Skin Care Ingredients – For Better Of For Worse?

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Just as some skin care ingredients are considered good for the skin, there are other ingredients that are infamous for the side effects they have. While some are known to cause cancer, some are accused of over-drying the skin. But are the so called "bad" ingredients really bad for the skin?

Here are some skin care ingredients that are often misconstrued but are not as bad as they are made out to be.


'Avoid Alcohols' is perhaps the most popular skin care advice. However, it is important to remember that not all alcohols are created equal. And in spite of the fact that alcohols like ethyl alcohol (also known as SD alcohol), benzyl and isopropyl alcohol are bad for the skin, there are some that deliver benefits as well - the fatty alcohols. These alcohols help formulas transform into silky-smooth products. For example:

Cetyl alcohol
It is an emollient derived from coconut oil and is extensively used in cosmetic emulsions like hand creams, foundation, lipstick, shampoo, mascara and so on.

Stearyl alcohol
Also derived from coconut oil, it is used in skin care products to make them more firm. It is used in creams, lubricants and conditioners.

Cetearyl alcohol
This is an emulsifying wax that helps to soften ointments and thick formulations.

Lanolin alcohol
It is the sebum extracted from sheep's wool. It acts as an excellent emulsifier.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

Though it is a commonly used foaming agent in cleansers and face-washes, SLS has a bad reputation of being a carcinogen. However, this is not true. Research has proved that when used in minimal amounts, SLS is safe for the skin. The only ill effects of SLS is that it tends to irritate the skin and cause dryness. Thus it is best avoided by people with dry or sensitive skin. However, people with normal or oily skin can use SLS skin care products regularly without any worry.

Mineral Oil

A derivative of petroleum, mineral oil is relatively cheap and used extensively in skin care products. However, recent upsurges have accused mineral oil to be a carcinogen. Also, many myths like it clogs pores and causes acne and dries out the skin have been prevalent. But the truth is far from it.

Skin care products use highly refined mineral oil regulated by the FDA. Even though it might encourage breakouts in some people (mainly those with oily and acne prone skin), it is a safe skin care ingredient and helps to enhance the barrier function of the skin. This prevents moisture loss and helps to keep the skin protected in the cold winter months.


It is a powerful microbial ingredient and is used on antibacterial and acne skin care products because it fights P. acnes (acne causing bacteria) and helps against acne. However, it has been quoted as being dangerous to the skin. Fortunately, none of the claims has enough proof to back them.


Parabens (artificial preservatives used in skin care products) have been very controversial ingredients in the skin care market. Some of the most popular parabens include methyl, ethyl, propyl and butyl. They have been linked to breast cancer. However, the FDA considers parabens safe and are only used at 0.01 to 0.3 percent in skin care products. Though parabens may irritate some skin types and conditions, including sensitive complexions and eczema, it can be safely used by people with normal skin under normal conditions.

Naomi Andrews is a skin care esthetician and has worked with several spas and medical spas. She has in depth knowledge about the skin care ingredients and suggests various dry skin care and sensitive skin care treatments for women.

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