5 toxic ingredients you should avoid in your skincare routine

The side effects will start creeping up

Literally every beauty product you buy is loaded with chemicals — whether it's your moisturiser, bath soap or body lotion. The grey area here is that these products are generally not approved by any regulatory body, which means that you can never be sure about how harmful a product is for your skin. "The sales for beauty products is pretty unregulated in India — people simply buy what their chemist suggests over the counter," says celebrity dermatologist Dr Kiran Lohia. 

The smart and safe workaround is to educate yourself about which ingredients to avoid — just the way you look at the composition of food items, train your mind to critically analyse your beauty products. "Products with alcohol and steroids (whether in a tablet form or in a product form) are an absolute no-no," says Dr Lohia. All of our perfumes are spiked with alcohol, and we often don't recognise the harsh effects of it. "Switching to organic and natural products is your safest option," she says. Start taking notes, beauty lovers — here are five commonly-found toxic ingredients and the side effects you should be aware of.

1. Parabens 

"Parabens are really hard to avoid," says Dr Lohia, "as they're common ingredients found in every other household product like soaps and creams." "Though the amount of parabens used in a product is really low, if used continuously over time, it could lead to breast cancer," says Dr Jaishree Sharad, a dermatologist based in Mumbai. "People who have a history of cancer in their family should definitely skip it," she adds.

Replace it with: Natural and essential oils/sodium benzoate/potassium sorbate/levulinic acid/isothiazolinones

2. Hydroquinone

"Hydroquinone is a universally-accepted skin lightening ingredient, and it has no side effects unless its usage is abused," says Dr Sharad. Primarily found in skin-lightening creams, it is usually mixed with steroids which gives the user a lightening effect and reduces pigmentation. "If you keep using it for 2-3 years, that's when side effects like rashes start to show," she adds. "The safest way is to use it under the guidance of a doctor. That way you get the benefits and are aware of when to stop," Dr Lohia says.

Replace it with: Arbutin/kojic acid 

3. Polyethylene Glycol

"This tends to dry up the skin and irritate it because of its high alcohol content," explains Dr Sharad. Found in creams and medicines, it's best avoided by people with dry skin. 

Replace it with: Glycerin/lanolin

4. Retinol 

Found in creams and serums, Dr Sharad claims that retinol has effective anti-ageing properties and works for those suffering from acne. "However, it's not safe to use every day as it can cause exfoliation and dryness. We recommend using half a pea size once a day," she says. Dr Lohia agrees: "Retinol is a source of vitamin A, but using it too much can cause irritated skin, which is why it should be used in small amounts." To be on the safer side, switch to the replacement below.

Replace it with: Glycolic acid

5. Synthetic Peptides

"Synthetic peptides or even synthetic colours should be avoided blindly," says Dr Lohia. The way to recognise if your product has the latter is to check the ingredients for numbers. "It's usually found in anti-ageing creams," Dr Sharad tells us, "and should definitely be skipped by people with sensitive skin."   

Replace it with: Avocado peptides/coenzyme q10

Organic beauty ingredients to switch to