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Skincare Ingredients to Avoid

Have you ever wondered what’s in your skin and hair care products? If you look at the label, you might see a long list of ingredients that can be confusing at best to decipher. So, what’s really in your products? What do all those products do? Are there any ingredients that can be harmful? Those are great questions that can be difficult to answer on your own. That’s why we’ve gathered a list of potentially irritating chemicals and skincare ingredients to avoid. 

Why look at product labels? 

Ingredient labels are important. You don’t have to become a chemical expert, but it’s important to know what you’re putting on your body. In fact, here at Loven Dermatology and Aesthetics, we get many, many complaints from patients suffering from sensitive skin, dermatitis, other rashes and more who are using non-medical skincare, and more often than not, we track those reactions to ingredients like those below. A medical-grade skincare routine may not be accessible to everyone, and that’s okay, but that does make it even more important to understand the ingredients in your products. It’s not just in your skincare, either. Hair products contain ingredients that may cause scalp, hairline, ear and even eye irritation.  

Hair and skincare ingredients to avoid 

Some skincare ingredients you should avoid any time possible. Some, you might consider avoiding if you have sensitive skin. Determining what to avoid will largely be a personal decision that you can make on your own. With that said, we wanted to help by collecting some information to get you started. Here are some of the most common ingredients that may cause irritation, allergic reactions and more.  


Just the word formaldehyde is a little scary, and in its pure form, it is. Formaldehyde has been the subject of many lab studies to determine just how harmful it is. The American Cancer Society compiled a list of agencies who deemed formaldehyde as “a human carcinogen” or “probable human carcinogen.” Now, don’t get too scared yet. Formaldehyde is almost never in its pure form in beauty products, and in fact, it usually goes by different names on labels as a bacteria inhibitor. (If you want a full listing of chemical names and derivatives, try using EWG’s Skin Deep Database.) Derivatives of formaldehyde may, however, be found in many nail products and some hair care products. While no scientific evidence has linked these ingredients to serious side effects, it’s probably best to stay away whenever possible to avoid potential scalp and skin irritation.  


At one time or another, you’ve almost certainly used a product with fragrance. They are extremely common—think perfume, scented soap, shampoo, body wash and lotion. Now, not all fragrance is inherently bad, but if you’ve had an unexplained reaction to a product, chances are the fragrance may be to blame. Especially if you have sensitive skin, fragrance ingredients and chemicals that form the product’s smell may be causing an allergic reaction or dermatitis. More often than not, these ingredients are simply labeled as “fragrance” or “scent” on an ingredient label, which is protected under the FDA’s Fair Packaging and Labeling Act. While some companies are improving their labeling methods, it’s best to steer clear of any products with a dubious “fragrance” listing.  


If you’ve done any basic research or watched any beauty videos, you may have already heard talk about parabens. While common in many beauty and personal hygiene products, parabens are particularly common hair care products. This group of chemicals are preservatives added to products to avoid bacterial growth, mold and yeast. Parabens have been controversial for many years, with some experts saying they are potentially hormone-altering and some declaring them safe. The bottom line? The FDA has no special guidelines for preservative chemicals or ingredients in products and investigations into parabens are still ongoing. If you want to ere on the side of caution, though, it’s best to avoid them.  

Chemical Sunscreen 

Sunshine and warm weather—we hope—are right around the corner. Now, we’ve talked about the importance of wearing sunscreen all year already, but you might be stocking up in preparation for that long-awaited beach trip or day by the pool. When we’ve talked sunscreen before, we’ve talked about both chemical (sinks into skin and reacts with sun rays) and physical (sits on top of skin as a shield) sunscreen. However, just last year, the FDA raised concerns about larger than regulated amounts of chemicals from chemical sunscreen being absorbed into the skin

You don’t necessarily have to ditch all your chemical sunscreens immediately, don’t be afraid of using physical or mineral sunscreen. It’s okay to bring back the “white nose” look from years past. Also remember, you should always use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30, but that shouldn’t be your only sun defense. Sit under an umbrella, wear a hat or try SPF-rated clothing for fuller sun protection to avoid skin cancer and sun damage.  

How to find good products? 

Now that you know what to avoid, you might be wondering what you can use. Really, it does come down to your personal preference. If you want to avoid products with these ingredients, be sure to always check labels before purchasing. Another way to find great products that work for your skin is to consult with a dermatologist, dermatology nurse or medical aesthetician. Many practices, like Loven Dermatology and Aesthetics, carry medical-grade skincare lines that can help you clear up any irritation and help you achieve your skincare goals. Skincare and dermatology providers can help you determine the best products for your skin.  

At Loven Dermatology and Aesthetics, we are passionate about providing patients in Middle Tennessee with the best dermatological care and service possible. We want to help you look and feel your best. That’s why we proudly offer highly advanced and individualized treatment for a range of skin concerns and needs. Please call us at 615.859.7546 for more information or to schedule your appointment.  

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