Skincare: chemicals to be careful of

Cleanse, tone and moisturise – a good skincare routine is as simple as these three steps, right? Well, it can be, as long as your skincare products are packed with all of those good, natural active ingredients and don’t come with any nasty surprises. And in the same way that we like to know exactly what's in the food we pop into our shopping baskets, it's worth getting to understand the chemicals that might be in our skincare products too. Here are five to try and avoid.


Of all the ingredients on this list, you might already know of parabens. This is because they’re a type of preservative widely used in cosmetics in order to prevent the growth of bacteria and mould. So far, so good. However, there are chemicals in parabens that have been lined to health problems related to estrogen disruption, and they can cause irritation for allergy sufferers. Look out for parabens in make-up, body washes, body creams and cleansers.


Phthalates are a group of chemicals used as binding agents and to make plastics more flexible. You’ll find them in products including nail polish, hairsprays, deodorants and fragrance. Recent research has shown that the ingredient should be used less due to potential health risks connected to reproductive and developmental toxicity.

Like parabens, formaldehyde is used to combat the growth of bacteria. However, it’s been recognised as a carcinogen by the IARC (the International Agency for Research on Carcinogens). As it can be irritating to your skin, give it a wide berth when shopping for shampoo, eye shadows and nail polishes.

We’ve lost count of the amount of times we’ve seen 'fragrance' listed as an ingredient. It’s actually a word that means a wide variety of chemicals that manufacturers would rather not list on the label and could be associated with allergies, dermatitis and respiratory distress. When buying body wash, shampoos and moisturisers, don’t chose those bottles with this ominous catch-all word on it and opt for a natural version instead.

Triclosan is an antimicrobial chemical, most commonly used in deodorants, toothpastes and hand washes. It can be harsh on the skin and cause irritation and is also known to adversely affect the endocrine system.