikes! I never imagined massaging PVC into my face. But then again, alarmingly, phthalates are one of the other many product ingredients which are often not listed on product labels. It simply falls into the category of ‘fragrance’ – as discussed above.

Although banned in many countries, phthalates are still prevalent in US manufactured products. To ensure you keep these harmful toxins as far away as possible from your face – once again, avoid products which list ‘fragrance’, without any other details.

Synthetic/ Artificial Dyes

LOTS of common day to day products contain synthetic or artificial dyes. Think lollies, drinks, yoghurts, sweets, baking mixes, and sauces – as well as many vitamins, toothpastes, hand soaps, shampoos, washing powders and lip balms. In short: we come into contact with artificial dyes on a daily basis.

Artificial colours or dyes are synthetic additives combined to make a single colour. What we do know is that up to 25 synthetic additives are needed to create one artificial dye. The colours can be made up of products such as coal tar and petroleum. Not the kind of products you associate with clean, clear and blemish-free skin. HONESTLY, it’s hard to imagine anyone even cares what colour their product is anymore. However, historically, synthetic colours and dyes have been added to products to make them look more appealing. Bright colours are cute, and this (unfortunately) DOES affect how we perceive something. However, as with fragrance, the colour of your skincare products has no bearing on its performance. MOVE ON. To help avoid products which contain unnecessary artificial colours, keep your eyes peeled for any ingredients which are indicative of dyes or colourants. In this case, manufacturers ARE required to list the dyes they use on their product packaging; and while they won’t list out the individual chemicals they use to create the dye, they will list the dye as a whole.

Okay - what kind of potential harm are we talking about?

ALL products include an array of ingredients. As mentioned, even ‘natural’ products may include some ingredients that we would much rather avoid. The final product selection comes from your assessment of what is likely to bring the most benefit to your skin, while exposing you to the least risk of harm. Much of this is dictated by your willingness to take a closer inspection on what your skincare products actually contain. It’s not easy to pick through the reems and reems of ingredients printed on the back of your products. Call it a job for a rainy day. You’ll be glad you did it! OR, you can seek professional guidance.

Outside of this, if your go-to products don’t quite fit the ‘clean’ bill – is there anything you can do to avoid excessive usage? Use weekly as opposed to daily, for example?

Some of the main concerns that are associated with potentially harmful skincare ingredients are linked with allergy, skin irritation, and other skin concerns – such as blocked pores and breakouts. Of course, with the greatest will in the world, sometimes these are all difficult to avoid. But, if you can get clued up on what you’re applying to your face – it’s likely your skin will thank you forever.

Other concerns linked with potentially toxic ingredients include cancers, and respiratory issues.

Right, now you’ve told me all this – what now?

Honestly? I could go on & on & on. We’ve barely scratched the surface with this article! I haven’t had the chance to discuss alcohol, petrolatum, sulphates, animal testing – and the paraben debate!

But the real message here is: you have a choice. No one dictates what products you choose to use – only you! With or without any ingredients that may be considered potentially harmful, you may still find your skin reacts very well – or responds sensitively! Where possible, ‘test before you invest’, and seek the support of a professional skincare practitioner. Your skin is worth investing in – and so do exactly that! Be confident in where you are purchasing your products from, what ingredients are included, what they will do for your skin, and how to use them safely.

Say goodbye to any unnecessary nasties. You, and your skin, are worth it.

Thanks, Beth! We're off to check the backs of all our skincare products now to look out for any pesky toxins. Don't forget, you can chat with a skincare professional to find out the right skincare products for you. Check out Glowday's Virtual Skin Consultation service for more information.

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