Skin + Hair Basics

What Ingredients to Avoid in Skincare

Time to ditch the drugstore skincare brands. Learn what is paraben, what is silicone, what is sulfate and why they are bad for your skin. All Cardon products are made cruelty-free, and all formulas are developed to be paraben-free, sulfate-free, and silicone-free. Upgrade your skincare routine and feel the difference for healthy skin.
What Ingredients to Avoid in Skincare

Learn why you should upgrade your skincare regimen (and ditch those drugstore brands). You've probably heard the terms parabens, sulfates, silicones, etc. Let's take a closer look at the ingredients many drugstore skincare brands use and how they may be causing harm to your skin.

We all grew up with the same drugstore brands, relying on them to fix our embarrassing acne and battle our pubescent body odor. And with all due respect to those brands—you know their names—it’s high time to bid them farewell and upgrade.

Why? Most of these low-cost drugstore brands use harsh chemical preservatives in their formulas to keep their costs low and prolong shelf life. Plus, they usually skimp on the good ingredients. It’s great that the moisturizer has Vitamin E, but that’s baseline, whereas much of the competition offers far more benefits to the skin. For you, this means more irritated skin, less positive impact on your skin quality (any anti-aging regimen is instantly compromised), and a greater chance of breakouts.

Good quality is still very accessible to the everyday consumer. An ingredient-conscious moisturizer with broad-spectrum SPF can run you $20. Yes, it might cost twice as much as the drugstore label, but it likely comes without those preservatives, since it isn’t made en masse. And, for that extra spend, you get ingredients that are more effective and targeted to your needs, like cactus extract, in Cardon’s case. We’re able to create stable formulas without resorting to the use of preservatives, which is a tenet of Korean skincare (and its focus on research, development, and technology). It’s hard to get a tailored, powerful product from the $8 shelves. That’s just a matter of fact.


The following ingredients are three of the biggest offenders when it comes to skincare. They are especially common in drugstore brands, and are a core indicator of hastily made products—something that won’t benefit the health and hydration of your skin in the long term, much less the short term. Forget any instant effects they may have, and try not to rationalize their minor benefits, because they’re ultimately harmful.


Parabens sit firmly atop any “do not use” list, and they are most commonly found in cleansing or hydrating products. Parabens help preserve products and prolong their shelf life, similar to adding lots of sugar or sodium to food in order to prevent decay. But just as those sugary and salty foods are bad for you to ingest, parabens are even worse to apply to your body. Once soaked into the bloodstream, they can disrupt endocrine functions and hormone levels in the body, which can in turn lead to cancerous tumors (particularly on breast tissue).

You can usually identify them on product labels by looking for an ingredient with “-paraben” at the end of the word (such as isobutylparaben or propylparaben).


Sulfates are common in cleansing products—from face cleansers to shampoos to soaps. They are used for their ability to build a lather or foam, but they also have extreme drying effects on skin. That’s because they’re so highly effective at maximizing a product’s cleansing powers, that they strip away everything good and nourishing in addition to everything bad. So they do so much cleaning that they irritate the skin and can lead to redness, dryness, and even acne breakouts (they’re often comedogenic, too, which means they can clog pores). You can practically feel their drying effects on the skin and hair after each use, and it doesn’t feel good. That right there is your clue that the brand prioritizes cheap production over quality, healthy results.

You’ll typically see sulfates listed as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES).


Like water and oil, silicone is a base agent in many skincare and cosmetic products. It can provide a silky-smooth finish to some products, which feels great in the moment. Silicone is also a key ingredient in many “water- or sweat-resistant” sunscreen products, for its ability to repel water. But unlike the other two, it is a known comedogenic ingredient, meaning it can clog the pores. For as effective as it is at keeping bad stuff out of your skin, it’s just as good at trapping things inside of it, too. (Not to mention, it also blocks good ingredients from being absorbed, so it’s pointless to apply anything over top a silicone-based hydrator or sunscreen.) Most brands that use silicone do so because of its low cost—hence why it’s a good indicator of their choosing quantity over quality.

You can spot a silicone by looking for any ingredients with the following suffixes: -cones, -silanes, -siloxanes, and -conols.

Featured: Cardon's Essentials Skincare Set Paraben-free, Sulfate-free, Silicone-free. Made 100% cruelty-free.

At Cardon, the top priority is quality over quantity. We produce high-quality, affordable skincare products that are not only effective, but which are also safe and healthy for you. In turn, we avoid a long list of bad, corner-cutting ingredients, including the three above. Again, that’s in our fabric, which follows the core principles of Korean skincare.

As consumers ourselves, we owe a lot to those drugstore brands for getting us through the awkward stages of life. But if we had known better then, or had a slightly higher budget than our minimum-wage part-time jobs had allowed, then we happily would have upgraded. In order to be smart consumers, we must first value smart production—one that offers a wise exchange of money for quality. That is to say, we prioritize using the right ingredients instead of taking advantage of customers, unlike most drugstore brands.