12.2 min read3060 words

Harmful Skincare ingredients for dry skin and their effects in worsening situation


Mahlagha Homayouni


April 1, 2021


Ingredients to avoid for dry skin type

Dry skin could be described as a skin type that produces insufficient sebum, which causes it to lack lipids that are needed to retain moisture and make a protective barrier against external influences. All skin types get drier with aging and women suffer more than men from dry skin. Dry skin problems amount to 40% of visits to dermatologists. However, in this article, we will try to show what dry skin type is, and what harmful skincare ingredients for dry skin are.

Harmful Skincare ingredients for dry skin

Understanding the mechanisms that result in dry skin could help us to get better what things are not good for dry skin type. After we understand these factors and causes, we can better what ingredients are harmful to this type of sensitive skin.


skin assessment

Chapter 1

What causes dry skin?

The moisture of the skin is highly related to the supply of water in the skin layers and perspiration. This type of skin might be a result of constant losing water via perspiration or trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). The former means active water loss from the glands that could be caused by heat, stress, and activity. TEWL is a passive and natural way in which skin loses about half a liter of water from the deeper skin layers daily.

Dry skin could also be a result of a lack of natural moisturizing factors (NMFs). Especially the lack of urea, lactic acid, and amino acids that help to bind in water could result in this problem. Also, the lack of epidermal lipids like fatty acids, ceramides, and cholesterol that are needed for the barrier function in healthy skin could lead to dry skin.

Dry skin could also be caused by the following factors:

–         Genetics

–         Hormonal changes or aging

–         Weather conditions such as wind, sun, or cold

–         Exposure to ultraviolet radiation for tanning

–         Indoor heating

–         Using hot water for long baths

–         Ingredients in soaps, cosmetics, and skincare products

Chapter 2

Symptoms of Dry Skin

It should be noted that several phases or degrees of dry skin are available. If dry skin is not treated its condition will worsen to very dry skin that somehow develops different symptoms. It is not the end of the story, because not treating very dry skin can lead to extremely dry skin that causes other symptoms, too.

However, mildly dry skin feels tight, brittle, and rough with a dull appearance. Its elasticity is also low. It often has almost invisible pores and red patches. You can also easier find lines on the dry skin.

Harmful Skincare ingredients for dry skin

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Chapter 3

Why these ingredients are harmful?

Skincare ingredients are somehow a new series of products that are designed especially to bring some useful ingredients to deep layers of skin. When these ingredients are useful and help your skin, they have an influential effect that you can see their results after a few times using. But when these ingredients are harmful, they might bring adverse effects and leaving your skin more itchy or red. These ingredients offer various types of symptoms that we try to introduce in the following.

You should take this list seriously and avoid skincare products containing these harmful ingredients because they might affect your skin and harm it as soon as you use them a few times. These products include various types of skincare products from cleansers and moisturizers that you use often twice a day to other types of oils, balms, and creams that you might use several times a day. Avoiding these things helps you to retain your skin in a healthy and peaceful condition without any redness or roughness on your skin. Following is this harmful skincare ingredients list.

Chapter 4

Harmful Skincare ingredients for dry skin


As you can see above, several types of symptoms occur including dry skin type. This might lead one to use various skincare products and treatments, which might worsen the situation. Dry skin is somehow very sensitive skin, and people with this skin type should avoid harmful skincare ingredients for dry skin. These ingredients include various types of sulfates, alcohol, salicylic acid, and also its natural alternative Willow bark.

People with middle to severe signs of dry skin should avoid these ingredients that might worsen their symptoms to severe to extremely dry skin. If your skin type is dry, simply check the ingredients list on a product before purchasing it to see whether it contains these ingredients or not. You might first think it’s a hard job to remember a list of ingredients, but you need to know which things might make your face itchy or the lines on your skin more noticing to avoid them. These things are not bad themselves, but when they are used on dry skin types, always worsen their symptoms and signs.

Harmful Skincare ingredients for dry skin

Isopropyl alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol is the first ingredient that you should avoid if you have a dry skin type. Alcohol is used in many skincare products as a dryer that helps other ingredients easily absorb into your skin. So you should avoid almost all types of quick-drying foundations, primers, lipsticks, moisturizer gels, and cleansers that contain alcohol in them.

Isopropyl alcohol is well known for its effect on dehydrating the skin and pulling out the water from within, which affects the barrier function of the skin and when you have dry skin, it can create irritation, redness, and sensitivity. You should look for alternative fatty alcohols such as cetyl and Cetearyl alcohol in your skincare products ingredients lists, as these are smoothening ingredients that actually help your skin to keep its hydration.

You should note that isopropyl alcohol is a common skincare ingredient that is used in many skincare products. It acts as a preservative and antiseptic ingredient as well as a lightener that helps the absorption of other ingredients in the skin. It brings out water from deep layers of skin that results in dehydration of the skin. It is one of the most harmful skincare ingredients for dry skin and is also harmful in continued usage for other types of skin. It can make other types of skin sensitive and dry.

