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12 Common Moisturizer Ingredients That Can Actually Harm Your Skin

Although nothing feels better than jacking up the thermostat after exposure to bone-chilling winter temps, it’s safe to say winter takes a serious toll on our skin

And sure, you may have already started to whip out that thick face cream out of your medicine cabinet. However, some ingredients in your trusty ultra-hydrating moisturizer may secretly be contributing to the dry and flaking skin you try so very hard to get rid of. Ingredients such as fragrances, synthetic dyes and parabens, for example, can cause irritation and burning, which is a major no-no when you’re already exposed to the harsh, cold air.

Alas, those three drying ingredients above aren’t the only ones to avoid, as we tapped six board-certified dermatologists (and a board-certified plastic surgeon) to break down other ingredients to avoid, should you want to keep your skin in tip-top shape this winter. 

1. Mineral Oil 

According to the Environmental Working Group, mineral oil is a liquid mixture of hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum. This ingredient, which is commonly used in cosmetics, can be a possible human immune system toxicant or allergen, according to EWG. 

Additionally, board-certified dermatologist Rina Allawh suggested that while mineral oil is used in facial oils, body moisturizers and cosmetics, it can be specifically harmful to those with acne-prone skin. 

“When mineral oil is used on the face, it may result in acne flares,” she explained. “This thick emollient has been shown to clog pores.” 

2. Propylene Glycol

You may find this seemingly safe ingredient lurking inside your daily moisturizer. However, the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry suggested that frequent skin exposure to this substance can cause unwanted irritation. 

And yes, Allawh noted that propylene glycol does contain potent moisturizing properties. However, she added that it’s definitely not suitable for those who deal with sensitive or dry skin on a daily basis. 

“This ingredient is found to be a common irritant,” she added. “Regular use of moisturizers containing this substance can lead to skin rashes, exacerbation of eczema and burning.” 

3. Fragrances

Fragrances, without a doubt, are currently inside many of your scented moisturizing products. However, Allawh explained that this ingredient is also common irritant, leading to rashes, burning and itching. 

And while fragrance can be listed as an ingredient on the back of moisturizing products, she added that some brands may not be as forthcoming about listing it on the product label. 

“Fragrance may not be directly included on the product label, so I counsel my patients to examine the ingredient label for balsam of Peru,” she said. “This ingredient typically contains a strong, rich and sweet odor.” 

4. Synthetic Dyes Or Colors 

Synthetic dyes or colors also can find their way inside moisturizing creams. The Environmental Working Group suggested that FD&C Yellow 6, for example, is a petroleum-based synthetic dye that is approved by the FDA to be used in pharmaceuticals, food and cosmetics.  

However, board-certified dermatologist Sonia Batra suggested that while these ingredients may receive FDA approval for use, these same dyes and colors can also be harmful to the skin and human health. 

“These colors can trigger allergies and irritation in the skin, and are suspected to be carcinogens,” Batra warned. “They are also banned in the European Union.” 

Take a closer look at the ingredient label next time you buy moisturizer. (Photo: Kamon Saejueng / EyeEm via Getty Images)

5. Parabens 

According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, parabens are a family of chemicals that are typically used as preservatives in cosmetics, including moisturizer. 

And while the FDA stated that it currently doesn’t have information stating that parabens used in cosmetics are harmful to human health, Batra warned that they can still have an adverse effect on your hormones. 

“Parabens are preservatives commonly used in cosmetics, however, they may disrupt hormone production and have been linked to breast cancer,” Batra told HuffPost. 

6. Retinol 

We’ve all seen those hilarious beauty memes on Instagram praising retinol left and right. However, board-certified plastic surgeon Melissa Doft warned that while retinol can be an integral part of any skin care regimen, it can cause issues for sensitive skin users in particular. 

“Some patients may be more sensitive to moisturizers with retinol,” Doft told HuffPost. “If your moisturizer contains a high amount of retinol, you may want to consider using it every other day (instead of daily) during the winter.” 

7. Alcohols

Alcohol is another common moisturizer ingredient to steer clear of, as board-certified dermatologist Kristin M. Baird suggested that it can make the skin drier than it already is. 

