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What Ingredients To Avoid In Your Skincare Products | Ambrosia | Hong Kong

What Ingredients To Avoid In Your Skincare Products

November 18, 2020

Everyone has a different opinion about which ingredients to avoid in skincare, with many deeming ‘chemicals’ the evil of it all. Here is the truth——everything you can breathe, see, ingest, or touch is made up of chemicals. Water is a chemical. Oxygen is a chemical. Plants are made up of chemicals. Even the human body is all made up of chemical elements.

So if you see anyone telling you their products are green and organic and do not contain chemicals, sorry to say but they clearly do not know what they are talking about and are simply fear mongering.

In fact over the past few years, many ingredients have been demonized and deduced as ‘toxic’ to make seemingly ‘natural’ products appear more attractive to conscientious shoppers based on flawed studies or research not done in context, without actual scientific proof that they’re unsafe. Additionally, toxicity is very much dose­-dependent. For instance, some things that are good for us, like water, if you drink too much, it can cause hyponatremia. Same as oxygen, too much oxygen can cause hyperoxemia. Whilst poison ivy, a natural botanical ingredient, can cause severe allergies.

With that being that, certain ingredients, especially when used repeatedly, do have health or skin implications and thus are best to avoid. Here are a few of them:



Sulphates, such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), are cleaning ingredients that product foam, and can be found in conventional cleansers, shower gels, shampoos, and even toothpaste. They cleanse the skin for sure, but they also strip the skin of its natural oil, and can damage the skin’s lipid barrier, thus weakening its defence ability as well as allowing harmful bacteria and pollutants to enter the body through the skin, which can then lead to irritations, inflammations and redness.

Worse yet, it is also believed to be a contributor to acne, eczema and dermatitis, because not only is it comedogenic, it also has high alkalinity, which allows bacteria such as p.acnes to thrive.

In fact, it is also believed that for those with cystic acne around the mouth and chin, using a toothpaste with SLS or SLES might be one of the contributing factors.

Thus, for the sake of skin health, avoid all foaming cleansers and choose non-foaming face cleansers instead. Also, consider finding a SLS/SLES-free toothpaste.

Agent Nateur acid(wash) Lactic Acid Brightening Cleanser | Ambrosia | Hong Kong

acid(wash) Lactic Acid Brightening Cleanser  <- Click to shop

Infused with premium organic ingredients, such as Peony Root Extract, Lavender Flower Water and Oil, Aloe Vera, as well as Lactic Acid, this gentle cleanser removes daily grime, soothes inflammation, and gently exfoliates to brighten dull skin, refine texture and pores, reduce hyperpigmentation, and reduce blackheads and acne yet without any irritation, leaving skin silky, supple, and youthful.




Triclosan is a preservative that reduces and prevents bacterial and microbial contamination, mostly in toothpaste, soap, cleanser, mouthwash and shampoos. Over the years, studies have shown that it may cause allergies, damage the skin’s lipid barrier, impair immune function, and even hormonal disruptions, as well as endocrine and thyroid problems. If ingested via toothpaste, it may even damage the liver.

Currently, triclosan is banned in several countries, but it may still show up in various products. So do take note, and avoid it as much as you can. 

KLUR Elements of Comfort Botanical Body Oil | Ambrosia | Hong Kong

Elements of Comfort Botanical Body Oil  <- Click to shop

Formulated to nourish and replenish skin, this fast-absorbing body oil features organic hempseed, avocado, grapeseed, tamanu, kukui nut and pumpkin seed oils, together with Benzoin Resin, Noni extract, Bulgarian Rose and French Lavender, etc., to deliver nourishment and nutrients, soothe irritations, provide anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, antioxidant and anti-aging actions, whilst brightening skin and boosting the skin's natural process of collagen synthesis to all skin types including extra dry, eczema and dermatitis.



Used as a preservative to prevent bacterial growth, formaldehyde was previously widely used in skincare products. Some would argue that although this particular ingredient is considered carcinogen only under conditions with high or prolonged exposure, the most common side effect of formaldehyde in cosmetics is skin irritation, including scalp burns and hair loss. In fact, low levels of formaldehyde have been found to cause irritation to the eyes, nose, throat, and skin, and research shows that even short term use on normal skin can cause contact dermatitis.

Therefore, avoid products that contain formaldehyde, and choose other those that contain other more natural preservatives. Do not, however, choose any water-based products that claim to be completely free of preservatives, as all products containing water are breeding grounds for bacteria, fungi and microbes, and unless you want to smear all these nasty stuff on your face, you would need ingredients that prevent bacterial, fungal and microbial growth in your products.

La Bella Figura Découverte Under Eye Repair Serum | Ambrosia | Hong Kong


Découverte Under Eye Repair Serum <- Click to shop

This anti-wrinkle serum is enriched with 10 different organic botanicals, including Barbary Fig Seed Oil, Green Coffee Bean Oil, Blue Tansy Oil and Helichrysum Oil, that are rich in vitamins, ellagic acid, phytonutrients and fatty acids to nourish the delicate eye area, repair the look of tired eyes, improve the appearance of sagging skin, diminish dark circles and smooth fine lines and wrinkles.



