skincare ingredients we don't use harmful

12 Harmful Ingredients to Avoid in Skincare

Not all skincare products were created equal. There’s a dictionary-length list of toxic and questionable ingredients to avoid in skincare products that keeps getting longer. The problem? You don’t always know what those products are or how to avoid them. Plus, you don't get much help in this area from most companies or regulatory bodies like the FDA. Why? There’s limited federal regulation of skincare ingredients to avoid in the cosmetics industry in the US. While there are over 1,300 chemicals banned in the EU, the US has only banned 11. On top of that, cosmetic products in the US can go straight from manufacturing to store shelves without any approval or safety testing. If there’s a complaint, the FDA has no authority to issue a recall. Talk about the wild wild west.

At Eight Saints, we’re focused on keeping it simple. We use efficacious ingredients that either directly benefit the skin or help support the ingredients that do. We also reject bad ingredients in skin care and potentially dangerous ingredients that could be damaging to your health. That includes these 13 harmful skincare ingredients we never use. Here's why.

What Ingredients to Avoid in Skincare?

There are too many harmful ingredients in skincare to count. Bihoxymula Fluoride? That isn't a thing, but it could just as easily be for all everyday people to know. That's why our brand specifically offers products without chemical-heavy formulas. With so many ingredients to consider avoiding, it can pay great confidence to know that Eight Saints Ingredients focus on what's simple and what works.

Take a look at these 13 toxic ingredients to avoid in skincare products alongside explanations of why they're bullets worth dodging.

The Top Culprits of What to Avoid in Skincare

1. Butylated HydroxyAnisole and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)

These synthetic antioxidants are commonly used to extend product shelf life. But don’t be fooled - these are not like natural, good-for-you antioxidants. Instead, they are likely carcinogens and hormone disruptors that may cause liver damage.

Found in: Lipsticks, moisturizers, diaper creams, and other cosmetics.

Save yourself the time of Googling 'is BHT bad for skin' with this simple answer: yes. In fact, Butylated HydroxyAnisole and Butylated Hydroxytoluene is one of the biggest ingredients to avoid in skincare, as it's only safe up to a maximum concentration of 0.8% in leave-on and rinse-off products.

Alternatively, natural preservatives such as coconut oil are capable of doing just as great of a job. You can find it in a range of Eight Saints products, including Spicy Rum Punch Bar Soap, Hometown Honey Bar Soap, and Rainbow Is My Favorite Color Bar Soap. Our Lip Trick Treatment and All In Eye Cream are also free of BHT and other notoriously bad skincare ingredients. 

2. Ethylenediaminetetraacetic Acid (EDTA)

EDTA is a chelating (binding) agent added to cosmetics to improve product stability. It’s supposed to keep active ingredients in a formula from binding with trace elements, like minerals, that are present in water. It also prevents a product’s texture, odor, and consistency from changing.

But, it has been shown to cause irritation to the eyes, skin, and lungs. And it may be toxic to non-reproductive organs. Yikes!

Found in: Hair color, moisturizers.

Notorious among the baddest of the bad ingredients in skin care, Ethylenediaminetetraacetic Acid is something that you want to steer clear of at all costs. Luckily, with Eight Saints, that cost is nothing. Our Daydreamer Natural Face Moisturizerdoesn't use any of the ingredients to avoid in skincare products we're discussing today - including EDTA - and instead delivers moisture through natural means. An added perk, it also contains amino acids! Amino acids make up a crucial part of the skin's natural moisturizing factor, which is what keeps the stratum corneum, or the outer layer of the skin, moisturized.

3. Hydroquinone

This skin-bleaching and skin-lightening chemical is meant to inhibit the production of melanin. In the short term, this can help with dark spots and discoloration. In the long-term, though, the chemical is linked to cancer, organ toxicity, and skin irritation.

It can also cause a skin disease called ochronosis, which causes blue-black lesions to appear on the skin - permanently.

Avoid hydroquinone (especially in concentrations higher than 2%), skin lighteners that don’t label their ingredients clearly, and lighteners that contain mercury, calomel, mercurio, and mercurio chloride.

Found in: Skin-lightening creams.

Hydroquinone takes spot number three on our list of ingredients in skincare to avoid for obvious reasons. Formulas that use it are among the worst skin care products to use regularly, as the ingredient has been linked to a variety of serious health risks. Eight Saints again comes through with equally, if not more effective alternatives.

