Questionable ingredients: which cosmetic ingredients you prefer to avoid

Cosmetics are there to make you feel good in your skin and down to the tips of your hair. Protect, care, balance, tame, cleanse - this is how carefully selected ingredients make cosmetics a real treat. It is clear that this cannot be the same for every product. But they should be manageable and do you good. Therefore, be careful with chemical cocktails, which often only aim at superficial effects.

Parabene & Co. – welchen Kosmetik Inhaltsstoffen du lieber aus dem Weg gehst – Five Skincare

Ditch parabens, silicones and mineral oils

In the drugstore, many packs advertise vegetable oils and flower extracts. But how much plant power is actually in it? This tells you - theoretically - the list of ingredients. Reading it is an art in itself, but worth it. Especially since there are scandals and myths surrounding some of the fabrics.

Including aluminum in deodorants, silicones in shampoos and microplastics in toothpaste - some of the most commonly used ingredients in cosmetics read like a shopping list for the hardware store. Of course it sounds different.

But why is what is supposed to care for our delicate organ so full of chemicals? Many of these are additives that regulate consistency, shelf life, color, and fragrance. Natural essences can also do this, but they are much more expensive than ingredients made from mineral oil.

Are cheap ingredients harmful ingredients?

That would be too general a statement. It often only becomes harmful when toxic components split off and enter our circulation. With other substances it is a matter of caution. Because it is often unknown how they affect the long term. So the question is: do you take risks or do you strain your body as little as possible?

In addition, many synthetic agents aim for the immediate effect. It's as if you were only superficially plastering your skin like a cracked wall. But with dryness, itching and pimples, your body gives you an error message.

Suppressing warning signals only makes things worse over time. Instead, rely on valuable ingredients that your skin can also metabolize. Because they help it to regain its balance.

Know what's inside

In the EU and Switzerland, there is an obligation to declare. In other words, you can find all the ingredients on the packaging or the package insert. References to valuable argan oil, shea butter or even vegan cosmetics often beckon on the front.

This usually also states whether the product is free of critical substances such as aluminum or parabens. A good starting point, but not without its pitfalls. The fact that a controversial substance is not included does not mean that there is none in it.

By the way, you often read without microplastics, without parabens or without palm oil on products that would not contain the substance anyway. It's like a dairy advertising gluten-free natural yoghurt.

Read and understand the INCI list

And then there is this tiny, small print list on the back, the so-called INCI list (stands for International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients).

«The sheer number of partly English, partly Latin names is already confusing.A face cream, for example, consists of 20 to 30 ingredients on average!»

Anna, founder of FIVE - natural cosmetics with a maximum of 5 ingredients

Even if you have deciphered what feels like 2 pt tiny writing with grandma's magnifying glass, that still doesn't explain what the substances do. So here are a few examples that are found in many cosmetics.

Parabens – The preservatives are similar in structure to estrogen. Therefore, they are suspected of influencing the hormonal balance. Experiments with rats suggest this effect.1 Researchers have also discovered that parabens are stored in the body.2 How exactly this affects the long term is unclear. Because there are no long-term studies yet.

Silicones – You can recognize them by the endings -icone and -iloxane. In the past, non-water-soluble silicones were used, which basically glued the hair together. This dulled her over time. Now mostly water-soluble ones are used.

Nevertheless, the question remains: do I want so many artificial things on my skin and hair? Because no matter how you look at it, silicones neither trigger regeneration nor do they provide nutrients. Vegetable oils do this very well, including smoothing and regulating moisture. And in this article, you'll learn about the top alternative to silicone-free hair oil: squalane.

Aluminium - Aluminum is suspected of promoting cancer and other diseases. However, the metal occurs in cosmetics in various compounds. Some are so stable that they are considered harmless. However, aluminum salts, which you often encounter in deodorants as aluminum chloride or aluminum chlorhydrate, are critical. Because in water-soluble form, the aluminum can be released and get into your system.

While researchers are still investigating exactly how aluminum is linked to breast cancer risk, it's advisable to avoid using deodorants containing this substance. This is recommended by the Federal Office for Risk Assessment. Because we take in so much of it through food and other aluminum-containing products that the weekly maximum is quickly reached.3

Emulsifiers - Glyceryl oleate, glyceryl stearate, and other emulsifiers bind oil to water and are therefore found in most lotions. The problem: they remain on the skin. The next time they come into contact with water, they combine it with the skin's own fat and simply wash it away. In this way, the skin suddenly loses its protective shield.

We have dedicated a separate article to this topic. Energized from the cream tube: how emulsifiers dry out your skin you will learn how to avoid emulsifiers.

Not enough of a good thing - what the order of the INCI list says

The placement of the ingredients in the INCI list speaks volumes. Namely, they are listed in descending order. The former contains the most, the latter the least. The INCI list also tells you whether the paean to natural oils and vitamins on the front of the pack is just a sales pitch.

You should be skeptical, especially if the advertising message and the price don't quite go together. With a huge tube of body lotion for CHF 4.– that advertises argan oil, the proportion of expensive oil is certainly negligible.

4 tips for cosmetics without parabens

Fortunately, you can use these tricks to fish products out of the ocean of supply that will spoil you in the long term.

Tip 1: Rely on natural cosmetics

Here you can be sure that there are no parabens, silicones, PEGs and Co., which are at the top of the list of ingredients in conventional cosmetics. You won't find mineral oils and their derivatives here either.

Tip 2: Use products with few ingredients

Not only is the composition manageable here, fewer ingredients also mean less potential for negative reactions. Sensitive skin in particular will thank you for that. Incidentally, that was the idea behind the founding of our natural cosmetics line FIVE. Because with us, as the name suggests, each product contains a maximum of 5 ingredients.

Pure natural cosmetics from FIVE. Maximum 5 ingredients, vegan. Experience natural cosmetics without additives.

Tip 3: Take the trouble to look up the ingredients

Seriously?! When the lists are endless? Don't worry, help is at hand. Apps like Codecheck or the INCI app from make it easy for you. The INCI app tells you everything about the function, occurrence and type of individual ingredients. With Codecheck, you simply scan the barcode and the app will tell you what's in it, what it does and whether the product is lactose-free, gluten-free or vegan. You can also find the FIVE products on Codecheck; Simply search for "Five Skincare" in the search mask at the top.

Tip 4: Pay attention to the organic part

Natural cosmetics are not necessarily organic. The latter is practically a quality class above it. However, organic raw materials are massively more expensive than conventional ones. But we think it's worth it. Pesticides in particular are soluble in oil and get on your skin. Most manufacturers add the organic origin to the INCI list. So do we, by the way.

Fragrances Fragrances – a word about allergies

Linalool, limonene, farnesol, geraniol, citronellol - you can find these substances on many INCI lists. Also on ours. These are natural components of essential oils or hydrosols. They contain the concentrated plant power. That's why it's possible that one or the other is allergic to it.

The EU has defined 26 allergenic ingredients, which are always shown separately in the list of ingredients. As an allergy sufferer, you should take a closer look or use fragrance-free products.

Not sure if you have an allergy? In this article I explain the difference between sensitive skin and a contact allergy.

Conclusion: Rely on honest ingredients for a real effect. With just a few ingredients, nothing can be hidden. Of course they should be. Organic is ideal. That's how we do it here at Five Skincare.

With products from FIVE you have the INCI list at a glance and have more time to shine.


Our natural cosmetics

«No cream should have more ingredients than you can count on one hand.»

Anna Pfeiffer