Non Toxic Skincare for Acne Prone Skin: What to Look For

  • June 28, 2023
  • 5 Minutes

Last updated on 10/02/2023 by Souhela Ferrah

Taking care of acne prone skin can be challenging, as it requires finding the proper skincare routine that effectively addresses breakouts without compromising the delicate ecosystem in our skin.

Many people tend to turn to skincare products available in supermarkets and pharmacies, but how many of us are able to read the ingredients labels? How often these products are packed with toxic or potentially toxic ingredients?

in this article, I will explore the world of non toxic skincare for acne prone skin, providing you with the knowledge on harmful ingredients, how to look for them, and some examples of where you can find them so that you can choose safe and effective solutions to manage acne-prone skin.

Understanding Acne Prone Skin

Acne prone skin is more susceptible to developing acne lesions such as pimples or blackheads. This multifactorial skin condition is associated with excess sebum production, clogged pores, and inflammation, lowering the quality of life of people that suffer from it. Understanding the underlying causes of acne breakouts, such as hormonal imbalances, genetics, and environmental factors, is really important in the context in finding out what’s your perfect skincare routine. We have created for this purpose a detailed guide that you can find here: The Science Behind Acne: Understanding the Causes and Treatments.

Decorative texture to represent toxic skincare agents
organic texture symbolizing toxic skincare chemicals
decorative picture showing gummy bears

The Hazards of Toxic Skincare Products

Taking care of acne prone skin can be challenging, as it requires finding the proper skincare routine that effectively addresses breakouts without compromising the delicate ecosystem in our skin. In pursuing clearer and healthier skin, most people turn to skincare products they can find in the supermarket or at the pharmacy. Multinational brands, that sell everything from your daily moisturizer to the detergent you use to clean the floors of your house, have a highly diverse array of skincare options for us, and usually at a very aggressive price.

But do any of us know what is written on the ingredients list? Have you heard of most of the components of your daily facial cream? Who checks, controls, and regulates these combinations of potentially harmful chemicals that are allowed to build up in our system trough skincare? In her statement before the United States government, Jane Houlihan, the National Director of Science and Health at the NGO Healthy Babies Bright Futures, answers this question:

Many commercially available conventional skincare products have undesirable components that might aggravate acne and even have long-term health implications. Sulfates, parabens, artificial fragrances, and harsh chemical exfoliants may strip the skin of its natural oils, throw off its equilibrium, and irritate it.

Additionally, some ingredients in skincare products have the potential to disturb the endocrine system, which might affect how hormones are regulated and could make acne worse. By choosing non toxic skincare, you reduce the possibility of these negative consequences and prioritize your skin’s health, while still achieving real, measurable results.

Identifying Toxic Ingredients

When shopping for skincare products, it’s important to familiarize with their ingredients. The easiest way to do that is by reading the ingredients label on the product and knowing which ingredients are beneficial and which are harmful. Look for beneficial ingredients such as tea tree oil, witch hazel, aloe vera, green tea extract, or salicylic acid derived, depending on the properties you need for your skin. They are gentle yet effective in combating breakouts and promoting a clearer complexion.

It’s important to also state how the concentration of these healthy botanical ingredients is fundamental for the effectiveness of non toxic skincare for acne (or for any other skin concern, for that matter). That’s why honest brands like Fields of Yarrow have chosen to mark the difference in the market by supercharging the skincare products with a significant, impactful concentration of active agents. That’s why we invite to always compare the ingredients list and concentration between products, when choosing which ones to put your trust and money into.

Although the following list is not exhaustive, these are the most common harmful skincare ingredients that you can find and should avoid, based on my personal research and experience.


The vast majority of ingredients (in cosmetics) have not been assessed for safety by the CIR, the FDA, or any other publicly accountable body. (…) Companies are free to use almost any ingredient they choose in personal care products, with no proof of safety required. (…) The FDA does not know the extent of health impacts from harmful ingredients in cosmetics.


Fragrance is a generic umbrella term that barely means anything; yet, this is the term that you’ll read on 90% of the ingredients lists . Companies are not legally required to disclose the ingredients they use for the ‘fragrance’ component of their products. These are usually a mixture of chemicals mimicking a natural scent, so they are a synthetic, cheaper version of the smells nature gives us.

Phthalates are a common chemical protected under the ‘fragrance’ umbrella and include:

  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)
  • Diethyl-pthalate (DEP)
  • DHEP
  • and more.

DEHP, for example, has been declared a public health risk by the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS), even though it is still used at low concentrations in several products.

In which products do I find them?

Phthalates are commonly found in nail polish, makeup, soaps, shampoos, and most fragranced products.

How will I find them on my label?

These will be hidden under the umbrella term ‘fragrances’ or ‘perfume’ in the ingredients list. Look for a specific legend that states that the fragrance comes from a natural source, like an essential oil.


Parabens are widely used as preservatives in cosmetics and toiletries. They penetrate the skin quickly and can interfere with normal hormone function by mimicking estrogen. Excessive exposure to parabens can cause cancers of estrogen-responsive organs. They typically include:

  • methylparaben
  • ethylparaben
  • propylparaben
  • butylparaben
  • isobutylparaben
  • isopropylparaben
  • benzylparaben

Since all the public agitation about parabens started, manufacturers have labeled products as ‘paraben-free,’ but they can contain replacement compounds that are really not much better, like phenoxyethanol.

In which products do I find them?

Parabens are commonly found in deodorants, shampoos, soaps, moisturizers, makeup, hair care, and sunscreen.

How will I find them on my label?

The term ‘paraben’ will be listed on the ingredients list, so if you see it, try looking for a different product. Also, keep an eye out for phenoxyethanol.


