Skin Deep

Watch these ingredients in skincare products

Anti-aging products represent the largest segment of the skincare industry, and you’ll be surprised to learn that many of the ingredients found in skincare products may actually hurt skin health and possibly increase aging. Keep an eye out for these ingredients, which may injure the skin’s barrier or increase inflammation, in turn derailing all of your youth-preserving efforts. Those with more oily skin are less susceptible to this damage, but I recommend discussing your skin type with your dermatologist.

to see if you should avoid the following ingredients.


Sulfates have gotten a bad rap, and for good reason. These harsh agents are often used in floor-scrubbing solutions, engine degreasers and car-wash soaps—so why would you ever want to put them on your face? Sulfates are found in everything from cleansers, shampoos, body washes and even toothpastes, and they are a major cause of irritation and skin dryness because they impair the skin barrier, allowing water to evaporate off the skin and allergens to creep in.

Ingredients to watch out for: Sodium dodecyl sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate. (Sodium laureth sulfate, cocamidopropyl betaine, and plant saponins are much milder sulfate options if you really need suds in your shampoos and cleansers. Those with dry skin should choose non-foaming cleansers.)

Certain alcohols

Alcohols strip away natural oils and impair the skin barrier, leaving skin dry, irritated and more prone to premature aging. Oily skin types can use alcohol because they have an abundance of lipids (fats) on the skin but dry types should beware.

Ingredients to watch out for: SD alcohol, ethanol, methanol, benzyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, ethyl alcohol

Ammonia compounds

Though these ammonia compounds may not have the same telltale scent, these ingredients dry out the skin and hair. They can also cause allergic reactions that lead to redness and inflammation.

Ingredients to watch out for: DEA, MEA TEA

Mineral oil

Derived from petroleum, mineral oil has strong moisturizing capabilities. However, some reports have suggested that it may increase your risk of skin cancer. Although we do not know if that is 100-percent the case, we do know that natural oils that contain linoleic acid and antioxidants are a much better choice. I suggest switching to oils such as grapeseed, argan and jojoba. If you are not acne-prone, coconut oil and safflower oil are good options.

Chemical sunscreens

Sun protection is the best anti-aging product available, but chemical-based SPF ingredients may actually generate free radicals when exposed to UV light. To prevent this potentially age-accelerating damage, look for a chemical sunscreen that contains antioxidants. You can also apply a layer of antioxidant serum under your sunscreen to neutralize free radicals. Use a sunscreen with zinc oxide such as EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46.

Ingredients to watch out for: Oxybenzone, benzophenone-3, octyl methoxycinnamate

Benzoyl peroxide

Many acne sufferers turn to benzoyl peroxide to keep their skin clear, but this antibacterial and anti-inflammatory ingredient may be a source of aging free radicals. This is because benzoyl peroxide relies on free radicals to kill the P. acnes bacteria that cause acne.


Oxygen facials and skincare products with oxygen may cause an increase in free radicals. It is important to remember that a free radical is an oxygen molecule with an uneven number of electrons. When a free radial damages cell membranes, cellular DNA and other cell components, this is called oxidation. My advice is that if you use these treatments, layer with an antioxidant serum to protect the skin from the free radicals.

Dr. Leslie Baumann is a board-certified dermatologist and CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute in Miami.