“Gel moisturizers, containing alcohol, can be drying and dehydrating to the skin,” Baird told HuffPost. “This can counteract the degreasing effect, and cause oily skin to actually produce more oil.”  

8. Alpha Hydroxy Acids 

Like retinol, alpha hydroxy acids also get a lot of praise in the skin care space. And among the alpha hydroxy acids available, Baird explained that glycolic acid is the most popular. 

But benefits aside, she said that moisturizers containing this ingredient can cause damage to the skin if not used carefully. 

“Alpha hydroxy acids in moisturizers can cause redness, swelling, itching and even skin discoloration,” she suggested. “This ingredient is best used under the supervision of a board-certified dermatologist.” 

9. Petroluem-Based Products 

Although we’re encouraged to slather petroleum jelly all over our bodies after showering, Doft strongly advised against using moisturizing products containing this ingredient on your face. 

“Petroleum tends to block pores, not allowing moisture to enter the skin and trapping dirt and oil in the skin,” she explained. “This can lead to the formation of blemishes and black heads.” 

10. Astringents

Like toning products, astringent creams and lotions can be used to reduce breakouts. However, board-certified dermatologist DiAnne Davis explained that overuse of these products can cause spell out trouble for your skin. 

“The overuse of astringents tend to strip the skin of its natural oils,” David told the HuffPost. “This can result in increased dryness, irritation and a dull appearance to the skin.” Try to avoid astringent ingredients like isopropyl alcohol, witch hazel and salicylic acid.

11. Rice Flour

If your favorite moisturizer has this odd-sounding ingredient on its ingredient list, you’ll want to avoid using it during the winter months, according to Davis. 

“Rice flour contains starch properties that can dry out your skin, leaving behind a dull and tired appearance,” she explained. 

12. Lemon Scents or Ingredients

Although lemons are a natural ingredient found in many brightening creams and moisturizers, Davis warned that the highly acidic nature of lemon juice can be very irritating to the skin.  

“Lemon scents or ingredients can leave your skin dry, and can cause a burning sensation resulting in irritability and dryness,” she said. 

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The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

Gary Motykie, a board-certified plastic surgeon and owner of Motykie Med Spas, has worked with the likes of Kylie Jenner and Sofia Riche. “I’ve been using chemical exfoliants, specifically The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution from Sephora," said Motykie, who is working on his own skin care line. "Chemical exfoliants or washes are a great alternative to beaded cleansers like St. Ives.” <br><br>Find it for $8.70 on Sephora.

CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

To cleanse his skin and keep it moisturized, Motykie uses CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser. “It is a great, affordable, hydrating cleanser,” he explained. <br><br>Find it for $13.79 on Amazon.

EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

Motykie also stressed the importance of using a sunscreen every day. “After I cleanse, I use EltaMD’s Broad Spectrum SPF 46," he said. "In 2019 this almost goes without saying, but you should always apply SPF, not just on hot, sunny days.” <br><br>Find it for $35 on Amazon.

Vitafusion Gorgeous Hair, Skin and Nails

Packed with biotin and vitamins C and E, Vitafusion Gorgeous Hair, Skin & Nails enhances skin, hair and nail growth and comes recommended by Elizabeth Mullans, a board-certified dermatologist who has been practicing for more than 20 years. The vitamins also promote the growth of collagen, an essential protein that promotes skin elasticity and helps it to appear more youthful and healthy. <br><br>Find it for $9.98 on Amazon.

RoC Correxion Eye Cream and RoC Sensitive Eye Cream

Mullans also recommends RoC Correxion Eye Cream because it's good for decreasing signs of aging around the eyes. RoC Correxion Eye Cream contains superstar ingredient retinol, which helps correct fine lines and wrinkles. RoC also has a formula for those who are sensitive to retinol and need something gentler. <br><br>Find it and the sensitive formula for $17.95 on Walmart.com.  

Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream

Calling retinol "liquid gold," Zain Husain, a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of New Jersey Dermatology and Aesthetics Center, recommends Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream. “These products work by increasing skin cell turnover, boost collagen production and help keep the skin looking youthful by diminishing fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps combat acne and uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation,” Husain said. <br><br>Find it for $74 on Sephora.

Obagi Professional-C Serum

Zain is also a fan of vitamin C serums because vitamin C is a natural antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties. Zain said, “I love Vitamin C because it assists in skin cell damage repair and protects against free radical agents that can harm the skin. Vitamin C also has anti-aging benefits including diminishing fine lines, reducing redness and brightening your overall complexion.” If you want to incorporate a vitamin C serum into your routine, Zain recommends Obagi Professional-C Serum. <br><br>Find it for $102 on Dermstore.

Alastin Restorative Skin Complex

Retinol alternatives “work by increasing collagen, the building block of our skin, without irritation or sun sensitivity,” explained Deanna Mraz Robinson, a board-certified dermatologist from Westport, Connecticut. One of her favorite anti-aging products is Alastin Restorative Skin Complex, a peptide-based serum that improves collagen and elastin fibers in the skin. <br><br>Find it for $195 on Alastin’s website.

Care Skincare Eye and Lip Nourishing Cream

Robinson also likes Care Skincare Eye + Lip Nourishing Cream, which she described as “a dense cream with a light-diffusing finish that softens the look of fine lines and dark circles; it absorbs quickly and won’t drift into eyes or interfere with makeup." <br><br>Find it for $30 on Care Skincare’s website.

Isdinceutics Melatonik 3-in-1 Night Serum

Another favorite of Robinson’s is Isdinceutics Melatonik 3-in-1 Night Serum, a vitamin C and bakuchiol-based serum that helps reduce fine lines and pigmentation and improve texture. <br><br>Find it for $160 on Isdin.

La Roche Posay Melt In Sunscreen Milk

“Broad-spectrum, high-SPF sunscreen is the most effective anti-aging tool,” said Sheila Krishna, a board-certified dermatologist who serves on the advisory board for Smart Style Today.  “Broad-spectrum means it protects from both UVA and UVB rays, and a high SPF is generally anything over 30.” Her personal favorite is La Roche Posay Anthelios Melt-In Sunscreen Milk SPF 60 because “it blends in very well into all skin types and doesn’t smell strong. It has excellent protection and SPF and stays on for long periods of time.” <br><br>Find it for $21.99 on Dermstore.

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum

Krishna also recommended vitamin C because “it is a potent antioxidant that absorbs free radicals from ultraviolet damage, pollution and general skin wear and tear. It also assists in collagen production and improves fine lines.” She personally uses SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum. <br><br>Find it for $166 on Dermstore.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel

“Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel is a great moisturizer that uses hyaluronic acid to plumps the skin very nicely. I use it every day and I like that it is universal so works with most skin types,” said Sapna Palep, a board-certified dermatologist who works at Spring Street Dermatology in New York City. She added, "It’s an effective non-clogging moisturizer for people needing some extra moisture.” <br><br>Find it for $23.99 on Ulta.com.

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum

“Vitamin C, topical retinol, and sunscreen are what I consider the ‘holy trinity’ in skin care. I incorporate a vitamin C serum as a quintessential component in my morning skin care regimen,” said Rina Allawh, a board-certified dermatologist who practices at Montgomery Dermatology in Philadelphia. “My top pick is the Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum, containing L-ascorbic acid, pumpkin ferment extract and pomegranate enzyme. This cruelty-free product helps to both exfoliate and brighten the skin. I found that the ingredients are safe, effective and gentle on sensitive, dry and acne-prone skin.” <br><br>Find it for $80 at Sephora.

Almay Smart Shade Anti-Aging Skintone Matching Foundation

Allawh also recommends using foundation to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. “My top pick is the Almay Smart Shade Anti-Aging skintone matching makeup,” Allawh said. This foundation is cruelty free and has an SPF of 20. “I find that the lightweight liquid formula and buildable texture is ideal for my Mediterranean skin type.” <br><br>Find it for $13.99 on Almay.

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.