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Five harmful chemicals commonly used in beauty products

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As the green, vegan and clean living movements gain momentum worldwide, consumers are becoming more aware of the ingredients found in their food, household, personal care and beauty products. While a lot is being done in the beauty industry to curb the use of harmful ingredients, and plenty of brands are reformulating their products to offer cleaner formulas, in reality, harsh chemicals are still rife.

When it comes to beauty, ingredients play an important role not only in delivering results, but also in the texture, scent and sensoriality of a product. Sometimes manufacturers include harsh chemicals because they perform a specific function very well, such as foaming or preserving. However, while they may serve a particular function, there are many downsides to exposing your skin to them.

From increasing sensitivity, to exacerbating skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis, to the harmful effects they have on our water system and marine life, there are plenty of reasons why we shouldn’t expose our skin (or the environment) to some of the most commonly used chemical ingredients in beauty products.

Not sure where to start? Here are five chemicals best avoided:


Parabens are one of the most commonly-used chemical ingredients and are known for causing controversy in the beauty industry. They’re a family of preservatives used to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mould. For the longest time there wasn’t any hard evidence to suggest that they were harmful, however, recent studies have shown that they are hormone disruptors, and may act like the hormone oestrogen in both men and women, potentially having an effect on fertility and reproductive development.

There have not been enough studies to determine their long-term effects on the body yet, but the fact that they have the ability to disrupt hormones is a major red flag.


Sulphates are surfactants that bind with dirt, oil and grime, making them easier to wash away. They perform a cleansing and foaming function in skincare, hair care and many household products. Why are they bad for you? Despite being good at cleaning, they are incredibly drying. While they may remove dirt and oil, they also strip the skin and hair of its natural, healthy oils, leading to dryness, irritation and damage.

Sulphates are also known to aggravate conditions like eczema and psoriasis and many people with sensitive skin find that they increase sensitivity and discomfort. As if that wasn’t enough reason to avoid them, sulphates may also make skin more prone to breakouts as they have the tendency to clog pores.


Silicones are often used in cosmetics for textural benefits. They have the ability to make a product feel super smooth and silky, and are sometimes present in items like lipstick (to give the product a luxurious feel and offer better application) and facial products like primers (to offer that smooth glide).

There are plenty of reasons to avoid them though. Silicones have occlusive properties, meaning they form a barrier-like coating on the skin. This is bad news for acne-prone skin, as this barrier may trap oil, dirt and bacteria, leading to more breakouts. They repel water, making them very difficult to wash off, and when used regularly, they may clog pores.

Plus, they’re bio accumulative, which means that when you rinse them off your skin and they enter the water system, they contribute to a build-up of pollution in the ocean.


Formaldehyde is a preservative used to prolong a product’s shelf life. It is a known irritant, and may cause allergic skin reactions and dermatitis. In addition to this, there are also many health concerns surrounding this controversial ingredient. Formaldehyde is considered a known human carcinogen, meaning it may contribute to the formation of cancer.


Phthalates are commonly known as plasticizers and their purpose is to increase the longevity, durability, transparency, and flexibility of a product. They are found in beauty products, household cleaning products and even plastic toys. Why are they harmful? They have been linked to changes in hormone levels and fertility issues.

The next time you pick up a beauty product, take a look at the ingredients list. If you spot any of the ingredients discussed above, you may want to reconsider using that product.

Looking for a quality skin and body care brand that offers a wide array of gorgeous products free from all of the above (and more!)? Look no further than Tree Hut, the brand that transforms your hygiene routine into a self-care ritual.

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One Comment

  • Yasmeen Shaik July 6, 2024 at 1:50 pm

    This is a highly informative post! Your explanations were clear and thorough. I especially appreciated the way you discussed the latest research findings. Thank you for sharing such valuable information


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