Welcome back if you’ve arrived here from my previous post! Now that we’ve looked at what skincare ingredients we should adopt, let’s consider those nasty ones we should try to avoid wherever possible.

Skincare shot, product running down a woman's arm
Skin this smooth? Look after it!
Photo by Ian Dooley, Unsplash

I had to do a lot of research on skincare to know what was good and bad for my skin. My mum was never too fussed and regularly slept (and still does sleep) in her make-up, using skincare products here or there. Not the best role model for looking after skin! During lockdown in the UK, I took popular YouTuber Hyram’sSkin Care Junkie’ course, which taught me what ingredients to look for across different skincare products. It’s free, informative, and would only take up an hour of your day. I want to share what I’ve learned from this course and through trial and error. Our skin responds to products we use, the activities we do, and exposure to the environment. That’s why it’s important to know what ingredients we should all be taking steps to avoid. Continue reading for the ingredients I avoid in my skincare routine and why.

Ingredients to avoid putting on your skin

Avoid fragrance in your skincare routine

Skincare ingredients to avoid: fragrance
Photo of two perfume bottles
While lovely in perfume, try to avoid fragrance in your skincare routine
Photo by Kailey Sniffin on Unsplash

This is an ingredient we should all avoid. Fragrance is a common sensitizing ingredient for all skin types. Despite this, the ingredient is still popular in skincare products. Why is this? Simply put, it’s because most people enjoy how fragrance makes their skin and hair smell. Additionally, lots of skincare ingredients don’t smell great, and therefore fragrance is a good way to mask this. Perhaps people don’t see the effects it’s having on their skin, or they like the way it makes their skin smell. I love it when products smell yummy, so I totally understand the lure, and the skin is excellent at hiding when it’s irritated, so we don’t always realize.

To be clear, skin failing to appear damaged doesn’t mean it’s not. Fragrance is a sensitizing ingredient, causing allergies and reactions. The way fragrance gives off its odor is through a volatile reaction. This means, for the scent to be emitted, a reaction takes place on your skin. Doesn’t sound good for your skin, right? Correct! Avoid, avoid, avoid.

Avoid alcohol in your skincare routine

A high concentration of alcohol in a skincare product is a problem. The weightless characteristics of this ingredient are deceiving. Alcohol harms the skin immediately, causing cells to self-destruct. This is because alcohol destroys substances inside the cells, such as the ones reducing inflammation. There’s only so much a cell can take, meaning they can decide they’ve had enough and self-destruct. So, using the inflammation example, damaging them can make your skin look puffy and sore… not something I’m after.

Paula’s Choice couldn’t have said it better:

The research is clear: Alcohol harms your skin’s protective barrier, triggers damage, makes oily skin and redness worse. Why bother, given the damaging effects of topical alcohol and the hundreds of skin-friendly alternatives available?

Paula’s Choice

SD-alcohol/ethanol-based ingredients are the ones to avoid most. Why? Because they can strip the skin of its natural protection, causing the skin to be extremely dry and irritated. If you want to avoid this, ditch alcohol as an ingredient in your skincare.

Avoid sodium lauryl sulfate/sodium laureth sulfate in your skincare routine

Photo of a woman rubbing cleanser onto her hands. Cleanser is vital for keeping skin clean and healthy.
Photo by Curology on Unsplash

This is an ingredient I always look out for in cleansers and body wash. Originally, sulfates were used in the laundry industry. Yes, that’s right, for washing your clothes! Eventually, sulfates took off in all cleaning avenues, hence their introduction into skincare products such as cleansers and products we use on our skin.

Used mainly as cleansing agents, we know them to cause skin irritation and prompt allergies. They’re extremely sensitizing and not something we should put on our faces if we can help it. Sulfate-free products are less desirable for some as, without it, products don’t lather up or foam as well, leaving the skin feeling less clean. An excellent alternative is to opt for an oil-based cleanser. Lots of these lather gorgeously when melted together with warm water.


There is so much information out there on skincare ingredients. Go online, read a magazine, or pop into a store for advice from a skin expert. The information is accessible to all, so there’s no excuse anymore! If in doubt, Paula’s Choice ‘Ingredient Dictionary’ is an incredible source, answering all your skincare queries. The website rates ingredients from best to worst and really is an excellent all-round skincare tool. With all this in mind, here’s to happy and healthy skin!

What ingredients should I write about next? What ingredients do you tend to avoid? Let’s all learn from each other!