As we grow older, our skin changes in many ways. Eventually, it recovers at a different pace, becoming different in its delicateness. It reveals new lines and textures. It gains new properties and loses old ones.
As these changes happen, our skin also needs to shift -the largest and most visible organ of our bodies steps into a new phase over time. The best way to make the most of this is to grow in mindfulness of it—to become even more aware and discerning of what we put on it, how we nourish it, and how we let it continue to empower us.
It is vital to know and understand the realities behind the products that can keep our skin healthy. Many skincare trends—both old and new—boast of miracle ingredients or deliver supposedly desirable properties. But how much of these can truly help us keep our skin looking great as we move through the different stages of our lives?
Let's look into some of the most common ingredients in the skincare market today that might be more hype than help.
Fragrances are the most common cause for sensitizing skin. This damage may not be immediate, but it is cumulative. That means constant exposure to fragrances may hasten skin damage, causing discoloration and hyperpigmentation.
Fragrances are still being used today because it masks the scent of other skincare ingredients. Some synthetic ingredients leave much to be desired for scent, so manufacturers use fragrances to keep products attractive. This manufacturing move also affects people's buying decisions, and many still believe that good-smelling products are beneficial to the skin.
But it is also important to remember that not all perfumes are harmful. Some natural ingredients have a pleasant fragrance that does not irritate and is excellent for the skin. Examples include cucumber, melon, almond, mango, cocoa butter, vanilla, aloe vera, and shea butter.
Colorants are artificial dyes and coloring ingredients used to give products their appealing color. Most of these are made of combinations of synthetic additives to come up with a particular color. Some colors may even be comprised of 50 or more chemicals, depending on the combination
What's concerning is that many artificial colorants and dyes are often made from coal tar, petroleum, heavy metals salts like arsenic and lead. If used on the skin, the artificial colorants may block your pores, causing acne breakouts. Your skin may also absorb some of these contaminants and cause more damage.
3. Animal-based ingredients
Surprisingly, there are still many animal by-products used in cosmetics these days. These ingredients are often used not because they are more effective than vegetable or synthetic ones but because they are generally cheaper.
Some examples are Bee products, Lanolin, and silk powder. Bee products emerge from abusive practices such as replacing hive honey with cheap sugar, causing millions of bees to die. Other methods include destroying hives after honey collection using cyanide gas and pollen-collection trap doors that tear off the bees' legs during harvest.
Lanolin comes from sheep oil glands. It's used as an emollient in many cosmetic products but is an allergen with no proven effectiveness.
Silk powder comes from the secretions of a silkworm. It is often used as a coloring agent in cosmetics but may cause severe allergic reactions when inhaled or ingested.
While having no harmful effects on your skin, water surprisingly adds no effect to your skincare products. Furthermore, it has a detrimental environmental impact when water is infused in the formula.
Cosmetic industries often use distilled water in their products, which goes through a purification process that uses 9 liters of regular water to produce 1 liter of distilled water. That is a lot of waste!
Removing water from the equation can result in fewer fillers in your skincare product, making room for more effective ingredients. It also reduces the drying effect from water evaporation and saves your skin from preservatives that water-based formulas need to stop microbial growth.
5. Citrus Oils
You may also want to stay away from citrus oils such as lime oil and extract, especially for products that you leave on the skin.
Citrus oils can increase your sensitivity to sunlight, causing patchy and uneven skin tones. While many companies try to remove the photosensitizing compounds in these ingredients, some compounds can cause irritation and allergies.
While citrus oils may have antioxidant qualities, their potential to sensitize the skin to sunlight outweighs their benefit.
6. Overly Abrasive exfoliants
Many still think that scrubbing more can help remove contaminants in our skin. There are false beliefs that blackheads or acne can be scrubbed away. If only it were that easy.
Too much scrubbing may be more damaging than beneficial to your skin. Scrubs are not harmful in themselves. But some exfoliants may be overly abrasive and damaging to your skin. Some of these are fruit pits, ground-up shells, and volcanic rock. These ingredients can cause micro-tears in your skin, resulting in redness, irritation, and dry, flaky skin.
Also, if the scrubs have fragrances, this can add to the irritation of the skin. So be gentle with your skin. Using a gentle scrub, usually with round particles, can help alleviate your worry about hurting your skin.
One major thing to consider when looking into skincare options is the potency of the ingredients in each product. Many, if not all, skincare brands claim to be safe and beneficial, but they do not say how much of their ingredients are actually just fillers.
Fillers are essentially extender ingredients that can add bulk, volume, or lubrication to a formula. It is important to note that while not all fillers are harmful, many joint fillers are also the culprits of decreased potency in a skincare formula. Some common fillers being used in skincare products these days include ethanolamine compounds, chemical groups of amino acids typically found in cosmetics and household cleaning products, and inactive ingredients such as parabens, PEGs and dyes.
Because of fillers, the supposedly beneficial ingredients being marketed by many skincare brands may be getting minimal contact with your skin, depriving you of the intended benefits in the process. So the next time you pick up a cheap bottle of serum or a cheap tub of moisturizer that fronts all these supposedly unique ingredients, ask yourself—how much of these ingredients am I buying?
8. Coconut oil
Contrary to popular belief, coconut oil is not the solution to all things moisture-related. And while it can work wonders for some beauty concerns, getting better skin is not one of them.
The topical application of coconut oil can do more harm than good. It is a highly comedogenic ingredient, meaning it cannot penetrate our pores. Using coconut oil would also mean that it would rest on top of the skin, creating a barrier that can suffocate pores.
Continuous use of coconut oil can lead to clogged pores and breakouts, and on top of this, the lack of absorption can lead to extreme dryness rather than enhanced moisture.
Without a doubt, collagen plays a vital role in skincare, but just like coconut oil, the hype surrounding the ingredient can be misleading.
While collagen does indeed play a vital role in skin elasticity and firmness, using it in a topically applied product heeds little to no benefits. Like coconut oil, the molecular properties of collagen do not allow it to be absorbed through the outermost layer of our skin.
The most it can do is moisturize the skin, but other than that, benefits like stimulating the body's collagen synthesis or production will not come about from topical application.
10. Stem cells
Stem cell technology has become an exciting branch of medical discoveries, especially for the cosmetic industry. The stem cell's potential for repairing and regenerating cells feels like a new untapped fountain of youth. So, it is not surprising that many beauty companies have capitalized on using stem cell creams and serums to push this medical research into consumers' minds.
But it is sad to say that many of these claims play more on the illusion of youth than actual benefits. For stem cells to work as they do in their natural hosts, they need to be alive. But after processing and packing into skincare products, the stem cells have long been dead and no more extended function as they initially do.
Also, stem cells used in cosmetics are plant-based. But plant stem cells do not influence human stem cells. They do, however, retain some of their antioxidant qualities, which can still be beneficial to your skin.
Most, if not all, of these ingredients, have become familiar to us at some point in time. It is important to note that just because we hear of them often doesn't mean they can do anything for our skin. Some of them may even harm our skin or drastically affect our skincare routines—routines that we should be paying extra attention to as the years go by.
With age comes added attention to the way we care for ourselves and our bodies. Our wiser selves look into the nuances of how we keep ourselves happy and healthy. The details undoubtedly matter. Looking closely into skincare is no different.
What ingredients do you avoid in skincare? Let us know in the comments below!