Drop ‘em like it's hot! 5 Ingredients to Ditch From Your Skincare Routine

By Lindsey Sirera

Mineral Oils

The term “mineral oil” doesn’t sound scary, right? Well, here’s why you should cringe: it’s generally derived from petroleum, it tends to clog pores, and it can ultimately damage the skin’s surface.

"I highly recommend staying away from mineral oil," famed celebrity aesthetician Sonya Dakar told Allure. "It's derived from petroleum and does not absorb into the skin—its molecular size is simply too big. As a result, mineral oil remains on the surface of skin, making it a reflector of the sun, which can lead to more sun damage and discoloration."

Sodium Lauryl & Laureth Sulfate

Own anything that foams? Surprise, it’s likely packed with SLS or SLES galore. If you recognize the name, that might be because you’ve also seen it on the labels of your household cleaning products. AKA, the stuff you’re using to scrub your bathtub is also the ingredient you’re slathering on your face.

If common sense is not enough to hold you back from using an ingredient that doubles as a cleaning product additive on your face, here’s some more tidbits of truth: research suggests that SLS and SLES are incredibly drying on the skin, and can cause irritation when applied topically. Meaning that if you have sensitive, dry, or eczema-prone skin, this is not your friend.

We’ll throw SLS one bone: it is a common misconception that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a carcinogen (aka, cancer-causing). However, according to a peer-review 2015 study, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are carcinogenic.

Synthetic Fragrances

Who doesn’t love their face to smell like a garden full of fresh flowers? The only catch is that garden-fresh scents often come from ingredients that more closely resemble poison oak than peonies in nature. Many people with sensitive skin have bad reactions to synthetic fragrances, and since their regulation in your skincare products is akin to the rules of the wild west, it can be incredibly hard to identify them.

Dermatologist Dathan Hamann, MD, medical director of Saguaro Dermatology and the Contact Dermatitis Institute, told Cosmopolitan that there is zero regulation as to what qualifies as a fragrance in skincare in the U.S. What's more, there’s not even a standard for fragrance-free. “If you label your cream 'fragrance-free,' you can basically put anything you want in it and you can't get sued, since there's no legal standard for it," he said.

If you suspect you have a sensitivity to synthetic fragrances or are looking to avoid them all together, look for skincare labels with ingredients you can read without a chemistry degree.

Or, look for natural smell-good ingredients like chamomile and aloe vera that can actually help improve skin’s texture, too.

Certain Alcohols

Not all alcohols are created equal, meaning that some actually aren’t so bad for your skin. (We love us some hand sanitizer in 2020, am I right?!). However, many are. These are the ones you should avoid (in our humble opinion): ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, and alcohol denat. The alcohols on this no-no list are derived from petroleum, and as such, are not something you want soaking into your skin and leaching into your bloodstream.

If using alcohol on your face is simply out of the question (we stan), then witch hazel may be your new BFF. As a power multitasker, witch hazel is a powerhouse of skin solutions, with studies pointing out that it can reduce inflammation, skin irritation, and clear breakouts. It’s also just so happens to be a star ingredient in our new Skin Spritz.


As parabens tend to ward off bacterial and fungal growth, they’re often used as preservatives in beauty products. However, they are also known to be skin irritants that have pretty serious links to hormonal imbalances and reproductive harm.

“The concern with these chemicals is that scientific studies suggest that parabens can disrupt hormones in the body and harm fertility and reproductive organs, affect birth outcomes, and increase the risk of cancer,” Tasha Stoiber, PhD, and Senior Scientist for the Environmental Working Group, wrote for the EWG’s site. “They can also cause skin irritation.”

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