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Five common skincare ingredients to avoid

Stacey Baker

When my daughter Dani was a baby, I could use just about anything on her skin. I loved products that smelled delicious and as a graphic designer, I was always drawn to beautiful, creative packaging. I have to admit to you, I never read the ingredients (!) I just trusted that if they are on the market, they must be safe. My journey with Vinnie’s eczema opened my eyes to what is actually in our skincare, even skincare designed for babies. I am now a “read your skincare labels” advocate. I think as consumers, we have the right to know exactly what is in the products we use on our family’s skin every day.

Below is a shortlist of the most common commercial skincare ingredients to avoid. As you read through your skincare labels, you will be shocked at how many products contain one or more of these ingredients. I know when my family first embarked on eating more beautiful, organic foods and eliminating chemicals from our home, I found skincare to be the most challenging obstacle, because the below ingredients are super hard to avoid.



Parabens are a whole family of chemicals (methylparabens, propylparabens, butylparabens, and ethylparabens) that help preserve shelf-life of products. They are commonly found in washes, shampoos, creams, and makeup. Parabens disrupt the natural PH level of the skin.



Phthalates group of chemicals used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastics in cosmetics. This helps products stick to our skin. Phthalates can be dangerous to babies and children by disrupting endocrine in the body.



Skincare corporations can use the word “fragrance” as a “trade secret” and are not required by law to disclose the chemicals that are hiding inside. These chemicals can lead to health issues such as allergic reactions, hormonal disruption, and reproductive issues.


Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

A synthetic antioxidant that helps to extend the shelf life of a product. SLS is known to cause skin irritation and allergic reactions, it is also carcinogenic.


Petrolatum, Petroleum Jelly

Petrolatum is the first ingredient I researched when I started looking for a suitable, natural option for Vinnie’s eczema. Because Vinnie’s skin was often broken and inflamed, I worried that his ointments (all petrolatum-based) were actually absorbing into his body. Petrolatum is a by-product of petroleum refining.  It is odourless and colourless and used in many skincare formulations. When properly refined, petrolatum has no known health concerns. However, petrolatum could potentially be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. PAHs have been linked to various cancers.


I encourage you to read your labels and do your own research. Don’t be afraid to contact manufacturers and ask the tough questions. Patch testing new products is always a good practice, natural or otherwise to ensure they are safe and effective for your family’s skin. Every family’s skincare journey can look a little different.

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