What we put in our bodies—food—is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

What we put upon it—skin care and beauty products—is not.

That could be an issue.

In one 2021 report , scientists tested 231 popular makeup products from the U. H. and Canada and found that more than 100 had Per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) . These are chemicals that don’t break down and build up in the body over time.

They include perfluorooctanoic acid, which may cause cancer, according to the American Cancer Society .

Clean skin goes beyond washing your face.

“Your skin is a living, dynamic organ, ” says Nava Greenfield, M. D. of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. “Just like you consider carefully what you put into your mouth, you should take treatment in what a person place on your skin. ”

Understanding what’s in your products can help you achieve long-term health that’s more than skin-deep.

Here’s what the science says you need to avoid—and what to use instead.

The skin is our own largest body organ, notes Marianna Blyumin-Karasik , board-certified dermatologist, co-founder associated with Precision Skin Institute, and founder of Stamina Cosmetics.

The skin has high absorption, “so skin care products that can be absorbed and enter our bloodstream can have detrimental effects on our overall health, ” Blyumin-Karasik states.

Some ingredients like synthetic or highly concentrated fragrances or chemicals in personal care items can trigger skin sensitivity, irritation, or a more intense allergy.

Symptoms can include:

  • redness
  • itching
  • stinging
  • burning
  • bumps
  • scaling
  • roughness
  • blisters

Other ingredients possess been linked to more serious problems, like:

  • malignancy
  • cardiovascular disease
  • developmental issues
  • hormone disruption

For example , a 2018 review suggested that will phthalates discovered in certain personal care products could adversely affect male fertility.

A 2021 study indicated that exposure to formaldehyde, sometimes used in keratin hair treatments , could lead to heart malformations within a developing fetus.

In 2020, California became the first state in order to issue the statewide ban on 24 chemicals , including methylene glycol plus formaldehyde.

Other states don’t have got these bans, leaving consumers to analyze and interpret labels themselves.

Complicating things, some recommendations to avoid specific ingredients aren’t one-size-fits-all. Different people may have different (or no) reactions to particular ingredients, even if they’re common allergens .

“Aside from real toxins and dangerous chemicals, a list like this will be different for each person, ” Greenfield says. “Unfortunately, it’s not really all black and white. ”

Having an idea associated with what’s potentially toxic plus what’s more likely to cause pores and skin irritation may help you make informed decisions about the products you choose.

From common allergens to potential carcinogens , here are the particular ingredients Blyumin-Karasik and Greenfield suggest avoiding:

PEGs (polyethylene glycols)

Blyumin-Karasik and Greenfield warn that PEGs are a potential epidermis irritant.

They’re most often found in lotions, creams, and tresses products because they can act as skin conditioners and humectants , a common moisturizing agent.

A small 2021 case study examined six cases of acute sensitivity in order to PEGs. However , researchers also noted the allergy was rare.

Methyl and propyl parabens

Blyumin-Karasik notes that methyl and propyl parabens are preservatives with reputations for being hormone disruptors . Nevertheless , research will be mixed.

A 2017 research on gerbil prostates indicated that will methylparaben could disrupt estrogenic and androgenic receptors that might affect the prostate.

Another 2017 study suggested parabens, including methyl plus propyl parabens, posed little health risk. However, researchers noted that will parabens can inhibit compounds with anti-estrogenic properties.

The FDA wrote within 2022 that it didn’t have enough evidence to warn that parabens affect human health. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) reported similarly in 2019, noting that will allergic reaction risks were low.


Found in some eye make-up products, lipsticks, and deodorants, aluminum may cause skin irritation, according to Greenfield.

There’s also been discussion as to whether aluminum is the carcinogen, or cancer-causing agent.

The 2015 study suggested aluminum can increase the migration of breast cancer cells and called with regard to more research.

Within 2013, the particular Cosmetic Ingredient Review said alumina plus aluminum hydroxide was safe to put in cosmetics, noting that it doesn’t get assimilated into the skin and less than 1 percent is usually absorbed orally.


This ingredient is a preservative commonly found in soaps plus shampoos and may cause skin discomfort or allergies, Blyumin-Karasik explains. Greenfield agrees with avoiding formaldehyde, saying it’s a common irritant.

A 13-year retrospective research associated with patch tests published within 2020 pointed out that a polymer known as toluene-sulfonamide-formaldehyde resin (R-TSF or TSFR), often used in nail polish, has been one of the most common things that trigger allergies. It’s furthermore known because a carcinogen, but data shows it is only hazardous if a person inhales a significant amount.

The particular American Malignancy Society says chemical in individual care items like shampoos typically contains formaldehyde levels that are “far below hazardous” to wellness. The organization says keratin curly hair smoothing treatments can raise indoor air concentration in order to hazardous amounts.


Phthalates are usually typically used to make sure plastic does not break. These people can also be used in fragrances within skin products. Blyumin-Karasik warns they may disrupt hormones.

The 2020 literature evaluation indicated that phthalates could lead to:

  • altered puberty
  • testicular dysgenesis syndrome, a condition affecting semen quality plus testicle descent
  • increase danger for cancer
  • increase risk of male and female fertility issues
  • modify the release of hypothalamic , pituitary , and peripheral hormones

A 2018 study suggested phthalates could guide to pregnancy loss plus fertility problems.

However, it’s important to note that neither piece of study above had been specific in order to phthalates in beauty products.


Key West and Hawaii recently banned oxybenozone, which is generally found within sunscreen. Blyumin-Karasik says it can affect hormones and cause allergic reactions.

