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Scary skin ingredients

Scary skin ingredients

There's a big chance you've heard horror stories about some beauty ingredients, with parabens tending to be the big one. So while you might be avoiding products with certain things in, do you actually know why? Here we take a look at five pretty common ingredients and explain why they are so divisive. As with anything a lot of this is about making up your own mind though, so we'd suggest you look into them in more depth before making a judgement call as there tends to be advocates and opponents of them all.


These are used in a lot of beauty products to stop mould and bacteria growing (they are sometimes in food too); if you're not sure if something contains them check the ingredients list for anything with the 'paraben' suffix. In the 90s it was found that they mimic oestrogen in the body which has been linked to breast cancer, and a later study found parabens in breast cancer tumours. However, it's not known if they are found in healthy tissue too or if they caused the cancer. America's Food and Drug Administration has ruled them safe for use in cosmetics, but others aren't so sure.

SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulphate)

This features in a huge range of shampoos, soaps, toothpastes and bubble baths and is what makes them foam and appear thick. It's cheap and bubbles up well, which is often why it's chosen. SLS is also used in industrial products, like engine degreasers and floor cleaners. There are claims that exposure can cause skin problems like dermatitis, dryness and red patches.

Mineral Oil

This is colourless and odourless and is often featured in things like foundation, creams, lotions and balms. It's frequently used because of its perceived moisturising properties (and it's cheap), but there have been widespread claims that it can clog skin, cause people to age faster and be problematic for people with acne. This is because it tends to coat the skin and can stop it breathing.


There's a lot of different advice about this one, but largely you want to be looking for the type featured in your product. Simple alcohol is the one which has some bad press, largely because of its drying properties - it's the thing that is in some hand sanitizers which makes them seemingly strip the skin. It's usually listed as isopropyl alcohol or denatured alcohol.


This obviously has some scary connotations, and short term it's been claimed to cause skin irritation, wheezing and watery eyes. Over longer periods the outcome is less certain, especially as test which have linked it to cancer are usually on much bigger amounts than are found in beauty products.

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