Sodium chloride

Sodium chloride, or common table salt, is another ordinary and abundant ingredient that is used in many skincare products as a thickening agent. It also acts as a preservative that readily absorbs to the skin and helps other ingredients absorb better into the skin. Body washes, shampoos, and facial cleansers are among the products that use largely salt in their formula. Salt is known for reducing the moisture in skin and hair. So, when you have dry skin, you should avoid using products that contain salt in their formula and ingredients list because they can dehydrate your skin and you lose more water from deep layers of your skin.

Salt is an inexpensive and abundant ingredient that is used in many skincare and cosmetic products. It acts in several ways with water and other skincare ingredients that make it an affordable option in many cases. It might work as a stripping ingredient in scrubbers. It reduces moisture in normal and oily skin types and should be regarded as one of the most harmful skincare ingredients for dry skin.

As we mentioned earlier, salt is not necessarily bad for all skin types. However, it might be harmful when your skin is already dry and you contain symptoms of dry skin. Otherwise, it should be regarded as a safe ingredient that is used in many skincare products. It is an economic ingredient that is easily found everywhere. So if you don’t have a dry skin type, you should not worry about it in any skincare product.

Harmful Skincare ingredients for dry skin

Sodium lauryl sulfate

Several types of skin care products such as body wash, cleansers, shampoos, and hand washes are made using Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in their formula. If you ever used a foamy and bubbly skincare product you should know that this form is an effect of this ingredient. Almost all foamy skincare products use Sulfates in their ingredients list and Sodium Laurel Sulfate is the most commonly used ingredient between them.

So what is wrong with SLS? It simply strips the skin of its natural oils which causes irritation, dry skin, and allergic reactions. If your skin already is somehow inflammatory, then its usage can bring itchy skin, scalp, eczema, and dermatitis to your skin. Its regular usage might also cause further reactions as it might lead to the absorption of foreign irritants. On dry skin type, this ingredient is never a great choice, because it can harshly strip this skin from all its natural oils.

So as a dry skin person, you should avoid any type of skincare product that contains sulfates in its ingredients list formula. As we mentioned earlier, almost all foamy and bubbly skincare products take their binding form from these ingredients and SLS is the most important ingredient in this list.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Sodium Laureth Sulfate is used most of the time as a detergent cleansing agent. This type of sulfate could be derived from coconut and is considered gentler than SLS. However, as we mentioned earlier, sulfates are among the most harmful skincare ingredients for dry skin and sensitive skin types. They are commonly used in soaps, cleansers, and other types of cleansing and personal care products. They are very effective in removing dirt and oil from the skin and that’s where their harm to dry skin type comes from.

Sulfates, including Sodium Laureth sulfate bare skin from its natural barrier function that keeps its moisture. However, Sodium Laureth sulfate is considered a lighter ingredient that offers fewer side effects than the former one. But when it comes to dry skin, few other ingredients are as harmful as sulfates. So it is recommended to look for sulfates-free skincare products. You can also check the product’s form to see whether it is foamy or not because most of the time this form comes from sulfates.

Harmful Skincare ingredients for dry skin

Ammonium lauryl sulfate

This type of sulfate is the ammonium salt of sulfated ethoxylated lauryl alcohol, which is a cleansing agent derived from coconut. Several types of cleanser products such as cleansers, shower gels, shampoos, and other types of skincare products are made using this ingredient. This ingredient often is used to offers cleanser products the power to easily remove oils and dirt from the surface of the skin.

That is exactly why sulfates are ingredients that should be avoided if one has a dry skin type. These cleansers might be very helpful when you need to remove heavy makeup, but when you have a dry skin type, they might strip your face skin from its natural oil and make your face skin drier. So even if you need a strong cleanser, you should look for sulfates-free products that don’t bring harsh to your skin.

Sulfates-free products are designed for dry and sensitive skin types that will suffer from sulfates ingredients. These products are also free of other harmful skincare ingredients for dry skin and you can use them without the need to check again their ingredient lists unless you have allergic reactions to some ingredients.

Soaps such as sodium Tallowate or Cocoate

Soaps are made most of the time using ingredients that could be harmful to dry skin. As we mentioned earlier, these ingredients are not necessarily harmful to all skin types, but they are harmful to dry skin and sensitive skin types because of their particular condition. Among ingredients that are used in making soaps are sodium tallowate and sodium cocoate, which are powerful detergents.

These ingredients help your skin make clean by removing oils and dirt that could not be removed by water alone. So, they are pretty common and in many skincare products, you can find them. Cleansers and swaps are products that most of the time are made with these ingredients. In the following, we will introduce these ingredients.

Harmful Skincare ingredients for dry skin

Sodium Tallow

Sodium tallow could be harsh on the skin, particularly if one has a dry skin type. It removes necessary oils that protect and hydrate the skin. This ingredient used in the long-term can bring harm to all skin types, but it might be also harmful in short term for dry skin. Tallow is among the first ingredients used largely in swap production and is pretty common in this industry because of its expensive price.

Sodium tallow acts just like sulfates, but it also removes many necessary oils of the skin. When you have dry skin, you need to keep your skin hydrated because it naturally lacks the necessary hydration. So you should take care of detergents and skincare products that use these ingredients in their formula. Sodium tallow is one of the most harmful skincare ingredients for dry skin that you should avoid if you don’t want redness and itchy skin.