We know How to Deal with Age Spots on Legs the natural way - the ingredients in our Soulmate Brightening Treatment and Seeking C Face Serum can have a big impact on issues like discoloration and hyperpigmentation.

4. Oxybenzone

This sunscreen agent and ultraviolet light absorber is found in the majority of over-the-counter sunscreens. It acts like estrogen in the body and, as a result, is linked to endometriosis and altered sperm production.

This high-risk chemical can also cause irritation, sensitization, allergies, and possible hormone disruption. On top of that, it has been known to be harmful to coral reefs, which is why it’s been banned in Hawaii.

Found in: Sunscreen, moisturizer.

Sub for: Sunscreens with zinc oxide, titanium oxide, or avobenzone.

Who needs bad skincare ingredients like Oxybenzone when you can get its same effects from natural products like Eight Saints' Daydreamer Natural Moisturizer and Chase the Sun SPF30. Among our most popular offerings, these formulas are filled with all of the powerful nutrients you want for your skin and free of the biggest ingredients in skincare to avoid.

5. Parabens (methyl-, isobutyl-, propyl- and others)

This is one that you may have heard about a lot,but perhaps don't understand fully.

At their most basic, parabens are a family of preservatives (methylparabens, propylparabens, butyl parabens, and ethyl parabens) that are commonly used to extend shelf life by preventing the growth of bacteria and mold.

According to the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Products, longer chain parabens like propyl and butyl paraben - along with their branched counterparts, isopropyl and isobutyl parabens - may disrupt the endocrine system and cause reproductive and developmental disorders.

Overall, the FDA acknowledges several studies linking parabens - which also mimic estrogen - to breast cancer, skin cancer, and decreased sperm count. Despite that, it has yet to rule them as harmful.

Look for and avoid ingredients with the suffix “-paraben" in favor of those marked "paraben-free".

Found in: Shampoo, face cleanser, body wash, body lotion, foundation, makeup, moisturizer, shaving gel, shampoo, personal lubricant and spray tan products.

Parabens are the bad skin care ingredients your mom warned you about growing up. Down to Earth Gel Cleanser, Bright Side Cream Cleanser for Dry Skin, and Pass the Bar Gift Set mix with a better crowd of non toxic skin care ingredients you can feel confident using regularly. All that's left to worry about when shopping from Eight Saints is How to Pick the Right Bar Soap For Your Skin Type - everything is bubbly from there. 

6. Phthalates (DBP, DEHP, DEP and others)

Phthalates are a class of plasticizing chemicals used to make products more pliable and to make fragrances stick to skin.

They can be extremely dangerous - particularly to children. It’s best to avoid them all together (even if you’re an adult) as they can be serious endocrine disruptors and may even cause birth defects. Congress has already banned several types of phthalates from children’s products


Found in:

Synthetic fragrance, nail polish, hairspray, and plastic materials.

Phthalates aren't just hard to pronounce. They're also some of the most toxic skin care ingredients out there. That's why we blend formulas with natural sources of fragrance such as the gentle aroma of tangerine found in Zen Out of Ten Scrub. It doesn't have phthalates - or any other notoriously bad ingredients in skin care, for that matter.

7. Polyethylene Glycol (PEG compounds)

PEGs are widely used in cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers. They are also the primary components of those tiny plastic beads found in face scrubs and exfoliating washes.

While PEGs themselves aren't harmful, they can cause irritation when used on broken skin. The big problem is that they’re frequently contaminated with ethylene oxide (a known carcinogen that easily penetrates the skin) and 1,4-dioxane (which causes respiratory problems and is banned in Canada).

And they go right through our sewage systems into waterways, where they are often consumed by marine animals.

Found in: Creams, sunscreen, shampoo, exfoliants.

Number seven on our list of skin care ingredients to avoid, Polyethylene Glycol isn't something you want to be rubbing into your skin on a regular basis. Natural exfoliators like ours, on the other hand? Absolutely. Nothing beats the deep-clean feeling of Eight Saints' Welcome To The Scrub Coconut Body Scrub and Coco Cocoa Creme Body Butter. Filled with hydrating and healing oils - your skin will surely appreciate the luxury.

8. Silicone

Silicone is interesting because it’s not actually a toxic ingredient.That said, it can prevent additional moisture from getting into your skin, thereby dehydrating your pores and throwing off your skin's natural regulatory processes.

