Unsafe Skincare Ingredients for Tweens & Teens

Acne can be a challenging issue for parents, teenagers and tweens to deal with. Seeing your child deal with social anxiety and low confidence caused by pimples can be frustrating if you’re not sure how to help them.

Helping your child overcome their acne woes takes patience. Many times parents and child will resort to trying many different anti-acne skincare products, switching to whatever is the latest, most popular anti-acne product on the market hoping to see fast results. But it takes time to see improvement — and applying skincare products without researching its ingredients first can wreak havoc on your child’s face making breakouts even worse.

Puberty is a time of change and your child’s hormones are constantly in flux. Safe skincare products are those that do the job without disturbing this balance even further. Here’s a list of potentially harmful ingredients you should avoid, and how to make sure the skincare product you’re choosing is safe for your tween or teen’s skin.

Skincare Ingredients to Avoid

Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals (EDC)

Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals (EDC) are typically found in synthetic chemicals and interfere with our bodies’ normal hormone functions. They imitate hormones and cause signalling issues that result in premature cell death. EDC is linked with several health risks, most notably breast cancer, cardiovascular and pulmonary disorders. The skin is the most common point of exposure to EDC as many of these chemicals can be found in skincare and cosmetic products.

So, how can you find out if the skincare product you are choosing contains EDC?

Look for Parabens

Parabens are a common ingredient in skincare as a preservative to extend the shelf-life of a product. They mimic estrogen in the human body and can affect normal growth and function of the mammary glands. They have been found to increase the risk of breast cancer. Having said this, the concentration of Parabens used in the study was very high, so it might not necessarily translate into real risk when used on the skin. But there are less controversial alternatives, so we are sticking to our guns to avoid Parabens. 

You can identify parabens on ingredient lists with the following names:

  • Methylparaben
  • Butylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Isobutylparaben
  • Benzylparaben

Avoid Phthalates

Phthalates can be found in synthetic fragrances, often labeled as “fragrance” or “parfum” on a product’s ingredient list. They are found to have adverse effects like decreased sperm count, testicular cell destruction and thyroid irregularities on the male reproductive system.

Essential Oils

It’s not uncommon to find essential oils in today’s beauty products. In fact, many skincare products out in the market include tea tree oil as an anti-acne ingredient. Although seemingly harmless, continued studies on tea tree and lavender oils have shown that they are linked to abnormal breast growth in pre-puberty young boys.

The reason for this is because both tea tree and lavender oils have estrogen-like properties while simultaneously inhibiting testosterone — which can potentially cause male gynecomastia. Further testing shows that these chemicals in particular: eucalyptol, 4-terpineol, dipentene/limonene, alpha-terpineol, linalyl acetate, linalool, alpha-terpinene and gamma-terpinene are responsible.

Look for Ingredients like Soy, Soy Isoflavones, Berries

Some natural plants that we eat or use in skincare have naturally occurring chemicals called phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens mimic the female hormone called estrogen in our body. Some of the plants high in phytoestrogen are soy, berries, cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli.

There’s no strong studies on this to show that ingredients high in phytoestrogen might lead to imbalance of hormones. However, coming back to tea tree and lavender essential oils, it was only later that scientists confirmed in the lab that pure lavender and tea tree oils can mimic the actions of estrogens and inhibit the effects of androgens. Using products with ingredients high in phytoestrogens might not necessarily translate into real risk when used on the skin but again, there are less controversial alternatives, so we are suggesting to avoid ingredients that are high in phytoestrogen, especially for tween and teen boys.

Sulfates (SLS/SLES)

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are chemical detergents commonly found in hygiene products. You’ll find them in everything from shampoos to conditioners, soaps, cleansers, face and body wash. They are responsible for creating the suds, lather and bubbles in your product, and are excellent for breaking down oil and grease.

Unlike the other ingredients on this list, there aren’t any significant health risks associated with sulfates. However, their oil and grease removing properties make them too harsh for use on your child’s face. Cleansers with sulfate in them can strip the skin of its natural oils, triggering skin irritation and causing the glands to overproduce more oil, making acne worse. The best tween / teen cleanser would be sulfate-free, gentle yet cleanses well enough free of nasties that we have listed here.

Which Skincare Products are Safe?

Now that you know what ingredients to avoid, it’s time to turn your attention towards finding safe, effective skincare products that will help your teen or tween treat their acne with no side effects. Now, it would be unrealistic to go through the ingredients list of every skincare product out there, so here are a few key things you can look out for.

Clean Formulation

Products that advertise themselves as “clean” are typically free from questionable ingredients like sulfates and parabens. However, don’t make the mistake of taking the advertising at face value. Ingredients like essential oils are also considered clean, yet as discussed earlier in the article, can have unwanted side effects on tweens. Be sure to thoroughly research the company’s philosophy and formulations to find out exactly what they are excluding from their products.

European Union Guidelines

Generally speaking, the European Union (EU) has a higher standard of comprehensive testing for chemicals in beauty products. They have banned and restricted over 1,300 chemicals, compared to just 11 by the FDA in the US. 

Look out for products that follow EU regulations to improve your chances of acquiring safe skincare for your child.


Ultimately, safe skincare products for teens and tweens come down to finding products that follow strict EU regulations. It would be best to avoid EDC, essential oils or sulfates. Simple and gentle formulations with scientifically-proven ingredients with no added fuss are your best bet for a safe skincare product that protects your tweens and teens gentle skin.

Here at Skinlycious, we take into consideration all the above mentioned to formulate our products. You can find out more in details here on why and how our products are well suited for tweens and teens skin.

Skinlycious Calming Cleanser is gentle, no nasties with a focus on maintaining the skin’s acid mantle for healthy skin. For hydrating / moisturising young skin, Skinlycious Hydrating Serum uses natural active ingredients that are already found in our skin. To fight acne spots, our gentle, non-drying, non-peeling, vitamins-based Blemish Corrector does the job well. Skinlycious offers a money back guarantee on all our mini kits. Try risk free today!

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