The skin is the largest organ on our body, working hard to protect all of our internal organs, muscles and bones. So it makes complete sense to be mindful of everything we put on our skin. But not all products are good for your skin, and it can be tricky when many of these ingredients are the norm in everyday skincare and cosmetics. But do you know what chemicals and ingredients to avoid?

1. Parabens

What are parabens?

Parabens are a group of widely used preservatives. They were first used in products in the 1950s to help prolong the shelf life of products and reduce the chance of mould and bacteria growing within them. When you’re looking at the ingredients label of a product, you won’t see “contains parabens”. Instead, you should look out for the most commonly found parabens; propylparaben, butylparaben and methylparaben.

What are parabens usually found in?

They’re used in cosmetics, medications, foods, skincare products, shoe polishes, glues and more. Parabens are commonly known for causing skin sensitivities and allergies.

The benefits of small batches

I make BAO products by hand in small batches. Which means there’s no need for preservatives to extend the shelf life of products because stock moves quickly.  

2. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?

Also known as SLS, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a chemical surfactant that works by turning liquids into a foam. SLS is popular in skincare because it traps oil-based dirt so it can be rinsed away, leaving your skin with that squeaky clean feeling. But it’s a harsh chemical which can really dry out sensitive skin.

What is sodium laurel sulfate found in?

You’ll find it in lots of cosmetics and cleaning products. But everyday products you’re most likely to find SLS in is hair products like shampoos and conditioners. Dental products such as toothpastes and mouth washes. Lotions and creams including body lotions, hand creams and sun screens.  

Can I use toothpaste on a spot?

I know I’m stating the obvious here, but toothpaste is for your teeth! It’s not for your sensitive skin. Toothpaste has a different pH level to skin and can irritate healthy skin. Upsetting your skin with too music baking soda can irritate skin and lead to burns.

3. Phthalates

What are phthalates?

Phthalates are synthetic chemicals used to manufacture plastic. They’re used because they help to make plastic more flexible and harder to break. But shockingly these chemicals can be harmful to both pregnant women and children because they can interfere with the glands that release hormones.

What are phthalates found in?

You’ll find the chemicals in a lot of everyday items like fragrances, cosmetics, household cleaners and personal care products. They can be found in food packaging too and can merge into your food during processing.

4. Mineral oil

What is mineral oil?

Mineral oil is a clear, odourless liquid. It’s derived from petroleum which is notorious for clogging pores. But when it’s used in cosmetics it’s highly refined and purified so it doesn’t contain any of the contaminants that you can find in unrefined petroleum.  

What is mineral oil found in?

It’s favoured in moisturisers because it helps lock in moisture, can help improve skin barrier function and soften your skin. But many choose to steer clear of mineral oil because it sits on top of your skin and has a bit of a reputation for pore-clogging. Plus, it could irritate your skin and cause a reaction.

5. Petroleum jelly

What is petroleum jelly?

If you’re not quite sure what petroleum jelly is, then you’ll definitely know the name Vaseline. When petroleum jelly goes through a refining process, the components removed from the oil are carcinogenic in some cases. It gives the illusion of hydrated skin but in reality, it’s super heavy on your skin and suffocates your pores. Petroleum jelly isn’t water-soluble, it’s actually water-repellent which means it won’t let moisture leave your skin and will actually dry out your skin.

What is petroleum jelly found in?

Petroleum jelly has a long shelf life which is why it’s commonly used in make-up and skincare products. Many people use it as a moisturiser, to protect their skin when they dye their hair and to treat nappy rash in babies.

6. Parfum

What is parfum?

Parfum is a mystery concoction of chemicals used to make a nice fragrance in products. Don’t be fooled by the nice smell though. Parfum normally comprises of many toxic ingredients that can play havoc with our skin.

What is parfum found in?

It can be found in everything from perfume and face wash to baby wipes and hand cream. But in all honesty there’s no real reason for it. In reality, it’s more likely to cause irritation, redness, itching and burning.

7. Formaldehyde

What is formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is used as a preservative in beauty products to prolong their shelf life. Even though levels of formaldehyde in cosmetics is fairly low, we’re so sensitive to it that it can easily cause redness, itching and dryness.

What is formaldehyde found in?

It can be found in all types of skincare. Look out for 3 dioxane, methylene glycol, DMDM hydantoin and quaternium 15 on ingredient labels. Things like nail polish removers and nail polish can have high concentrations of formaldehyde too.