What are the worst ingredients in skin care products? They’re ingredients you should always avoid, either because they’re harmful to your skin in the long run – or worse, strongly suspected of being dangerous.


First a confession: There are a lot more than the 7 bad ingredients listed in this article. And exactly how do you measure the worst? Put a panel of seven top scientists together, and they’d probably have seven different opinions. The difference is this: My 7 Worst Ingredients list includes facts (not just my opinion) on why they’re included.

  1. Petroleum jelly. No, it’s not a terrible hazard. I include it because it’s so common, it’s got so many names for basically the same chemical, and it worsens the main problem that people use it for – dry skin. It’s also called petrolatum, mineral oil, liquid paraffin and paraffin wax. It’s a petroleum byproduct that coats the skin to keep in moisture. It clogs the pores and strips the natural oils from your skin (causing chapping and dryness, making your skin dependent on more, always more).
  2. Fragrance. Two problems. First, it can mean so many things; the term “fragrance” can refer to 4,000 separate ingredients, many toxic or carcinogenic. Second, if you like some fragrance, please, please, use a little perfume or body spray – much safer than rubbing these unknown and potentially dangerous chemicals into your skin.
  3. Triclosan: Antibacterial, widely used in skincare products and deodorants (also weed killers). Triclosan has been found in public water supplies and may contribute to creating strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, due to its wide use in skincare products.
  4. Polyethylene glycol (PEG). Widely used emulsifier (keeps incompatible liquids in suspension) and humectant (moisturizer). Suspected of interfering with reproductive hormones and of being carcinogenic.
  5. Parabens. Mostly listed as methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and ethylparaben – all preservatives in skincare products (including moisturizers). May cause allergic reactions and skin rashes, and possibly interfere with the body’s endocrine system. Accepted by the FDA, but under ever-growing challenge as new studies come in.
  6. Alcohols. Ethanol, ethyl alcohol, methanol, benzyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol and SD alcohol. All very drying and irritating to your skin. Petroleum-based alcohols all fit this description. Vegetable-based alcohols, actually waxes, are safe and effective skin care ingredients.
  7. Dioxane. Derived from coconuts. Widely used in skincare products. The most serious problem is that it can contain high concentrations of 1,4-dioxane, considered a chemical “known to the State of California to cause cancer.”


The most important fact to know about my Worst Ingredients is that they aren’t necessary. Most people don’t realize there are very toxic, cancer causing ingredients in their favorite skincare and beauty products.  For those of us who are already aware, it’s still hard to know exactly what to avoid because most of the ingredients added to skincare and beauty products these days, are hard to even pronouce or figure out what it means.

The FDA does not regulate personal care products ingredients and companies are not required to disclose all the ingredients used to make these products.  Therefore, cheap, toxic, cancer causing ingredients have made their way into our skin care and beauty products without us even knowing.

Your skin is your largest organ and absorbs anything applied to it, which then enters the bloodstream.  So take some time out of your routine to review the back of the ingredient’s lists next time you shop for your favorite skincare and beauty products.


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