There is some debate over the safety of sulfates, which are the salts produced when sulfuric acid combines with another chemical. They are commonly used in products because they give us the “clean” feeling we love in our shampoos and soaps. They can be made from petroleum or plant sources like coconut or palm. Those that come from petroleum are the ones that some people are concerned with, although there is currently no evidence that links sulfates to unhealthy skin.

So, it’s up to you! You can decide whether you like or dislike sulfates in your products. I personally stay away from sulfates, as my vision and mission has always been the science-backed natural skincare approach, using selectively the power of natural ingredients in my routines and in my products.

In which products do I find them?

Sulfates are commonly found in soaps, shampoos, body and face washes, bubble bath products, laundry and dish detergents, and toothpaste.

How will I find them on my label?

Either sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) or sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).

Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing agents

These chemicals are used to preserve and lengthen the shelf-life of products of all sorts, including skincare products. Due to the bactericidal and fungicidal properties, free formaldehyde (FA) is one of the stronger choices to preserve cosmetic products. Through decomposition, several formaldehyde releasers present in many common skincare products slowly release formaldehyde. Most of these releases are:

  • quaternium-15
  • DMDM hydantoin
  • imidazolidinyl urea
  • diazolidinyl urea
  • polyoxymethylene urea
  • sodium hydroxymethylglycinate

Research has shown that formaldehyde causes contact allergies; up to 10% of people can develop chronic allergic dermatitis, presumably because it’s hard to avoid exposure to the compound entirely.

In which products do I find them?

Sulfates can commonly be found in nail polish, eyelash glue, hair gel, hair smoothing products, baby shampoos, and body and face washes.

How will I find them on my label?

Formaldehyde, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate.

A special thanks go to Dr. Tammy Alner in Australia and her blog “The White Pidgeon Said” who created an extensive list of harmful ingredient names.

Building a Non Toxic Skincare Routine

Creating a non toxic skincare routine for acne prone skin is the first recommendation that any expert will give you. Researchers have found that with a recurrent skincare routine, patients dealing with acne see a significant improvement. It is important to know which products to use and in which order and to understand their effect.

Here are some of our products featuring only non toxic ingredients, featured in our personalized nightly routine (keep reading, link at the bottom of the post).

Maintaining pH Balance for Acne Prone Skin by choosing natural ingredients

The skin’s pH balance is an essential factor to consider in maintaining its health. The skin’s natural pH is slightly acidic, creating an environment that inhibits the growth of acne-causing bacteria. Some skincare products with high pH levels can reduce this balance and increase inflammation and breakouts. Non toxic skincare products often prioritize maintaining the skin’s pH balance by incorporating natural ingredients like rose water, apple cider vinegar, and natural fruit extracts, which help regulate the skin’s acidity and support a healthy skin barrier.

The problem is often that the product we choose are not only challenging in terms of their safety and how appropriate they are for each specific case, but also because some products are more indicated for daily usage, and other for nightly absorption. Often, busy men and women have a hard time implementing a long and extensive morning skincare routine; to help with this, we have created Our Nighttime Skincare Routine for Acne-Prone Skin; consider checking it out, as it is sure to help clear your skin of impurities, leaving you with a natural, healthy and balanced glow.


Why is taking care of acne prone skin challenging

Acne prone skin requires a skincare routine that effectively addresses breakouts without compromising the skin's delicate ecosystem. Finding the right products can be challenging as many commercially available skincare products may contain toxic or potentially harmful ingredients

What are some common toxic ingredients found in skincare products

Some common toxic ingredients found in skincare products include fragrances, parabens, sulfates, and formaldehyde-releasing agents. These ingredients can strip the skin of natural oils, disrupt hormonal balance, and irritate the skin.

Why choosing non toxic skincare products for acne?

There is a strong scientific reason for choosing non toxic skincare products over their cheaper alternatives. Non toxic skincare products avoid harmful ingredients that can irritate the skin and worsen acne. They prioritize gentle, natural ingredients that effectively address breakouts without compromising the skin's health.

Can non toxic skincare routines be combined with medical acne treatments

Yes, that's another reason why choosing non toxic ingredients only. Non toxic skincare routines can be combined with medical acne treatments, while of course it's essential to consult with a dermatologist or healthcare professional. They can provide personalized advice and guidance on incorporating non toxic skincare products alongside any prescribed acne treatments.

How long does it take to see results with a non-toxic skincare routine for acne-prone skin

We are a honest brand, and we give honest answers: the time it takes to see results can vary depending on various factors, such as the severity of acne and individual skin characteristics. What can be told with certainty, is that consistency is key, and it may take several weeks or even months of regular use to notice significant improvements in acne prone skin.

Are non toxic skincare products more expensive than conventional ones

Non toxic skincare products can vary in price, just like conventional products. While some non toxic options may be higher in price due to the quality of ingredients or ethical sourcing practices, there are also affordable options available. It is for sure true though, that the attention, transparency and quality of sourcing will increase the production price of any product, and therefor, their market price too.

About the Author

Souhela Ferrah
Souhela Ferrah

Researcher, mom and founder of Fields of Yarrow

Growing up in the south of France, Souhela Ferrah was surrounded by flower fields. As the daughter of a pharmacist, and with her educational background as chemist, she grew up with a strong affinity with nature and understood its power very well. Thanks to her family, her hometown and her travels around the world, she found inspiration in natural healers, herbalists and nature itself. And this was enough to motivate her to start the awarded honest skincare brand, Fields of Yarrow.
Tags: acne / ingredients / non toxic / skincare products

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