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Have you ever bought a new beauty product and upon using, realise that your skin has suddenly turned more sensitive than before? Not only will this be a waste of your hard-earned money (especially if it’s a splurge item!), but it also puts your delicate skin through unnecessary allergies that you may not already be aware of.

Our recommendation? Besides doing a patch test (here’s how Dr Georgia Lee does it) before checking out your shopping basket, it’s also wise for you to flip to the back of the product and zoom in on its ingredients list.

We know, we know… there are just too many scientific-sounding — not to mention tongue twister — jargon there. To put our worried minds at ease, we’ve approached two beauty experts for their tips. So, the next time you’re browsing for new skincare, you’ll know better than to choose those with the following ingredients.

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Expert 1: Shalin Balasuriya, Founder of Spa Ceylon

#1 Avoid lanoline

Also known as wool fat, lanoline is derived from the outer layer of the sheep’s skin. Besides the fact that sourcing from animals is a cruel act (yeah, it happens so we’ve previously prepared a list of cruelty-free products to make your stand), a lot of these sheeps are bred in unnatural conditions, exposing them to pesticides and insecticides. As such, there is a chance that the lanoline may contain residues of pesticides which may be harmful and cause skin irritation.


#2 Avoid paraffins

They’re often referred to as mineral oils which are highly-refined byproducts of petroleum. The good thing about mineral oils is that they form a barrier on the skin surface to lock in moisture. However, by doing that, they’ll also block our pores and make it hard for our skin to ‘breathe’. This may then in turn lead to a buildup of excess sebum and dirt on your skin.


Expert 2: Dr Ian Tan, Medical Physician at IDS Clinic

#3 Formaldehyde

The more common names for formaldehyde are methylene glycol and methanediol. They are used as preservatives to inhibit bacteria growth within the product. Studies have shown that this chemical has cancer causing properties. Even though the amount used is generally low in personal care products, they can still trigger a reaction in people with formaldehyde sensitivities. Thereby increasing the chances of allergic skin reactions such as rashes in some users.


#4 Selected parabens

In general, not all parabens are harmful especially when they’re used in small amounts. Some of the ones that are banned by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) include isopropylparaben, isobutylparaben, phenyl paraben, benzylparaben and pentyl paraben – yes we know, the names are quite a mouthful, but as long as they contain the word “paraben”, your beauty alarm bells should alert you to look twice. The function of paraben compounds are usually used as preservatives in beauty products as they help to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. However, studies have suggested that certain parabens may lead to the activity of the oestrogen hormone that’s associated with certain forms of breast cancer.


#5 Retinoids

This may come as a surprise especially because retinoids have been hailed as an anti-ageing and anti-acne ingredient. But, when you mix it with the wrong products, your skin may suffer. At the same time, pregnant women should be wary of using retinoids because most topical ones deliver minuscule amounts of active ingredients into our bodies. As a general advice, pregnant women — and those who plan to have kids soon — should avoid the use of products that contain retinoids.

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