3 Tips for Choosing Safer Skincare Products

In the increasingly crowded and unregulated natural skincare market, it’s often hard to distinguish what is jargon and what is actually effective and safer for your skin. For decades, we've trusted the beauty industry to have our best interests in mind - but it doesn't.

Every day we are exposed to harmful ingredients commonly found in the products we use on our skin. But knowledge is key. If you understand how products are formulated and manufactured, you will have more power in any purchasing decision. Changing our buying habits can be difficult but not impossible. Here are 3 tips that will help you start thinking and acting safer towards your skin. 

1. Choose transparent brands and understand product labels

Building trust in a brand starts with transparency. 

The lack of regulations in the beauty industry has lead to cosmetic manufacturers using terms like 'natural' and 'hypo-allergenic' quite loosely, as well as failing to list all of the ingredients in a product's formula.

When brands share all of the fragrances, flavours, and preservatives they formulate with, this is a good sign of their trustworthiness. 

Choose products that have been made using a judicious ingredient selection that includes a proven track record of efficacy, nontoxicity, and nonirritation. 

The Skindeep database is a great place for checking the safety of ingredients and products. This comprehensive database rates products from 0 to 10 where 0 is considered very safe. If you cannot find a particular product, it either means that it hasn't been tested yet or that the company has not agreed to have their products listed. 

Some of the ingredients you should stay away from include:

Skin moisturizer and lip products:

  • Retinyl palmitate
  • Retinyl acetate
  • Retinoic acid
  • Retinol in daytime products


  • SPF above 50
  • Retinyl palmitate
  • Aerosol spray and powder sunscreen
  • Oxybenzone
  • Added insect repellent

Anti-aging products:

  • Alpha and beta hydroxy acids (lactic acid and glycolic acid)

FDA-sponsored studies find UV-caused skin damage doubles for users of products with alpha hydroxy acid. Regular sunscreen application is the best way to avoid sun-damaged skin.*

2. Choose clean formulations and cold processed skincare

Clean skin care embraces both natural and chemical ingredients, putting the focus on safety over source.

  • Natural ingredients are those derived from natural sources without any added synthetic compounds like parabens, synthetic colors, or phthalates.
  • Synthetic ingredients, on the other hand, are cheaper, more predictable versions of natural ingredients created in labs to simplify the manufacturing process.

However, not all ingredients labeled as 'natural' are necessarily safe. The lack of regulations in the beauty industry has lead to cosmetic manufacturers using this term quite loosely. 

When choosing ‘safe’ skincare, you should take into account both the way the product has been formulated and manufactured. A powerful mix of ingredients is not enough. This should be coupled with manufacturing methods like cold processing, which preserve the raw power of these ingredients and are kind to the environment.

3. Don't get drawn by market trends or celebrity endorsements 

While new ingredients are constantly grabbing headlines only a few are worthy of long-term acclaim. The latest snake venom shouldn’t replace clinically-proven ingredients like active botanicals, antioxidants, vitamins and peptides.

The efficacy of a product relies on the stability of the ingredients, their ability to penetrate the skin, and their capability to act in vivo. Just because a product label lists an ingredient does not mean that ingredient is stable or active once it reaches the skin.*

Lifestyle brands with celebrity power behind them are partly responsible for the public obsession with natural and organic products. While celebrity skincare products can be fabulous and effective, you should put more weight on whether the product works well with your skin and makes you feel great.

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"Skincare science needs to be on the very edge of social change and evolution in order to succeed."

Dr. Mark Gray