Found in: Leave-on skincare products, hair care products

Silicone? Isn't that what they use for industrial sealants? There's no question about the fact that this is one of the most important chemicals to avoid in skincare products. It's just not made for the skin. Our No Plans Clay Mask and Bright Side Cream Cleanser, on the other hand, are. Rich in vitamin A and free of silicone, you can feel confident using them on a regular basis.

9. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS and SLES)

SLS and SLES are surfactants that can cause skin irritation and trigger allergies. They have been shown to contribute to skin irritation, canker sores, disruption of the skin’s natural oil balance, and eye damage - yikes! They’re also widely believed to contribute to cystic acne, particularly around the mouth and chin.

And if that’s not bad enough, SLES is often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a byproduct of a petrochemical process that’s known to cause respiratory problems.

In short, it’s also up there among the ingredients to avoid in skincare.

Other names: Sodium laureth sulfates, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, alkylbenzene sulfonate, sodium cocoyl sarcosinate.

Found in: Shampoo, body wash, bubble bath, foundation, face wash, mouthwash, and toothpaste.

All of the worst skin care products have one - scratch that - two things in common: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate. These synthetic soaps absolutely deserve a spot on our list of skincare ingredients to avoid, especially for their prevalence in toners. Our Coast is Clear Face Toner is free of both, and instead relies on natural ingredients to tone the skin.

10. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a preservative used to prolong the shelf lifeof many self care products. Coincidentally, these are also the biggest products to avoid in skincare. It is widely understood to cause allergic skin reactions and rashes in cosmetics, and among the top 5 ingredients to avoid in skincare for many.

Eight Saints doesn't use formaldehyde, instead opting to replace it with natural preservatives like grapefruit seed extract, Vitamin E, and antioxidants. You can experience their benefits for yourself in our Seeking C Face Serum, Up the Anti, and Pep Rally Face Serum, alongside other powerful Eight Saints Ingredients.

11. Aluminum

While it may not be the first thing you think of when you hear the words 'toxic ingredient' in the context of skin care, there are many harmful short and long-term effects associated with the use of aluminum in topically applied products. From skin irritation to nerve damage, it's hard to ignore the potential risks associated with this ingredient - making formulas containing it skin care products to avoid. Beware of aluminum outside of facial cleansers and creams, too. It's commonly used in cosmetics, anti perspirants, hair dyes and hair products.

12. Siloxane

Love those creams that guarantee you a smooth, silky feel every time? Virtually all of them contain number 13 on our list of chemicals to avoid in skincare. Siloxane can provide smoothness and lubricity, so you'll often find it in moisturizer and foundation. It is among toxic skin care ingredients for its effect on endocrine disruption and links to fertility issues. Knowing what skincare ingredients to avoid is important in any case, but especially when it comes to stakes as high as these. We recommend our Almond Butter Sugar High Hand Cream as a safer alternative.

Bonus: Synthetic flavor or fragrance

The word “fragrance” is essentially a cop-out for many companies that don’t want to admit to all the chemicals that they have in their products.

At their most basic, these “fragrances” are engineered scents or flavoring agents that may contain any combination of 3,000-plus stock chemical ingredients, including ingredients to avoid in skincare like hormone disruptors and allergens.

What’s worse - fragrance formulas are protected under federal law’s classification of trade secrets and therefore can remain undisclosed. Yikes!

Found in: All types of cosmetics.

Believe it or not, replicating the smell of the Caribbean in your shower doesn't need to involve toxic skincare ingredients at all. Our Spicy Rum Punch Bar Soap proves it's possible with a blend of potent natural essential oils and fragrances.

On the Flip Side, Here Are Some Great Products That Sound Scary

Sick of hearing about ingredients to avoid in skincare? Good, because we're sick of talking about them. Instead, let's look on the positive side by highlighting some difficult-to-pronounce, but totally natural ingredients to look out for.


Tocopherol is vitamin E, a key Eight Saints ingredient that moisturizes and hydrates your skin. It’s also a powerful (yet gentle) antioxidant that defends skin by neutralizing free radicals from pollution and other environmental stressors that weaken it over time.

Try our vitamin E face oil - High Society.

We make a big deal about toxic ingredients in skincare here at Eight Saints. That's why our most popular offerings - namely High Society Face Oil, Daydream Natural Face Moisturizer, Zen Out of Ten Face Scrub, and Bright Side Cream Cleanser don't include them.

In addition to being free of the stuff you want to avoid in bad skin care products, these formulas are jam-packed with plant oils and Vitamin E. Natural blends like ours are better for the planet, your skin health and peace of mind.

Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7

This is one name for the regenerating peptides that communicate with cells to trigger collagen production. Your skin is primarily composed of collagen, which breaks down as you age. When topical peptides are applied, they signal your body to produce new collagen.

Using skincare products with peptides minimizes wrinkles and plumps skin - the right way.

Eight Saints' Night Shift Hydration Gel is formulated to work overtime while you get some well deserved shuteye. Using peptides, this natural solution helps to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and lines for a smoother, more even complexion. And since it's free from parabens, sulfates and other bad ingredients in skincare, you won't have to worry about any potential harm on your delicate skin.

Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (SAP)

This form of vitamin C reduces signs of aging by repairing damaged skin, accelerating collagen synthesis, and correcting hyperpigmentation. It is the most stable form of vitamin C, meaning it will not oxidize over time and become ineffective. SAP can easily penetrate the skin - unlike ascorbic acid - and won’t cause redness or irritation.

Bad skincare products can contain ingredients that are damaging to your skin, but Eight Saints' natural solutions are free from parabens, sulfates and other harsh chemicals. Vitamin C is one of the key active ingredients in many of their products as it helps to boost collagen production, even skin tone and reduce the signs of aging. You can find Vitamin C in our Down to Earth Gel Cleanser and Cloud Whip Face Cream, both of which help to nourish your skin while providing powerful antioxidant protection.

Ferulic Acid

Ferulic acid is an antioxidant made from the seeds of apples and oranges. It helps tremendously with anti-aging and free-radical damage.

The harmful skincare ingredients found in bad skin care products are never worth it - even when it comes to anti-ageing. Those benefits won't be worthwhile if your long-term health is at risk. Eight Saints' Complete Anti-Aging Routine is the perfect alternative.

Using a blend of natural oils, vitamins and peptides, our powerful formula helps to reverse the visible signs of aging.

Caprylic Glycerides

These stable fatty acids, found in many moisturizers and masks, are derived from coconut and help your skin stay moisturized and smooth

Do I need a lip mask?' As many ingredients to avoid in skin care products as there are, you shouldn't have to ask yourself that question. There are plenty of alternatives free of the harmful ingredients in skincare that we've covered today, like our Lip Trick Treatment. It, and All in Eye Cream, boast natural ingredients like coconut which has anti-inflammatory properties to reduce redness and puffiness.

A Word of Caution: Look Out for Tricks

Many skincare and cosmetics companies know the buzzwords that you’re looking out for. So they include those buzzwords to make you feel better (whether they can really follow-through on the claims or not). Be cautious when you see comments such as:

  • Natural and organic: Natural products are great! And, at the end of the day, we all want our skincare routine to be as natural and unprocessed as possible. That said, keep in mind that the terms “natural” and “organic” are not regulated! (See Health Canada statement here and the FDA's position here.) Plus, the fact that something is organic does not automatically make it beneficial.

  • Free of: This is a big one. Companies love to list everything that their products don’t contain, saying things like “paraben-free” or “sulfate-free.” That said, this could be completely irrelevant - a lot of shampoo companies claim their products are “silicone free” when shampoos never contain silicones to begin with - and it doesn’t shed light on the ingredients to avoid in skincare that are in there.

  • Dermatologist-tested: Being “dermatologist-tested” or “clinically proven” basically means nothing, since there’s no standard or industry level definition for that claim. Any moisturizer can be “clinically proven” to smooth wrinkles just by puffing up the skin with water in a lab!

So what should you do with all of this information?

Keep an eye on your labels and skincare ingredients to avoid. But this can all still be confusing - and you may miss a thing or two.

You can also evaluate the safety of products using the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database. It lists thousands of products and brands and scores individual products based on the ingredients they contain.

Try the safe, natural ingredients in our Discovery Skin Care Kit!

bad skincare ingredients

Final Thoughts on Ingredients to Avoid in Skincare

Knowing what ingredients to avoid in skin care is essential to not only achieving the complexion you've been dreaming of, but also ensuring your long-term health. From one toxic ingredient to another, we've covered some of the worst offenders on this list. Now, it's just a matter of finding products that don't contain them!

At Eight Saints, our natural products are made without any of the toxic chemicals listed above. We provide all of the same advantages, along with additional benefits like protecting your skin from environmental aggressors or providing intense hydration. We invite you to join our Eight Saints VIP program and reap the rewards of being a loyal customer today.