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Medicine cabinet packed full of skincare products
Medicine cabinet packed full of skincare products
Megan Charles / Her Campus Media
Wellness > Health

According To Experts, Here Are Three Skin Care Ingredients To Avoid At All Costs

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UPR chapter.

With so many skincare products out there, how are we supposed to know which ones are the healthiest for our skin? One thing’s for sure, what determines their efficiency are the ingredients these skincare products contain. While I did my research to find what makes skincare products do the contrary (damage or irritate your skin barrier), I’ve discovered that there are a lot of ingredients that are very harmful for our skin. The sad truth is that most of them aren’t regulated when they definitely should be. In this article I’ll be mentioning a few common skincare ingredients that affect your skin negatively, whether they disrupt your hormones, are bad for our environment, or are promoters of carcinogenesis (the synthesis of cancer cells). Watch out for these additives in your sunscreens, moisturizers, and cleansers!

Parabens: preservatives

Parabens are preservatives included in cosmetics to increase products’ shelf life. Unfortunately, these compounds have been linked with hormone disruption, fertility issues, and increased risk of cancer. However, these statements have been debated, some research declaring they’re harmful, others say parabens are still in the gray area of toxicity while some say they’re safe in small doses. That being said, I suggest avoiding any products with chemicals that end with paraben (ex. isobutylparaben) as much as possible regardless.

Polyethylene glycol

Polyethylene glycol (or PEG) is a common additive that may assist in maintaining the moisture in your skin by absorbing excess water. Many scientific articles state that this kind of ingredient is safe to use on the skin; the “worst” it can cause is allergies. However, many experiments around PEG have studied this additive, and affirm that this compound can be contaminated with 1,4 dioxane: a carcinogenic impurity. Therefore, we shouldn’t risk using cosmetics containing polyethylene glycol due to its probability of containing this cancer-causing, trace contaminant.


Oxybenzone is one of many ingredients used in sunscreen to prevent UV radiation from damaging our skin. This dangerous ingredient has been referred to as an environmental contaminant due to it contributing to wastewater contamination, coral bleaching, and fish mortality. This is because it is highly reactive to chlorine, and when we use products containing oxybenzone and wash our faces with tap water, the chlorine within it reacts with the compound and indirectly affects our marine and freshwater ecosystems negatively. How does this affect us directly, though? Well, people who eat fish contaminated with oxybenzone and chlorine ingest these toxic chemicals, or are exposed to waters contaminated with them. The cycle continues thereafter. Ultimately, oxybenzone has been linked with being an endocrine disruptor (meaning it blocks hormones from working efficiently or at all), allergies, and Hirschsprung’s disease. 

In conclusion

For our health benefit, it is pertinent that we read the ingredient labels of any type of product we use, be it skin, hair, or any type of cosmetic and research them independently or consult professionals. A lot of potential carcinogens or other toxic compounds are still being discovered, tested, and disapproved, and it’s our responsibility to educate ourselves in what we put on our face daily. Because, sure, a product at low doses can be relatively safe to use, but products such as cleansers, soaps, sunscreens, and hair shampoos are used daily or weekly, and all of these chemicals slowly pile up after decades of use.

Medicine cabinet packed full of skincare products
Megan Charles / Her Campus Media
Mónica Zoé Haddock Marrero is a contributor at the Her Campus at UPR chapter. She’s a writer and social media designer for the chapter’s online platforms. All things health, such as nutrition, exercise, skin-and-hair care and self-care are all things she has written about and will continue to do so. Also, engrossing topics involving science and research are Mónica’s main area of interest. Apart from being a proud member of Her Campus, Mónica is a recent member in the SACNAS organization which provides professional and research opportunities for STEM students. She hopes to become a professional herself within this fieldwork. Moreover, she is currently an undergraduate at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus, majoring in Biology with an emphasis in Molecular Cell Biology. In her free time, Mónica writes short stories about fantasy and science fiction, enjoys making (as well as collecting) earrings and reads comics and stories of all kinds, specifically within the romantic and drama genre. She mostly listens to jazz or lofi while studying, but when she’s doing other miscellaneous things, Mónica listens to pop, rap, love songs and even classical music.