Check Your Labels!

Cream for hands

Cream for hands

Check your labels

Often, estheticians are asked if certain products are “good enough” for their skin type, and one of the first thing we do is look at the ingredients, as should you. There are many key ingredients that will enhance your skin care product but there are even more that can render them useless because in many cases, they are unhealthy.  Unfortunately, it takes some research to ensure that you’re buying something that will benefit your skin without causing additional issues.  Often times, finding products without harmful ingredients can be an exhaustive process but when you educate yourself you can take the necessary steps to do what’s right for you and your family.  I have provided several links throughout this article that can get you started, both for and against certain ingredients.

The following is a list of ingredients you should try to avoid in not only your skin care but with the products you use for your whole body.

  • Synthetic Colors: Look for FD&C or D&C

  • Fragrance: It will generally say “fragrance” when a synthetic product is used. Look for products that use essential oils for skin care benefit and fragrance.

  • Phthalates: diethyl phthalate or phthalate esters, are esters of phthalic acid and are mainly used as plasticizers (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity.

  • Trislosan: AKA: Microban, Irgasan, Biofresh, Lexol-300, Ster-Zac and Cloxifenolum - similar in its uses and mechanism of action to triclocarban, is an antibacterial and antifungal agent found in consumer products, including toothpaste, soaps, detergents, toys, and surgical cleaning treatments.

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS / SLES) is an anionic detergent and surfactant found in many personal care products. SLES is an inexpensive and very effective foaming agent

  • Formaldehyde Not just for embalming dead bodies anymore! This chemical is a little more inconspicuous, it’s released from preservatives and those are typically what’s listed; DMDM hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl urea, Diazolidinyl urea, Quaternium-15, Bronopol, 5-Bromo-5-nitro-1, Hydroxymethylglycinate.

  • Toluene: AKA: benzene, methylbenzene, toluol and phenylmethane. Also known as toluol, is a colorless, water-insoluble liquid with the smell associated with paint thinners. It is a mono-substituted benzene derivative, consisting of a CH₃ group attached to a phenyl group

  • Propylene Glycol: Look for- 1,2-dihydroxypropane, 1,2-propanediol, methyl glycol, and trimethyl glycol. Click here for the extensive definition.

  • Hydroquinone: Other names: 1,4-Benzenediol; Quinol; 1,4-Benzenediol (hydroquinone); p-Benzenediol; p-Dihydroxybenzene; p-Dioxybenzene; p-Hydroquinone; used to bleach skin

  • Mineral Oil: There are 70 hidden names for Mineral oil. 70!!! Clink the link for a comprehensive list of names. 70 aliases for Mineral Oil

  • Tetrasodium: also, called sodium pyrophosphate, tetrasodium phosphate or TSPP – made from formaldehyde

  • Dioxins – click here for extensive definition

  • Parabens: Stay on the lookout for names with “ethyl,” “butyl,” “methyl,” and “propyl.” A paraben is any of a group of compounds used as preservatives in pharmaceutical and cosmetic products and in the food industry. Some do not believe that parabens are as harmful as some reports indicate. Attached is a reasonable argument for use in moderation. The Cosmetic Cop

  • Water – WHAT?! Why water?! There are many pro/cons to having water in your skin care, but if you are avoiding parabens, you must avoid water, especially as a first ingredient.

It is unfortunate that these products/toxins have more than one name but that is where the research comes in! It is an absolute must; however, the list provided is a great start.  A general rule of thumb is that if you struggle to pronounce it easily or if water is an ingredient (when trying to avoid parabens), put it back on the shelf.  Let me reiterate, there are many opinions regarding parabens (and water) in skin care products, so please, utilize your time when picking out good skin care and make an informed decision.

“Cetaphil” is one of the worst products on the market.  It comes highly recommend by both doctors and dermatologists and it’s has a great reputation for its gentle cleansing and minimal ingredients (water, cetyl alcohol, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate, stearyl alcohol, methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben). However, of the eight ingredients listed, five contain ingredients that are known to be harmful and are on the top 13 ‘what to avoid lists’, and the two cetyl and stearyl alcohols are chemically engineered.  If you can buy a cleanser without these types of ingredients, why wouldn’t you?

Exhausted?! All is not lost.

The good news is the ingredients we do want in our cosmetics/skin care are much easier to identify – let’s start with this; all good skin care contains antioxidants!


  1. a substance that inhibits oxidation, especially one used to counteract the deterioration of stored food products.

    • a substance such as vitamin C or E that removes potentially damaging oxidizing agents in a living organism.

Here are a few antioxidants to look for:

Vitamin E, Lycopene, Green Tea, Coffee Berry, Resveratrol, Grape Seed, Genistein, Niacinamide

Remember, not only is our skin the largest organ in our body and it’s also the largest barrier against intruders such as germs and outside toxins, so in keeping our skin healthy and moist, it helps maintain the barrier and keep it strong.   When our skin isn’t well cared for (using cheaply made products, sun damage) it can become dry and irritated causing the top layer of skin to crack allowing for bacteria and viruses to invade the system. So, it is important to take care of it. Antioxidants protect skin by limiting the production of free radicals, which can damage skin cells and can do a lot for the health and appearance of your skin, including reducing the signs of aging.  Who doesn’t want to look younger, longer?

In addition to your antioxidants, there are many ingredients that will enhance a product depending on the skin issue, the following are just a few ingredients that you will to find in good skin care products:

  • Aging skin: Acai Oil, Alpha-hydroxy acid, Alpha-lipoic acid, caffeine, Coenzyme Q-10 (CoQ-10, Glycolic Acid, Green Tree extract, Hyaluronic acid, Retinol, Salicylic acid, Vitamin C

  • Acneic skin: Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA’s), Clay, Cucumber, Green Tea, kaolin Clay, Lavender, Sage, Salicylic Acid, Sulfur, Tea Tree Oil (Melaluca), Willow Bark Extract

  • Dry skin: Aloe Vera, Alpha-lipoic acid, Argan Oil, Chamomile, Glycerin, Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Linoleic Acid, Triglycerides, Urea

Shopping for products can be overwhelming and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.  Once you’re educated on ingredients that should be avoided, the rest is easy.  A well-made product doesn’t have to be expensive but if it is, it should last you several months if used properly.  Estheticians will never know about every product but they can certainly guide you in your journey.

The Healing Garden Day Spa carries the glo Skin Beauty line of skin loving products that nourish and transform your skin.  Would you like to discuss a better skin care regimen? Call us for a free skincare consultation!

(Cunningham, 1/23/14)