A 2020 review associated with 29 studies indicated no a link between fertility issues plus oxybenzone and called for a lot more research.

However , a good older 2016 study pointed out that men with higher levels of benzophenone-type ultraviolet (UV) filter concentrations experienced lower sperm concentrations.

Avoiding fragranced products and using a mineral-based sunscreen can help avoid harmful chemicals, Blyumin-Karasik says. Looking for preservative-free items can also cut down on risks of irritants and health hazards.

“The main purpose of preservatives is definitely to maintain the integrity of the personal maintenance systems, ” Blyumin-Karasik says. “The natural alternatives may not attain since long from the shelf-life as the chemical ones, but they’re better for our well-being. ”

To clean up your elegance regimen, Blyumin-Karasik suggests looking for items that contain these safer ingredients rather.

Tea tree oil

Blyumin-Karasik suggests using tea woods oil , an essential oil found in shampoos, skin care items, hand sanitizers, and first aid products.

The 2021 study suggested tea tree essential oil could assist disinfect hands when utilized in sanitizer.

Research from 2015 indicated it could aid wound healing, plus a 12-week pilot study published in 2017 recommended it can reduce acne.


Instead of PEGs, opt for a humectant with fewer potential side effects. Blyumin-Karasik recommends glycerin .

One little 2017 research of women indicated that will products with a mix associated with hyaluronic acid , glycerin, and Centella asiatica (gotu kola) could boost pores and skin hydration regarding 24 hours.

A 2019 safety assessment suggested glycerin was safe to use within cosmetic practices.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil , or Cocus nucifera, can be extracted through the meaty part of a coconut fruit.

Blyumin-Karasik recommends it due to the fact it’s treatment and can reduce mold growth in epidermis care items.

A 2022 study pointed out that the coconut oil-based serum combined with deer antler stem cell extract for two weeks can:

  • smooth skin
  • decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • boost collagen density
  • moisturize

The 2019 study indicated virgin coconut essential oil had anti-inflammatory properties plus supported its use in skincare products.

Elderberry draw out

Blyumin-Karasik says elderberry , or even Sambucus nigra extract, often present in serums, has “versatile benefits intended for our skin. ”

She notes these benefits include antimicrobial results and high levels associated with vitamin C .

Study on elderberry is limited, particularly in topical products. However, a 2019 research recommended it got anti-aging benefits when ingested as a supplement.

Willow bark remove

Blyumin-Karasik states willow bark , or Salix nigra extract, is certainly an excellent source of pores and skin preservation. The girl recommends this for its potent and antimicrobial properties.

“Besides that, willow bark consists of a potent salicin ingredient which offers gentle exfoliating properties to cleanse pores and reduce epidermis surface oil, ” she says.

A 2019 study suggested willow bark total extract might have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory advantages.

An old 2010 study suggested that salicin, which is extracted from white willow bark, may have benefits when applied to the skin topically.

When shopping for private care products, there are a few points you’ll want to keep within mind, depending on your age and any conditions a person have.

Layering is not really for pores and skin care

Leave the layering for sweater weather, not skin care. Blyumin-Karasik says the biggest issues she sees in her clinic happen when people try to cake on too many products or even ingredients.

“Trying to be innovative or frugal, young individuals play with possibly hazardous components such as baking soda or lemon juice which can lead to significant epidermis irritation, ” Blyumin-Karasik states. “Older individuals try in order to layer too many items onto their skin such alpha hydroxy acids plus potent retinoids and because a result, create skin allergy or even irritation. ”

Blyumin-Karasik suggests working with the dermatologist to find the particular correct elements for your pores and skin type and beauty goals.

More is not always more

A long ingredients list doesn’t necessarily mean there are a ton of items working to boost your own skin’s health. Sometimes, simple ingredient lists are the majority of effective.

“In general, if a skin care product provides too many chemicals or fragrances, it can irritate the epidermis and trigger skin rashes, and it is best to avoid, ” Blyumin-Karasik says.

Sensitive skin, eczema, dermatitis, or even rosacea

Individuals with sensitive skin, dermatitis, dermatitis, or rosacea will want in order to pay particular attention to product labels plus the “less is more” mantra, Blyumin-Karasik says, since people along with these conditions are more prone to irritation.

“They’re best served by using fragrance-free, delicate skincare lines such as Avene and Bioderma, plus definitely staying away from any associated with the above skin contaminants in the air, ” Blyumin-Karasik says.


Blyumin-Karasik advises acne-prone people to opt for products that won’t clog pores. The lady suggests looking for words such as “oil-free” and “ noncomedogenic ” plus minimizing the use of occlusive moisturizers or makeup.

These “can cause a lot more breakouts and blemishes, ” Blyumin-Karasik warns.

When purchasing skin treatment products, you’re making an investment in your body’s largest organ.

But some ingredients may not serve your skin — or even overall wellness.

Though research within some cases is minimal and others are mixed, Phthalates and some parabens are linked to hormonal disruption. Other ingredients are carcinogens or might cause discomfort.

Speaking with a dermatologist can help you figure out the greatest and safest products and substances for the skin and general health.

Beth Ann Mayer is a New York-based freelance writer and content strategist who specializes in health and parenting writing. Her work has been published in Parents, Shape, and Inside Lacrosse. She is a co-founder of digital content agency Lemonseed Creative and will be a graduate of Syracuse University. You can connect with her upon LinkedIn .

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