Check Your Skincare Products for These 6 Potentially Harmful Chemicals

Check Your Skincare Products for These 6 Potentially Harmful Chemicals

You have the power to control many factors that influence the health and appearance of your skin. When choosing skincare products, it’s natural to assume that the creams, lotions, serums, and toners you trust to address your most pressing concerns are formulated with safe ingredients. It’s surprising how many products include harmful chemicals that have never been tested for long-term use and safety, which is why it is important to investigate healthy, plant-based alternative skincare products.

Ironically, not all “natural” skincare solutions are as wholesome as you might expect. Many are made with a combination of natural ingredients and the same questionable chemicals as the products you might be better off replacing. Pay close attention to skincare package inserts and product labels. If you’re looking for a better way to care for your skin, do your homework. Here’s a look at some of the commonly-used chemicals you may want to avoid, and some of the many active botanicals that can be just as effective as their synthetic counterparts but safer to use.

Recognize Questionable Ingredients on Skincare Product Labels 

While it was once believed that natural skin function blocked chemical absorption, today we know that skin absorbs about 60 percent of chemicals applied topically, but that’s not even the most alarming statistic. Of roughly 10 percent of common chemicals that have been tested for safety, many show disturbing long-term effects, groundwater contamination, impaired skin function, and an alarming list of potential health concerns.1 Check your skincare products for these six potentially harmful chemicals:


  • Initially introduced to fight acne, retinoids were added to creams and lotions to speed skin cell turnover, smooth fine lines, boost collagen production, and fade uneven pigmentation.2 While natural and synthetic retinoids are a skincare industry staple, many skincare experts caution that those effects come with a price. Retinoids can make skin increasingly susceptible to the effects of UV radiation and environmental pollutants, so their effects are often considered counterproductive.3 Proceed cautiously if you use products listing retinyl palmitate, retinol, retinaldehyde, adapalene, isotretinoin, or tazarotene as active ingredients.4


  • Parabens are a family of compounds added to moisturizers, haircare products, cosmetics, and deodorants as a preservative. These chemicals extend shelf life by preventing the growth of mold and bacteria. Current research shows that the parabens added to health and beauty products can irritate skin, cause a considerable number of health concerns, and harm the environment. Parabens are absorbed through the skin, detectable in urinalysis, and stored in fat cells. Parabens are easily identified by their names, methylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, and propylparaben. The FDA continues to review studies published on paraben safety.5

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

  • Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS) is a surfactant, an emulsifier that binds water and oil molecules. SLS is added to help stabilize and thicken skincare products, keep textures consistent, and help conditioning agents glide on smoothly.6 SLS is also added to toothpaste, shampoo, and cleansers, to make the products bubble and foam. Although SLS is considered safe when used as a food additive, the chemical is known to cause allergic skin reactions and irritation. Many find that dryness, flaking, and skin rashes subside after replacing products containing sodium lauryl sulfate with safer alternatives.7

Mineral Oil

  • Mineral oil is a refined petroleum productAlthough mineral oil and other petroleum products help keep the skin looking moist and well hydrated, the effects are deceiving. Petroleum products form an impenetrable barrier on the surface of the skin that prevents moisture absorption. They clog pores and amplify the effects of the sun’s UV rays.8 While mineral oil tops the list of commonly used petroleum products, you’ll want to avoid skincare products made with petrolatum, benzene, paraffin wax, and most ingredient names ending in “eth.”


  •  Hydroquinone is most often used in skincare products that target age spots and hyperpigmentation. This potentially harmful chemical works by decreasing the number of pigment-producing cells in the skin. With continued use, hydroquinone can compromise healthy skin function and increase the risk of developing blemishes, dark spots, fine lines, and wrinkles.9 However, one of the most alarming risks is ochronosis. This irreversible skin condition causes permanent black or blue patches.10 Lightening agents made with this potentially risky chemical will specify either hydroquinone or tocopherol acetate.


  • Used in facial moisturizers, anti-aging products, body lotions, and hair care products, polyacrylamide is most often used as a binding, thickening, and stabilizing agent. This chemical is known for its foaming and lubricating properties. When polyacrylamide dries, it forms a thin coating on the skin’s surface.11 But that’s not the biggest concern. Polyacrylamide contains small amounts of acrylamide, a substance implicated in a wide range of potentially serious health concerns. To avoid products made with polyacrylamide, you’ll want to avoid polyacrylate, acylate, and polyquaternium.12

Many Commonly-Used Chemicals Mimic the Effects of Natural Botanicals

While many people today are concerned about the long-term consequences of using skincare products laced with potentially harmful chemicals, a considerable number put off switching to safer alternatives. Quite often, they’re worried that plant-based skincare products are not “scientific” enough to deliver meaningful results or mistakenly believe chemicals somehow provide superior skin benefits.

