10 Ingredients to Avoid in Skincare

I started learning all about the ingredients in makeup and skincare at a young age. Why? Because my parents owned a company that supplied cosmetics to major (like, very major) makeup retailers. That’s how my whole family discovered just how willing big brands were to sell us truly crap products wrapped in nice packaging at really extravagant prices.

These brands were so willing to load their products with harmful ingredients and remove any expensive beneficial ingredients just to save a few cents—it’s actually pretty appalling.

Following this business venture and experience, my father started his own natural and organic skincare company to provide products that contained only the good and none of the bad. This reinforced and improved my own knowledge of what were good ingredients for our skin—and what were bad.

To top it all off, I started my own Amazon business selling natural and organic skincare for babies and children, which I did for years. So, while I may not be a chemist, I have extensive experience in this area.

Now, I want to pass that experience and knowledge on. Most of you probably know that I’m a big supporter of eating clean and putting only healthy, whole foods in my body. Well, I feel much the same way about what I put ON my body—as in skincare and makeup!

As the first of a two-part series, I want to cover some of the things to watch out for when shopping for skincare and makeup—ingredients that have negative effects or could even be considered toxic.

10 Toxins to Avoid in Skincare & Makeup

1. Parabens

Preservatives most often found in cleansers, body washes, lotions, foundation, soaps, shampoos, and more, parabens are intended to extend the shelf-life of products. But there are better ways and ingredients to accomplish this, especially when you consider that parabens are known to mimic estrogen in the body, potentially leading to hormonal imbalances and even breast cancer. A recent study actually found concentrations of parabens in human breast tumors. Another study discovered that 99% of all cancerous breast tumors contained parabens—yikes! When checking labels, keep an eye out for methylparaben, proplyparaben, isopropylparaben, isobutylparaben, and basically anything with the word “paraben” in it.

2. Sulfates

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)—they’re foaming agents, so basically they’re what make shampoo, bubble bath, soap, and even toothpaste lather, foam, and get all bubbly. Unfortunately, they can also cause skin irritation or trigger allergies. And, a common byproduct of the suplhation process is a chemical byproduct called “nitrosamines”—and 90% nitrosomines are considered carinogenic, aka cancer-causing.

3. Parfum/Artificial Fragrance

You’ve probably seen the word “Fragrance” or “Parfum” in skincare and cosmetic product ingredient lists before, since it’s in most of them unfortunately. In fact—it’s often even in “unscented” products! You know, to give it that lovely “unscented” smell. What sucks about this ingredient is that manufacturers aren’t required to tell us what’s actually in their fragrances, they simply have to list the word “Fragrance” or “Parfum” in their ingredients—but those two words could actually be hiding all sorts of carcinogens, allergens, irritants, hormone disruptors, and other nasty chemicals and we’d never know it. Better to just stay away. Choose something that gets its nice smell from natural extracts and oils instead.

4. Phthalates

A phthalate is a type of chemical added to plastics in cosmetics to keep them soft and flexible, without ever becoming brittle. They’re most often found in deodorant, fragrances, hair spray, nail polish, and lotion. Names they go by include DBP, DEHP, DEP, and more. Similar to parabens, phthalates disrupt the endocrine system, which can result in hormonal and reproductive problems, as well as birth defects. This is especially dangerous for children, and Congress has apparently already banned several types of phthalates from children’s products. Probably a good idea to stay away as an adult, as well.

5. Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)

PEG is used as a thickener in many different types of skincare and cosmetics, but especially in lotions, sunscreen, and shampoo. Unfortunately, it’s often contaminated with both ethylene oxide—which is a known carcinogen—and 1,4-Dioxane, which is known to cause respiratory problems and is actually banned in Canada.

6. Formaldehyde

Yes—that toxic stuff used to preserve dead bodies (animal and human) is often used as a preservative in skin and hair care, most commonly shampoo, bubble bath, and body wash. It’s a known carcinogen, and it’s been linked to asthma, developmental toxicity, and neurotoxicity. No, thank you!

7. Mineral Oil

You’re going to find mineral oil in A LOT of skincare and makeup products out there. It gives many products the illusion of being moisturizing. For example, baby oil is made entirely of mineral oil. Unfortunately, mineral oil is used so frequently NOT because of any benefits to the skin—it’s actually because it’s cheaper to sell as a filler than it is to dispose of it. Mineral oil is derived from petroleum and may be contaminated with cancer-causing toxins. In fact, it’s original use? A mechanical lubricant. It provides no nutrients to the skin and instead just seals off your skin, preventing it from breathing—much like wrapping your skin in plastic wrap. It makes acne worse and causes premature aging by slowing cell renewal, breaking down collagen, and destroying connective tissue. Other serious health issues can include negative hormonal effects, like endometriosis, ovarian dysfunction, immune system damage, and even miscarriages. Watch out for it under these other names as well: petrolatum, paraffinum, and petroleum jelly.

8. Oxybenzone

When it comes to sunscreen, you can buy it in two different forms: chemical and mineral filters. The big brand name sunscreens use chemical filters, like oxybenzone. But oxybenzone is a known endocrine disruptor and can mess with your thyroid function. It’s also been connected to skin allergies. And you don’t just have to watch out for it in sunscreen, you might also find it in the ingredient lists of moisturizers, lip balms, and makeup.

9. Diethanolamine

A foaming agent, diethanolamine is a known respiratory toxin and carcinogen—which is why the European Union restricted its use in personal care products. In the US, however, you’ll still find it in body wash, shampoo, and bubble bath. On labels, it’s often abbreviated to “DEA.”

10. BHT

Synthetic antioxidants used to prolong the shelf-life of products, BHT are likely hormone disruptors and carcinogens that may cause liver damage. Definitely not something I’d consider “healthy.” Watch out for BHT in moisturizers, diaper creams, lipstick, and other cosmetics.

As a special note, you’ll find that SO MANY skincare and cosmetic products list “water” as the very first ingredient. Something to keep in mind—water dries out the skin. Something else to keep in mind—the reason so many products use water as a base is because it’s CHEAP. They’re literally WATERING DOWN the potency of the products to save themselves money. While I won’t call water harmful of course, I would recommend looking for products that find their base in something that actively benefits the skin, like aloe vera!

I hope this was helpful and not too scary! But making sure what you’re putting on your skin is clean and nourishing, rather than harmful, is truly important in my opinion.

Part two of this series will focus on awesome, nutritious, healthy ingredients to look out for in skin care. Coming soon!

Xoxo,

Tiffany

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