Sodium cocoate

Another commonly used ingredient in the swap-making industry is sodium cocoate that used in many products. Nothing is wrong with this ingredient in general, but when it comes to dry skin, it could be regarded as one of the most harmful ingredients. It acts as an emulsifier that helps to create a stable balance between oils and water. Sodium Cocoate is the natural alternative to sulfates, but that does not mean it differs from them for dry skin persons.

Just like other detergents that help remove oils from the skin, sodium cocoate can remove necessary oils from the skin. That leads to redness, itching, and excessive dryness in sensitive and dry skin types.

As you can see most of the products that could be regarded as harmful skincare ingredients for dry skin are among cleansers and swaps, which are made using detergent ingredients. That means you should take care when you want to buy these products as they might lead to worsening the dry condition of your skin.

Harmful Skincare ingredients for dry skin

Salicylic acid

Unlike many other ingredients in our list, salicylic acid is an exfoliant that helps to remove dead skin cells, excess oil, and reduces whiteheads and blackheads, with improved benefits in the treatment of acne. However, this ingredient is best suited for oily skin, as its drying ingredient could be too harsh to dry skin and might lead to irritation. Salicylic acid is among the most commonly used ingredients for acne and treatment of whiteheads and blackheads, which are pretty rare in dry skins. However, using too much of this ingredient might also be harmful to other types of skin including oily ones.

As we mentioned earlier, salicylic acid acts as an exfoliant that removes oils from the skin. This property makes it one of the harmful skincare ingredients for dry skin that could lead to adverse effects and more dryness on these skins. If you need an exfoliant for your dry skin, you should consider using an alternative that is suitable for dry and sensitive skin.

Willow bark (the natural version of salicylic acid)

Willow bark is a natural ingredient that is used as an alternative to salicylic acid and could be transformed into salicylic acid with the usage of required enzymes. It is regarded in many cases as a safe alternative that also controls the oil in the skin and does not cause excessive dryness. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory ingredient that helps to reduce redness, pain, and swelling of acne, allergies, and sensitivities. It is recommended for acne treatment in skin types other than oily skin because it provides gentler properties.

However, if you have dry skin, it is better not risk to use this natural alternative of salicylic acid for treating your skin issues. Acne problems, as we mentioned earlier, are the main use cases of these ingredients, and these skin problems are pretty rare in dry skins. Willow bark is also among the harmful skincare ingredients for dry skin that should be avoided because of its dehydration function on the skin.

Harmful Skincare ingredients for dry skin

AHA acids

Alpha Hydroxy Acids are a group of acids that are mostly used on normal to dry skin as an exfoliant that does not dehydrate moisture of the skin. However, several types of AHA are available that come from various sources and you can use them according to the degree of your skin dryness. Some of the most well-known AHA acids include:

–         Glycolic acid

–         Lactic acid

–         Malic acid

–         Tartaric acid

–         Citric acid

–         Mandelic acid

Exfoliants are an important part of any skincare routine as they help remove dead skin cells and rejuvenate skin. AHA acids could be considered as not harmful skincare ingredients for dry skin and you can use these ingredients when you need an exfoliant. However, when you have dry skin you should use these types of products as low as possible because they worsen the lack of hydration in your skin. However, when you have to use them, it is recommended to use a cream or moisturizer gel afterward to bring back moisture into your skin.

Harmful Skincare ingredients for dry skin

Closing Thoughts

Cleansers, swaps, and exfoliants are among the most common parts of every skincare routine. These products are made most of the time using detergent and oil remover ingredients to wash away oils and dirt from your skin. When you have dry skin, you lack enough moisture and necessary oil in your skin. So, when you use these skincare products, your skin might be damaged and lose its necessary oil more. In this article, we showed all ingredients that are used in these products, which could be regarded as harmful skincare ingredients for dry skin.

These ingredients are not identical and some of them can harm dry skins less than others. You should try to remember these ingredients so when you want to purchase a new skincare product, you can see whether it is harmful to your skin or not. This might seem a difficult task, but it comes with your health reward. So if you don’t want a more itchy appearance, redness, and various types of inflammation on your face skin, you should take care of these ingredients.

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Finally, you can see a summary of all that has been said in the form of this infographic.

Harmful Skincare ingredients for dry skin


What ingredients are bad for dry skin?

What ingredients do I need to avoid for my dry skin? Sodium lauryl sulfate. Sodium laureth sulfate. Ammonium lauryl sulfate. Soaps such as sodium tallowate or cocoate. Salicylic acid. Willow bark (the natural version of salicylic acid) AHA acids.

What dries out your skin?

Dry skin occurs when skin doesn't retain sufficient moisture. This can happen as a result of frequent bathing, use of harsh soaps, aging, or certain medical conditions. And for those in colder climates, it can stem from cold, dry winter air.

Does drinking water help dry skin?

We tend to think that drinking a lot of water can cure dry skin, but the truth is that it's not effective. A normally-hydrated person probably won't see a difference in their skin after drinking an increased volume of water.

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