5 toxic ingredients you should avoid in your skincare routine Advertisement

5 toxic ingredients you should avoid in your skincare routine

The side effects will start creeping up

By Shweta Gandhi  October 17th, 2017

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

O3+ seaweed mask, Rs 775

The Body Shop rainforest moisture conditioner, Rs 800

The Body Shop seaweed oil-control gel cream, Rs 1,295

Bobbi Brown Remedies skin salve no 57, Rs 3,500

Bobbi Brown Remedies skin fortifier No 93, Rs 3,500 

Clinique pop liquid matte lip color+primer, Rs 1,650

Fabindia clove cream for acne control, Rs 190

Ciaté London pretty stix creme shine lipstick, Rs 1,650

Bobbi Brown Remedies skin clarifier no 75, Rs 3,500

Innisfree capsule recipe pack- seaweed, Rs 150

Clinique high impact lip color, Rs 1,650

The Body Shop Oils of Life intensely revitalizing face oil, Rs 3,095

Juicy Chemistry kakadu, plum and licorice mask, Rs 550

Kiehl's magic elixir hair reconstructing concentrate with rosemary leaf and avocado oil, Rs 2,800

Kiehl's powerful wrinkle reducing eye cream, Rs 3,000

Organix fight fallout + niacin3 and caffeine shampoo, Rs 689

Kiehl's smoothing oil infused conditioner, Rs 2,400

Veda Essence neem oil tea tree clove soap, Rs 210

Keihl's pure vitality skin renewing cream, Rs 4,700

Wella Professionals oil reflection smoothing oil, Rs 950

Wild Ferns manuka honey foaming face wash, Rs 1,800

Vichy Aqualia thermal awakening eye balm, Rs 1,350

Soultree licorice hair repair shampoo, Rs 575

Licorice extract 

This root extract works as a skin brightener and it also fights dandruff, reduces hair loss and boosts hair growth. 

Avocado oil

Cold-pressed avo oil is a rich source of moisture that keeps your face and scalp hydrated. It is also extremely beneficial in reducing blackheads and acne.

Clove bud oil

Manufactured largely in South Asian countries, this essential oil does wonders for acne-riddled skin and also helps reduce wrinkles and aid sagging jawlines. 

Murumuru butter

Here's another Brazilian discovery that's been ruling the organic beauty aisles. It is a natural moisturiser for sensitive skin, restores elasticity in dry hair and perfects skin texture.

Rosehip oil

This miraculous cold-pressed extraction can be the post potent weapon in your fight against ageing skin. It improves your skin's moisture levels to reduce wrinkles and fine lines, helps improve skin tone and reduces pigmentation.

Babassu Oil

Think of this Brazillian nut oil as an upgrade to coconut oil. You can use it as moisturiser (yes, even on oily skin) and also to condition your hair and lips. 

Manuka honey

This New Zealand export can up your skincare game. Known for its anti-bacterial properties, this honey is great for treating acne, reducing inflammation and clearing up your complexion. 


Ever wondered how seaweed that's mostly seen washed up on beaches found its way into salads and spa rituals? It's because this marine algae has high protein content, makes for a great skin exfoliator, fights pigmentation and helps improve scalp health.


Just like a good cup of java boosts your mood, this multitasking ingredient de-puffs eye bags, boosts hair colour, exfoliates skin and gives you the perfect glow.

Innisfree it's real squeeze mask manuka honey, Rs 100