It’s easy to get caught up with wanting to try new products — skincare is self-care, and a relaxing pastime that many of us can get excited about. But did you know that there are some skincare red flags you should be watching out for when choosing and purchasing new skincare formulations. We’ll also show you what to look for instead, so that you can be a more savvy shopper while still indulging your skincare hobby.

Here, skincare brand The Organic Pharmacy has offered their expertise on which skincare ingredients you should watch out for, and what you can incorporate into your routine instead.

Synthetic fragrancesfragrance

Many skincare products feature synthetic fragrance ingredients, and while these can smell nice, they can be irritating for many people. Fragrances are normally listed under ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ on the list of ingredients that you see on a product’s packaging. Brands don’t have to list the exact chemicals in the fragrance, and this means that it can be easy to end up purchasing a product that your skin finds problematic or irritating.

This is especially likely with fragrance ingredients. The term ‘fragrance’ can cover hundreds of chemicals and many of them are common irritants. One such chemical is phthalates, which are endocrine disruptors Nature, and can affect your hormones.

If you are sensitive to fragrance or want to avoid the extra chemical ingredients in your skincare, go for fragrance-free options, and those that list any components they use for perfume as opposed to just saying ‘parfum’. Natural fragrances might be better for your skin if you are affected by these common fragrance chemicals.

Homosalate in sunscreens

When buying sunscreen, there are a variety of options on the market, which mainly fit into two categories: chemical and physical sunscreens. A physical sunscreen provides a barrier to keep your skin safe from the sun, usually using something like zinc oxide. Contrastingly, a chemical sunscreen contains chemicals that will react when exposed to the sun, creating protection that way.

However, when buying chemical sunscreens, you should watch out for homosalate, which is often used as a UV absorber in sun cream formulations. It is another potential endocrine disruptor (Campaign for Safe Cosmetics) and there are concerns that it might disrupt hormones. Look out for this chemical listed on ingredients’ lists and go for mineral sunscreens as another good option.sunscreen


Look out for parabens, which are preservatives used in lots of products, from skincare to haircare. They are officially safe by the standards of the EU, UK, and FDA regulations, however many people are wary of their potential to be endocrine disruptors. They can also be irritating to the skin, particularly for those with sensitive skin types.

If you would prefer to avoid parabens, there are many great options on the market using other types of preservatives, such as Phenoxyethanol, and there are also brands which disclose the proportion of any paraben chemicals used in their products. This way, you can double check whether they are being used in an amount that might irritate your skin or decide to avoid them completely.

PFAs and PFCs

If you are a fan of waterproof makeup, particularly waterproof mascara, then you should watch out for PFAs and PFCs. They are a type of fluorinated chemical that acts as a water repellent. The health impacts of these chemicals are still being studied, but there are concerns building that this class of chemical could impact people’s thyroids as well as being an endocrine disruptor.

If you want to avoid these chemicals, you’ll need to double check any waterproof products, as well as hair products and sunscreens. Mineral makeup can offer a way to get the look you want without using these red flag chemicals in your routine.


Toluene is actually partially banned in the EU and UK for its harmful potential, but you can still find it in nail polish and hair dyes, as well as in other products including paint thinners, adhesives, and rubber. Unfortunately, this chemical has been linked to effects like cracked skin, dizziness, and headaches (Campaign for Safe Cosmetics).

To avoid this chemical, you can read the ingredients of your nail and hair products, as well as buffing nails rather than using polish every time you do your own manicure. Brands are beginning to remove toluene from their formulations, but it’s best to be observant until this happens more widely.

“Skincare is a fun self-care pastime and can make us feel like we are having a treat at any time of the week. But you should make sure to pay close attention to the ingredients included in your products, as they might prove irritating to your skin.

“So, try to choose formulations that are primarily based on clean, simple, and natural ingredients. You should also look out for brands that are transparent about their ingredients, and let you know which preservatives they are using. Keep an eye out for brands that integrate organic ingredients and use herbal extracts along with science to create gentle products that work.”

About the brand:

The Organic Pharmacy have been producing beauty formulations for two decades, integrating herbal, homeopathic, and cosmetic principles to create effective products. All their ingredients are sustainably sourced, and organic wherever possible. Many of their products are also vegan, and none have been tested on animals. All products are made in London.