If you have similar concerns, it might be helpful to know that many of the chemicals commonly used in skincare products are developed to replicate the effects of natural plant oils and extracts. Now that researchers have a better understanding of how individual plant components can influence skin health and appearance, it’s much easier to find natural skincare products formulated for specific skin concerns. It’s clear that active botanicals are just as effective as their chemical counterparts, but safer to use.

Recognizing the Plant-Powered Potential of BOTA™ Skin Care Products

At BOTA™, we believe everyone deserves high-quality skincare products made without artificial fragrances, parabens, and other questionable chemicals. That’s why all BOTA™ skincare products are made with an assortment of natural botanicals selected for their hydrating, calming, nurturing, and revitalizing properties. Consider the many potential skin benefits of the following examples:

Manuka Oil

  • The oil extracted from the stems and leaves of the manuka tree is shown to have considerable skin benefits, including protecting skin from the effects of UV rays and oxidative stress. If you’ve been searching for a natural way to nurture, protect, and revitalize your skin, BOTA™ Age Defying Daily Face Lotion + Manuka & Ginger Root could be just the combination of botanicals you’ve been searching for.

Avocado Oil

  • Avocado oil is an excellent source of essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and other vital skin nutrients. When applied topically, avocado oil boosts hydration levels.14 At BOTA™, we’ve combined the skin-soothing properties of the avocado oil in our  Nourishing All-Day Body Lotion with shea butter, argan oil, and apricot kernel oil, a highly emollient oil shown to improve the appearance of skin tone and texture.15

Lavender Oil

  • Lavender oil is a calming, aromatic oil that delivers an impressive number of potential skin benefits. BOTA™ Destressing Nightly Face Cream + Lavender combines the soothing effects of lavender with hemp seed oil, turmeric, honeysuckle extract, and other active botanicals selected for their potential to soothe, smooth, and revitalize your complexion while you sleep.16

Hemp-Derived CBD

  • The many potential benefits of hemp-derived products are explained by the way plant-based cannabinoids interact with important receptors throughout your body.17 That’s why every luxurious BOTA™ Facial Care and BOTA™ Body Care product we offer is enhanced with the skin revitalizing potential of hemp-derived CBD.

Nurture, Protect, & Revitalize Your Skin Naturally 

Caring for your skin is a life-long process. Now that it’s clear many skincare products are made with potentially problematic chemicals, many health-conscious consumers are reducing their exposure by switching to natural skincare products.

If you’re concerned about using skincare products laced with potentially harmful chemicals that can cause environmental damage, clog your pores, or inhibit your skin’s natural ability to rejuvenate and repair, visit BOTA™ Hemp to view our selection of natural, plant-based skincare products. All BOTA™ CBD skincare products are formulated with hand-selected botanicals known for their verifiable skin benefits. Plus, BOTA™ skincare products are vegan-friendly, gluten-free, third-party tested and certified by the US Hemp Authority™.


  1. (2014 June 23) Everything You Need to Know About Natural Skin Care.
  2. Harvard Health Publishing. (2020) Do Retinoids Really Reduce Wrinkles?
  3. The Evening Standard. R Fitzmaurice. (2019 September 23) The Skincare Experts Who Don’t Use Retinol – and Why.
  4. K Cherney. (2018 February 01) How to Use Retinoids for Wrinkles.
  5. (2018 February 22) Parabens in Cosmetics.
  6. A Shaefer. (2018 February 27) What is Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS)?
  7. The Conversation. Y Mohammed. (2019 December 08) What is Sodium Laurel Sulfate and Is it Safe to Use?
  8. A Bauso. (2015 November 30) The Common Skincare Ingredient You Should Probably Avoid, According to Jennifer Lawrence’s Facialist.
  9. Practical Dermatology. Z Obagi. (2013 March) Taking the Pulse of Hydroquinone Therapy: A Plea for Caution.
  10. Indian Journal of Dermatology. P Bhattar et al. (2015 November-December) Exogenous Ochronosis.
  11. The Derm Review. (2018 September 28) Polyacrylamide.
  12. Truth in Aging. (2020) Polyacrylamide.
  13. A Scaccia. (2017 January 17) What Are the Benefits of Using Avocado Oil On My Skin?
  14. com. A Boldt. (2019 August 13) What Are the Benefits of Apricot Oil?
  15. D Sullivan. (2018 December 17) How to Improve the Health of Your Skin with Lavender Oil.
  16. ACS Chemical Neuroscience. M Caterina (2014 November 19) TRP Channel Cannabinoid Receptors in Skin Sensation, Homeostasis, and Inflammation.


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