Alcohol in skincare products is often used to help with evaporation for a lighter, fresher and dry-to-touch sensation, but it is also this particular property that may irritate the skin. These drying alcohol usually appear as Alcohol, Alcohol Denat., Isopropyl Alcohol, Methanol and SD Alcohol in a product’s ingredient list. When used in high concentrations, they deteriorate the skin’s protective barrier, rendering it ineffective at keeping moisture in and bacteria out, while stimulating oil production. These all may lead to dryness, irritations, and breakouts.

Do note however that not all ingredients with the word ‘alcohol’ is bad. Many are safe and are fatty alcohols that can benefit the skin. For instance, Benzyl Alcohol is a natural component of essential oils and an approved preservative under the COSMOS Organic Certification criteria that can inhibit bacterial reproduction, whereas Stearyl, Cetearyl & Cetyl Alcohol are derived from palm kernel and/or coconut oil, and have skin soothing and softening properties.

Twelve Beauty Ideal Brightening Corrective Serum | Ambrosia | Hong Kong

Ideal Brightening Corrective Serum <- Click to shop

A powerful botanical based brightening serum suitable for even the most sensitive skin, it is enriched with Mallow, Yarrow, Peppermint, Heath Speedwell, Lady’s Mantle, Cowslip etc. that are rich in iridioids, tannins, and polyphenols to disintegrate and inhibit melanin production, thereby brightening the skin and reducing hyperpigmentation, all the while fighting free radicals and inflammations, protecting skin cells, preventing collagen and elastin breakdown, and stimulating cell regeneration.


Artificial Dyes

To be honest, why skincare products use artificial dyes is beyond us, but guess what, it is far more common than you think. Take vitamin C serum as an example. Most of them on the market are yellow or orange in color, but did you know in reality, vitamin C dissolved into water is not yellow or orange. It’s clear! When it oxidizes, however, it does turn yellowish/orangey, and this is why a lot of brands adds artificial yellow/orange dye to the vitamin C products to cover up the fact that the product is oxidising, even before reaching the customers’ hands.

Remember, artificial dyes provide no benefits to the skin at all; on the contrary, they may potentially irritate the skin and cause sensitivity.

So make sure all those colors in your skincare products are natural and plant-based, because even certain ‘clean’ beauty brands do use artificial dyes to make sure their products look the same across batches, as botanicals do vary in smell and color due to numerous environmental factors such as amount of rainfall and sunshine, temperatures etc. 

Anfisa Skin Lilou Radiant Hydra Balm | Ambrosia | Hong Kong

LILOU Radiant Hydra Balm  <- Click to shop

Highly anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and soothing, the organic formula rich in organic Blue Tansy, Helichrysum, Hemp Seed oil, Carrot Seed Oil, Green Tea, White Tea and Matcha, etc., helps to relieve sensitivity, redness, dryness and swelling, promote skin regeneration, strengthen the skin lipid barrier, restore water-oil balance, soothe acne, while inhibiting elastin breakdown and slowing down the aging process.


Artificial Fragrance

Now, most people like nice smelling products for a more sensual experience, yet, international law does not require companies to list on product labels any of the chemicals in the umbrella term of ’fragrance’, as it is considered proprietary. The problem is, while some ingredients are harmless, some can be strong allergens that may cause skin irritation and sensitivities like contact dermatis, or even headaches, allergies, dizziness, and rashes. Some people do not react to fragrance at all, but for  certain people symptoms of sensitization can appear immediately, whilst for some, they may appear only after a certain period of time.

Compared to artificial fragrance, essential oils could be a safer option. Do however note that even natural essential oils have their respective dermal limit, for instance, rose oil has a dermal limit of 0.02%, and the total concentration of essential oils in a formula should not be over 0.5-1% in leave-on products. Otherwise they also run the risk of sensitizing the skin. 

Marie Reynolds London Goji Mallow Cleanse™ | Ambrosia | Hong Kong

Goji Mallow Cleanse™  <- Click to shop

A hydrating and nourishing cleanser with a marshmallow-like texture. Enriched with a natural super antioxidant blend of Goji Berries, Açaí Berries and Oat Silk, as well as nourishing oils like Frankincense, Avocado and Plum, it locks in moisture, provides essential nutrients, reduces inflammation and increases elasticity of the skin, all the while providing a gentle cleansing action.


What about Parabens?

This is a notoriously difficult topic to properly address. A study in 2004 conducted on 20 individuals with breast cancer found parabens in tumor tissues. This sparked fear amongst consumers, although the study had a very small sample size, no control groups, and the results were correlative (i.e. it did not prove the tumors were a result of parabens), and therefore often rebutted by the scientific community.

Now, the most common debate amongst scientists and chemists around parabens is whether it is carcinogenic. At extremely high concentrations, parabens can mimic the growth effects of estrogens on breast cancer cells, but are generally considered safe in small doses. Regardless, this may turn out to be not the case when they are combined with other factors that regulate cell growth, and more research and studies simply need to be conducted to look at all different aspects.

As of now, there is no answer as to whether parabens are absolutely carcinogenic. But if you would prefer to err on the side of caution, then choose products that don’t contain parabens

Note: All products Ambrosia carry do not contain SLS, SLES, triclosan, formaldehyde, alcohol, artificial dyes, artificial fragrance, and parabens.


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