1. Mineral Oils
Cosmetic-grade mineral oil is a refined version of the same oil that is used to lubricate engines. Its unrefined form has been known to be carcinogenic, so it has the potential to cause cancer. Mineral oil is so widely used in skincare that scientists have found mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons in the fat and milk of pregnant and breastfeeding women.
2. Retinyl palmitate
This vitamin A derivative is an antioxidant often used in various cosmetic and sunscreen products. Research has linked it to gene mutations and skin cancer when it’s applied on skin that is exposed to sunlight. Some experts say that the risks are minimal when it’s mixed into a product, but many skincare brands are beginning to use less of this ingredient.
Formaldehyde is a common preservative that’s not often listed on labels because it is present in tiny amounts. However, it’s a known carcinogen and can be sensitising and allergenic to your skin. Some of the other names it goes by are DMDM hydantoin and imidazolidinyl urea.
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4. Trace metals
Cosmetics such as lipsticks, nail polishes and eyeshadows commonly contain small amounts of metals such as arsenic, cadmium, aluminium, nickel, chromium and magnesium. Trace metals are known to be absorbed by the skin, or ingested in the case of lipsticks, and can accumulate and become toxic.
Hydroquinone still remains one of the best weapons in a cosmetic doctor’s arsenal against skin pigmentation. It’s safe to use when prescribed under a doctor’s supervision; however, to ensure the safety and efficacy of a whitening regime, many doctors alternate the use of hydroquinones with other whitening agents such as azeliac acid, kojic acid and ascorbic acid.
6. Zinc or Titanium Oxide
The best sunscreens have either zinc or titanium dioxide as an active ingredient. They’re physical sunscreen compounds that create a reflective shield on your skin, and they do not penetrate into the skin the way chemical sunscreens do. They also offer sensitive skin the best protection against the sun. Go for a tinted formulation if you don’t like the thick and easily visible texture. For chemical sunscreens, avobenzone, which is also called Parsol 1789 or Helioplex, is among the safest ingredients as it doesn’t penetrate deeply into your skin or disrupt your hormones. But you will need to reapply an avobenzone sunscreen every two to four hours when you’re under the sun.
Expert source: Dr Liow Tiong Sin, Executive Director and Consultant Aesthetic Physician of Beverly Wilshire Medical Centre
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