I have debated for a long while over creating content that ‘demonises’ ingredients, it happens so freely and unnecessarily in the skincare world that I was always hesitant about becoming a part of it. I began by focusing on the positives, what to search for and what to include. However, over the last year of creating content, I’ve discovered that I realistically can’t empower people to make the best choices when it comes to their skin and new products, without giving them the information I know now and use everyday when it comes to making decisions about my own skin. So for this post, I’ll focus on four skincare ingredients to watch out for that, in my opinion, are unnecessary and can come with a myriad of detrimental effects to sensitive and acne prone skin especially.
You may begin to notice a pattern in this post, and you might have already noticed it if you watch my videos – I don’t particularly like essential oils when they’re added to my facial skincare. Lavender is one that tends to creep into a lot of products on the market, mostly due to the association it has with relaxation and a ‘luxury’ vibe. Old school marketing research tells us that, if a person ‘feels good’ when they’re applying this product (maybe the lavender smell even helps them unwind before bed, for example) they’ll begin to reach for it more and more often and even repurchase it. It’s simple psychology, we gravitate towards things that make us feel nice, but that is really all that lavender adds to a product – there are no skincare benefits.
Okay, so we know there aren’t any direct benefits, but is lavender essential oil actually harming our skin? I’m not one to preach about clean beauty and ingredient toxicity, I don’t think lavender is toxic and ‘clean beauty’ itself is unregulated and almost meaningless – brands often use it as a marketing term to make you feel their product is superior. However I do know that essential oils are very irritating, can cause redness, rashes and unhappy looking skin. Therefore, even in low quantities, it’s not something I want to be applying to my skin every day or multiple times per day.
Finally, essential oils can also be sensitising, meaning you may not be showing signs of allergic reaction or irritation to them right now, but repeated exposure can cause a sensitivity that you didn’t have before – fun!
If you want to watch out for lavender oil, this is how it’ll appear most often in the ingredients list ‘Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil’.
You might wonder why I’ve decided to name another essential oil, rather than moving straight onto another type of ingredient. I suppose my thinking here is that I’m hoping to make the information more memorable and practical, so that anyone reading this might be able to visit Boots and compare a few products, having remembered one or two of these essential oils.
Eucalyptus oil is therefore another one of the most popular, and I thought it was worth mentioning because I feel it’s having a resurgence due to its popularity in TikTok videos at the moment. In case you haven’t seen, the latest trend is to put a bunch of eucalyptus leaves hanging in your shower. As you shower, the steam causes the plant to release a nice smell and small droplets of essential oil. To be completely honest, this is super tempting for me – it sounds amazing! I’m not going to say that you should never ever do this, I’m sure every now and then it’s fine, but I’d be cautious of making a habit of it due to the reasons above.
Maybe it’s because of this trend or maybe it’s not, but anecdotally I’ve noticed an increase in the use of eucalyptus oil in skincare products that I’ve looked at lately, and I’d encourage skipping said products if you do have sensitive and/or acne prone skin. The INCI name for this one is most commonly written as ‘Eucalyptus Globulus Oil’.
Our last group of essential oils to consider watching out for are those derived from citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and grapefruits. These are and have always been super common amongst skincare brands, because (in my opinion) they ‘sound’ and smell nice. I personally feel that the inclusion of these kinds of essential oils can lull us into a false sense of security, since we associate lemons and oranges especially with ‘health’ by default. In reality, they are also frequent skin sensitisers and can be the cause of redness, rashes and even irritation that appears as small acne breakouts.
These are particularly prevalent in everything from budget to high end skincare. If you want to to watch out for them, they are commonly listed as these INCI names:
If there is one trend I cannot stand, it is the trend of avoiding ‘pore clogging’ ingredients, or watching out for known ‘pore cloggers’. The bottom line is, you absolutely cannot be certain that something will or won’t break you out, so listing ingredients as ‘pore clogging’ or not is simply pointless – find me a dermatologist that disagrees! If you want to know more about exactly why this is, this blog post is worth a read.
However, and it’s a big however, there is one ingredient that is widely agreed upon as most likely not going to react well with skin that’s prone to acne and clogging, and that’s coconut oil.
I remember when I first got into skincare, I actually used to try to moisturise my face with pure coconut oil from Sainsbury’s – you can imagine how that went. It genuinely terrifies me that there are people out there, acne prone, who’re lathering this on their face and hoping for a cure. If you’re reading this, put the jar down! I think coconut oil can work okay for dry skin on the body, but it’s not suitable for the face, especially if you’re prone to breakouts.
If you’d like to avoid coconut oil in your skincare, the INCI name to watch out for is Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil.