Common skin irritants and why we don’t use them

Posted by Ezra Eldridge on

You’ve likely heard about ingredients like parabens, phthalates and parrafins being not-so-good for the skin, but you may be left in the dark about why. There are many common skin irritants out there, and while they may not be detrimental for everyone, they aren’t always the best match for those with sensitive, dry or irritated skin types (or anyone looking to keep their skin cool, calm and collected at all times, either). 


Here at Pollen Nation we’re pretty strict about what we put in and what we leave out of our skincare, so here’s the lowdown on what you won’t find in our products…



Parabens


Parabens are the name given to a group of preservatives that are pretty widely used across society – in foods, medications, cosmetics and skincare products (as well as industrially in things like shoe polishes, fats, textiles and glues... eek). If you see them on the ingredients list of a skincare product, its purpose is to prolong the shelf life of the product and prevent the growth of bacteria within the product. And while we definitely don't like bacteria (another eek!) the inclusion of parabens is somewhat outdated and unnecessary, given formulations have evolved to a point where you don’t require the inclusion of parabens to be efficacious. The key reason why we opt out of including parabens is that many people, particularly those who suffer from skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis or general sensitivity can find them irritating. On the sensitive side? We’ve got you, honey.


Fragrances

Fact: fragrance is one of the most common causes of contact dermatitis, so while it may make a product smell divine, it can be super irritating for sensitive skin types. How? When the skin is sensitive, it often has a compromised skin barrier. This can result in moisture seeping away, while irritating substances can also find their way in. When you’ve got redness, dryness, itching or the like, it’s best to steer clear from fragrance in skincare just in case it further exacerbates the issue (and given its track record, it likely will). Plus, fragrance has no benefit to the skin, so it’s a rather unnecessary addition to our skincare, if you ask us!


Phthalates


Phthalates are chemicals known as plasticizers as they're used to make plastics. Yep, you read that right. They act as a binding agent, making plastic more flexible and harder to break, though they can also be found in skincare and cosmetics too, acting as a softening and longevity agent. They essentially help the product to cling better to the skin, though in the process can cause allergies and skin irritation. So here at Pollen Nation, they’re on our ‘naughty’ list. 



Sulphates (SLS/SLES)


Sulphates are cleansing agents that work a little 'too' hard at cleaning when used in skincare products. They can be stripping, harsh and incredibly drying, removing the skin's natural oils and compromising the skin barrier in the process. This can cause skin (and eye!) irritation, which is why you won’t find them in Pollen Nation products. 



Polyethylene (PEGs)

PEGs are petroleum-based compounds that act as emollients (they soften and lubricate the skin). The inclusion of PEGs in skincare can cause irritation and reactions, as polyethylene glycols can contain contaminants (during the ethoxylation process). Sounds complicated, and that’s because it is. But in keeping it simple, the inclusion of PEGs that could risk giving you a reaction was definitely not worth it to us, sweet thing!



Paraffins, Mineral Oils and Petroleum 


Mineral oils and paraffins can be considered synonymous with one another, and both are a derivative of petroleum. They’re highly refined oils, meaning they can be quite intense for the skin. Because of their occlusivity (they act as a seal and coat the skin, making things a little less breathable on the skin’s layer), they can clog pores and bring on blemishes, blackheads or breakouts – which is of course the opposite of what we want. We leave these firmly out, and sub in ingredients like lemon myrtle leaf oil instead!



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