By Skincare Junkie Inc

5 Skincare Ingredients to Avoid, According to Skincare Junkie Dermatologist

At Skincare Junkie, our dermatologist-developed products are designed to be effective and safe, first and foremost. Skincare Junkie products are hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, pregnancy-safe, cruelty-free, and vegan. Our products are free of toxic and harmful ingredients, such as parabens, SLS, fragrance, phthalates, and PEGs. 

Last week, we talked about one of our superhero star ingredients; this week, let’s dive into their villain counterparts. Meet the bad guys of regular skincare that you do not want anywhere near your skin. 


You might have heard that parabens are an ingredient to avoid. But what are parabens, and why are they to be avoided? Here is everything you need to know. 

Parabens are a group of chemicals used as preservatives in cosmetics, personal care products, and even some foods and pharmaceuticals. Their primary role is to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold, extending the shelf life of products. Common types include methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben. 

Despite their wide use, parabens have come under scrutiny due to health concerns. It is known that they can penetrate the skin (for example, when using a skincare product) and remain within tissue. The chemicals are absorbed through the skin, enter the bloodstream, and are eventually excreted in urine. One 2006 study found parabens in all urine samples taken from adults in the US, and women had several-fold higher concentrations than men. It appears that those who use more skincare products containing parabens end up with more parabens in their body!

Parabens have been shown to cause endocrine disruption, skin irritation, and reproductive harm. Parabens are known to mimic estrogen, a hormone critical to female reproductive development. This has raised concerns about their potential role as endocrine disruptors, interference with hormonal balance and potential reproductive issues, such as impact on fertility and birth outcomes, and even certain cancers, particularly breast cancer

Long-chain parabens—propylparaben, isopropylparaben, isobutylparaben and butylparaben—have shown the highest potential for harm. The former two have been banned by California in the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act. Methylparaben and ethylparaben are thought to be the safest of the parabens - but that certainly does not equate to safe. 

Certain parabens are banned in the EU, especially in products designed for children. Unfortunately, the US skincare and beauty industries are notoriously poorly regulated, and there are many ingredients in our products that have data to suggest harm. Look for paraben-free skincare products

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (Sulfates)

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (also known as SLS and SLES) is a chemical detergent found in many personal care products. It is well known for its ability to create a lather, effectively removing oils, dirt, and debris from the skin and hair. 

The problem with SLS is that it’s very harsh. It can strip away the naturally protective skin barrier and cause irritation. In some individuals, especially those with sensitive skin, SLS can cause skin dryness and redness. In shampoos and hair care products, SLS can strip natural oils from the hair and scalp, leading to dry, brittle hair and an irritated scalp. The good news is that there are great alternatives that provide excellent cleansing effects without the same potential for irritation. 

SLS is also believed to have a negative environmental impact. It can contribute to environmental pollution if not properly treated in wastewater. 


Fragrances, also known as perfumes, are aromatic compounds that give a distinct scent to the product. They can be derived from natural sources like essential oils or created synthetically. Fragrances are added to a wide range of products—to add a scent or to mask the odor of other ingredients. 

The primary concern with fragrances in skincare products is their potential to cause skin irritation and allergic reactions. Fragrance is a very common allergen that frequently leads to hypersensitivity reactions. Some individuals, especially those with sensitive skin, may experience redness, itching, or rashes when using products containing fragrances. 

Another concern is the lack of transparency regarding the composition of fragrances. Manufacturers are not always required to disclose the specific ingredients in a fragrance blend, citing proprietary formulas. This can make it difficult for consumers, particularly those with allergies or sensitivities, to identify potential irritants. 

Certain fragrance compounds have been linked to more serious health issues, though this is less common and usually associated with prolonged exposure to high concentrations. 

While fragrances in skincare products are generally considered safe for the majority of the population when used as intended, fragrance-free products are a better alternative generally, and particularly if you have sensitive skin or allergies. We always recommend patch-testing new products and carefully reading labels. 


Phthalates are a group of chemicals used in a wide range of products, including skincare. They are used as solvents and fixatives in personal care products (for example, in nail polishes, hairsprays, and eyelash adhesive). Phthalates in skincare products are used to help perfume adhere to skin. 

Phthalates are known to be endocrine disruptors—they can interfere with the hormonal system, potentially causing onset of early puberty in kids and reduced sperm count in men. Research has also linked certain phthalates to an increased risk of certain cancers, especially in children. Particularly concerning is their potential effect on the developing fetus and young children, leading to changes in hormone levels and developmental issues. 

Phthalates can enter the human body through direct contact with products containing them: by inhalation, ingestion, or skin absorption. Just like parabens and SLS, phthalates are harmful not just to our health and our children’s health, but also to the environment. 

Some phthalates have been restricted or banned, especially those in products targeted at children. To avoid phthalates in your skincare products, read product labels and choose products that clearly state they are phthalate-free.  


Polyethylene Glycols (PEGs) are widely used in personal care products and are usually added for their ability to help products absorb into the skin. They serve various purposes, including acting as thickeners, softeners, and moisture-carriers. 

PEGs can cause mild skin irritation or contribute to skin dryness, particularly for those with sensitive skin. 

They are also known to have carcinogenic properties. Due to their many impurities, long-term exposure to PEGs can lead to respiratory irritation and damage to the nervous system. The risk is particularly significant when PEGs are used in products that are left on the skin for extended periods or in products that are aerosolized, such as sprays. 

The poorly regulated cosmetics industry considers PEGs generally safe at the concentrations used. However, there are many safer alternatives to PEGs, so it is better to choose a product free of PEGs. Check your product labels! 

Safer Alternatives? 

There are so many skincare ingredients out there and most of us don’t hold degrees in chemistry or dermatology. Sticking to safe and trustworthy skincare brands that care about your WHOLE health is highly recommended. 

Skincare Junkie founder and board-certified dermatologist, Dr Blair Murphy-Rose, recommends looking for products that don’t include any of the ingredients above and brands that hold themselves to higher health and safety standards, like Skincare Junkie

Drama Free Skincare 

At Skincare Junkie, we are committed to creating innovative, effective, non-compromising skincare, and it is our mission to make healthy skincare fun. 

All of our products are pregnancy-safe, cruelty-free, and vegan. They are paraben-, SLS/ sulfate-, fragrance-, phthalate-, and PEG-free too. We avoid all of the questionable ingredients that are lurking in your other products. Feed your need for healthy skin and get your drama-free skincare here!