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Parabens, Minesal oil, Alcohol, Silicones in Skincare – The Good, Bad or Ugly? Really!

When picking out skincare products what should you look for and try out first and why?

The most important thing is to know your own expectation. What result do you want from the product? Does your complexion look uneven and dull? Is your skin oily and bothered by pimples? Has skin gotten sensitive? After that I recommend talking with salespeople or brand representatives or look for information and reviews about products online.  When a product or products of interest have been found, the first contact or test is always cognitive and has to do with the senses. You apply the product onto the skin, you touch, smooth, massage and smell. If this primary process isn’t pleasurable then afterwards it becomes very difficult to somehow convince yourself to like the product. That’s why texture, absorption and fragrance are so important. After that you should find out more about the product – what it contains (INCI list). When all this has convinced you and you are pleased with everything then I recommend taking the product home with you!

Which product properties should be avoided and why?

What does not suit you should be avoided. Such as a certain ingredient if by a miracle  you’ve been lucky enough to find out one,  should never be present in the products you use.  What does not suit your skin  can be very difficult to figure out and “luck” has a big part to play. And as luck is pretty hard to find, instead ingredients that are buzzed about start to be avoided. A good example of this are parabens. It is a preservative that has been used for a very long time both in the food and beauty industry. Then, 10 years ago rumours from the US started coming in that said it could be a possible cancerogen, as it has been found in cancer research. However, up to this day, there is no concrete proof that parabens cause cancer, but the manufacturers have still, influenced by consumer opinion, removed these preservatives from their products. In its essence, this isn’t a bad thing, as it gives people the  knowledge that our word also has a big part to play and that we do have the power to change entire industries.
Looking from another perspective however, the fact is that parabens are often replaced with a variety of different preservatives in order to guarantee the same efficiency. The use of all parabens is not forbidden and they have been researched a lot. Their widespread use is due to the fact that they keep products protected from bacteria, fungi etc. Natural alternatives do exist, but researchers are yet to find those which would be as efficient and suitable for different product groups – those you wash off and those you leave on.
Thus, it  is a place of personal choice and decision-making – often the word ‘’paraben-free” suggests the use of a whole lot of less-known and less-researched preservatives which might not necessarily be better and safer alternatives to parabens.

It is often told to stay away from certain ingredients, such as silicones, perfume, alcohol, mineral oils etc. Why is that and does using products containing these substances really ensure bad consequences?

So, I’ve already talked about parabens in my previous answer. Again, this is a hot topic as well. I’ll go through these  substances one by one:
Silicones, everything that in the INCI list end with -cone (dimethicone, silicone, cyclomethicone) and also PEG+number compounds. In makeup products, these substances are justified as they make skin surface super smooth, but I recommend to avoid these in skincare products. Smoothness feels nice, but the same cannot really be said about the “film” that appears on the skin with the use of silicones and that after long-term use, starts to disrupt skin’s normal functioning.

Mineral oil and paraffinum liquidum, vaseline, petrolatum, cera microcristallina – after long-term use,  they result in clogged pores. Please do avoid these in eye products as it might well be that the reason behind the puffy morning eyes isn’t fatigue but the mineral oil in your eye cream. But, as I always say, if the skin suffers from dryness or roughness that requires a quick solution, then the afore mentioned ingredients might be necessary for short time use. Together with glycerin, that isn’t forbidden or harmful, but something which I tend to avoid, these components often make up the pharmacies base cream ingredient list!

Alcohol– a very wide range of alcohols is used for different needs. 2 groups need to be divided simple alcohols (ethanol, alcohol denat., ethyl alcohol, benzyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol) and fatty alcohols (cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol ja cetearyl alcohol). I would keep my skincare free of the first group, each day, every day! These types bind the water in your skin and evaporate fast after application, leaving your skin dry and tight. If your skin often meets them, the natural barrier will be harmed and in order to help itsself, the skin starts to produce more sebum. We can welcome dehydrated skin and acne at its worst. Those types of alcohols are mainly used as solvents, astringents, preservatives. Fatty alcohols are oil soluble, derived from natural origin (coconut oil, palm oil). They do not dry out the skin, but based on the research I have read, long term use can clog pores and result in pimples. Altough the fatty alcohols are mainly used as emulsifiers, thickeners, emollients, there are plenty of other ingredients to be used – with same efficacy and less cotroversey.

Perfume – very controversial. People want their product to have a nice smell, but they don’t want aroma compounds on their skin. :) This is a tough nut to crack for the manufacturer. Luckily, specially formulated fragrances for the use in skincare products have been  invented that do not contain allergens (linalool,  limonene being the most known). If you have a doubt that a certain cream might be unsuitable for you, then just to make sure you should see that these ingredients which irritate your skin aren’t in the front of the INCI list.

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