The 7 ingredients I always avoid

There are many ingredients around the web that tout as the dirty dozen list to avoid at all cost. Even though there are some truth in what most of these websites are saying, my advice to you is to know what ingredient irritates you in a certain way and then make note to avoid them. Some people are more particular with the ingredients in their products than others, and some are pretty much alright with most ingredients except for a few that they may be allergic or sensitive to.

For myself, there are these 7 ingredients that I avoid no matter what, as I found that when I use products with any of these ingredients in them, my skin gets extremely dry and/or irritated.

1. Alcohol, Isopropyl (SD-40)

Alright, even though I list this as the first, I tend to be more lenient on this ingredient if the other ingredients in the list are from natural organic sources, or if it doesn’t feel too drying on my skin. Most ladies I know avoid alcohol in their products, and I would too if not for the fact that it’s kind of hard to find products for combination skin that doesn’t have alcohol in it.

It is said to be a very drying, irritating solvent and dehydrator that strips your skin’s natural acid mantle, making you more prone to viruses entering and may even promote brown spots and premature aging of skin.

2. Anionic Surfactants

Examples of anionic surfactants are: Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS), ammonium laureth sulfate (ALES), TEA (triethanolamine) lauryl sulfate, TEA (triethanolamine) laureth sulfate, lauryl or cocoyl sarcosine.

Some shampoo that claims to be SLS free usually have ALS to replace it, and that ingredient is no better than the notorious SLS. These ingredients are under the same category of surfactants that may be contaminated with nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic. Surfactants can pose serious health threats and are used for quick and effective cleansing properties.

You can find these ingredients in shampoos, body wash, facial wash and basically about 90% of personal care products that foam, but did you know that these ingredients are also used in car washes, as garage-floor cleaners and engine degreasers? I particularly avoid these ingredients because they always dry out my skin and trigger my eczema.

3. DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine)

These ingredients can cause allergic reactions and will lead to eye problems, dryness of the skin and hair over prolonged usage. Could be toxic and potentially carcinogenic if absorbed into the body over a period of time. Because of its known carcinogenic effects, these chemicals are already restricted in Europe. 

4. Mineral oil/paraffin oil/paraffin wax/petrolatum/liquidum paraffinum

Derived from petroleum by-product, this ingredient covers the skin like plastic, suffocating and clogging pores while interfering with the skin’s ability to eliminate toxins. By slowing down skin functions and cell development, it could promote acne growth and premature aging. Mineral oil derivatives can be contaminated with cancer causing PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and it is said that the only reason companies use it is solely because it’s cheap.

5. Phthalates

It is a toxic chemical found in certain plastics and containers. Could be found in some hairsprays, cosmetics and nail varnishes, all which are readily absorbed by the body. When research and tests were done in controlled groups, an astonishing amount of people found phthalates in their body. Avoid products in plastic that bears the recycling symbols (the little triangle made with arrows and a number inside) 3,6, and 7.

6. Polyethylene glycol (PEG) compounds and propylene glycol/butylene glycol 

These potentially carcinogenic petroleum-derived ingredients are known to penetrate the skin and weaken protein and cellular structure. Again, this ingredient can cause premature aging and leave your skin vulnerable to bacteria. In cases that requires workers to handle these ingredients, the EPA warns against skin contact to prevent consequences such as brain, liver and kidney abnormalities, and made workers wear protective gloves, clothing and goggles to dispose of these solutions quickly by burying them in the ground.

While these health hazard warnings are everywhere in manufacturing companies that handle these ingredients, not one warning label is on the products that made it to our houses and used on our very own bodies, such as deodorants.

7. Parabens preservatives (methyl-, propyl-, butyl-, and ethyl-)

Most people are aware that parabens, used as preservatives to prolong the shelf life of products, are toxic and known to cause allergic reactions and even skin rashes, but hardly anyone is reading the ingredient list of the next lip product they are buying. Most ladies end up consuming these chemical preservatives that are from their lip products, and you guessed it right, parabens are also found in most humans’ bodies when tests were done.

How I improved my eczema

I used to think having eczema was like having a certain trait of the body that I cannot change and that I have to live with it. For years my skin was sensitive, prone to itchiness and hives, and was told that because it’s genetic, there’s nothing much I can do about it. How wrong that was.

While it is true that I cannot completely eradicate eczema, I can significantly reduce its flare ups and the inconvenience that it causes. The first thing I did was replace my body wash, shampoo, toothpaste, and facial wash with organic ones and they were not only gentler on skin but also free of sodium laureth sulphate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) especially. There’s also the famous ‘dirty dozen’ ingredients in the products that I replaced, but that’s another story in another post. For me, SLS was the largest irritant for my skin and I assume for most people with eczema, that would be too.

Simply by removing these items my skin seemed calmer during and after showers. There wasn’t any more ‘squeaky’ clean feeling after, which was what triggered the itch in my skin. From there, I started keeping a little notebook to note my diet whenever I get an eczema flare up. Sounds tedious, but really, it doesn’t take more than a minute just to write down what you ate.

I found out eliminating dairy, grains, and gluten and wheat free products helped tremendously in preventing an eczema flare up. Also, eating foods rich in B6 and B12 foods will boost the healing of your eczema over time. Not only did that prevent flare ups, i found that I barely needed moisturizing as much as I did before. I also avoid refined carbohydrates such as white rice and white sugar. If I have to, I’d take brown rice over white rice.

Avoid white rice if you can

Sadly, I find not eating white rice the hardest because in Singapore it seems everyone eats white rice. Whenever I’m with relatives and they see that I haven’t touched my rice, they tend to make fun of me, thinking I’m afraid to put on weight. Frustrating as it is, I stuck by it.

Only recently I realized I’m allergic to corn too, as I had quite a severe bout of eczema just hours after eating it that lasted a couple of days. That recent hiccup made me realize how much my eczema improved because in the past, I loved to eat corn and i never remembered having a significant flare up after eating because my skin was always itchy! But now it’s as clear as night and day.

If you too suffer from occasional bouts of eczema flare ups, try changing your diet instead of focusing on topical solutions. You may find that it works even faster and more efficiently.