The Smart Woman's Guide to Skincare Ingredients to Avoid

The Smart Woman's Guide to Skincare Ingredients to Avoid

Trying to make good choices with your skincare but confused about those ingredients?  Cancer causing, endocrine disruptors, skin irritants?!  How do you sift the rumour from fact?

Here are 5 ingredients we would urge you to think twice about; they might work for you just fine, everyone's skin is different,  but if you know the facts before you buy, you can make an informed decision.


Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and its variants are essentially detergents that are found in a huge proportion of bath and shampoo products on your bathroom shelf.  What makes SLS/SLES so appealing to most of us is their ability to form bubbles -  they are the principal ingredient in bubble baths and shower gels for that exact reason, and who doesn't love sinking into a bath full of bubbles!

 But there is a catch; they are known skin irritants, drying out the skin and causing irritation.  They do not affect everyone to the same degree, some individuals will have no problems at all and others will find their skin becomes irritated; you will need to decide what works with your skin.  There are more skin friendly alternatives on the market, based on coconut and sugar chemistry.  

It is also worth pointing out that there are other questions raised over the use of SLS/SLES - everything from concerns over them being contaminated by carcinogenic pollutants, and being damaging to the liver, lungs and immune system. There are also a lot of counter arguments to these. What we do know is that SLS and SLES can both irritate skin - not all but some. 

Ultimately there is lots of further discussion out there, and it is up to you to make up your own mind about what  you are happy to put on to your own skin.  Our view?  If you have sensitive skin, dry skin or are  prone to eczema, we would advise caution. Ditch the bubbles, plump for a luxurious bath oil and a glass of something nice!

Olga's ultimate relaxation is a steamy bath filled with Soothing or Revitalising Bath & Shower Oil, and lounging in peace for as long as she can.  Once you are over the fact there are no bubbles there, you will be seduced by the beautiful scent of the plant oils and the fact you have super soft skin on exiting the bath.  And if you are imagining a bath like an oil slick, banish that thought immediately.  You need only the tiniest amount of bath oil to give a beautiful scent and conditioned skin!


We do not use parabens in any of our products, as their safety - or not is still hotly debated.    The use of preservatives is always a tricky subject, often vilified in the press and confusing consumers.

Our key objective with using a preservative is to give our customers  products that are safe; a cream product containing water has to contain a preservative system to be safe, otherwise it would have a shelf  life of just days and would need to be kept refrigerated.  And there's lots to be said for fresh beauty recipes and formulations, cream, avocado, honey are all fabulous ingredients you can use to whip up some skin loving treats - but they should really be used straight away. 

For most people the dangers of using a product contaminated with nasties far outweighs any risk from preservatives.

Studies have raised questions about how they build up within the body over time and how they may be linked to hormone disruption and cancer;  but equally much of the mainstream industry would argue that their use is safe and non-irritating.

Some common examples of parabens are:  Butylparaben, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Isopropylparaben, and Sodium Butylparaben.

Our view?  Preservatives are a necessary part of skincare, for the most part creams and lotions that contain water in their ingredients.  For you and I, using a product without a preservative is likely to prove a greater risk than the preservative it itself (you can read more here), but we believe there are better choices and we don't use parabens in our skincare.

Mineral Oil

Mineral oil, or  'paraffinum liquidum' is a by-product of the petroleum industry, literally a by-product of distilling crude oil.  It is purified and is widely used in skincare.   It is used very commonly in skincare, especially in baby oil products, lip balms and products that need to  'slip' and 'glide' on the skin. It is also cheap - very cheap, which is another reason why is is so popular with skincare and beauty companies.

Frankly we think there are much better alternatives to use, natural organic oils that are packed with essential fatty acids and antioxidants, that support our skin and improve its condition.  Of course they are more expensive, which in turn means such products are more expensive to consumers - and only you can decide whether that is something that is worth your hard earned pennies. 

You will recognise mineral oil on the ingredients list as Mineral Oil, Paraffin, Liquid Petroleum.


 Silicones are used in the skincare industry to give a luxurious, silky feeling to products when applied to the skin, blurring over fine lines and ageing skin.  Silicones sell, luxuriously smooth and glide-ey, they can give a beautiful skin feel.  Ironically this is usually via a synthetic silicone product which acts like cling film over the skin, blocking pores, and trapping in impurities and bacteria

 Silicones are also a mainstay in most of our haircare products, shampoos, conditioners and serums.  These silicones are also non-biodegradable with concerns about how they are building up in the environment over time.

 We think these are unnecessary, there are so many fabulous natural plant oils that give strong benefits to the skin and which still provide a luxurious, silky feeling to the skin.  Our favourite Radiance Facial Essence with Rose & Marula is a case in point. 

You will recognise these on your labels as Dimethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane, or Dimethicone Copolyol.

 To give you a balanced view of the world, we should point out that it is not a case of natural is good and chemical is bad.  There are absolutely some  chemicals that you would not want in your skincare - but there are also products found in nature that are poisonous - think snake venom or poison ivy. 

Our take?  Artificial silicones are unnecessary, there are plenty of beautiful natural oils that give great skin-feel, they  just cost a little more. The ingredients we use are those that we think give luxurious, effectual and indulgent skincare.

Propylene Glycol

PG comes from propylene which is a by product of petroleum refining and  is used as a humectant and delivery mechanism in skincare to deliver other ingredients into the skin.  It does have some rather far reaching industrial applications ; it is used in antifreeze and as in ingredient in brake fluid. 

It acts as a barrier on the skin in much the same way as petroleum or mineral oil; it gives the outward feel of soft hydrated skin, but it does not actually add any moisture.  It is also known to be irritating in larger quantities, and experts still argue about whether the smaller quantities used in skincare would cause that same irritation.

Our view is that there are better ingredients to use, and which add moisture and antioxidants to your skin and are full of goodness.

Let us know, do you have experience of using these ingredients or do you choose to avoid them?

You may also like View all