Increasing awareness of lurking dangerous chemicals and ingredients has us checking our food nutrition labels twice, but what about the products that we slather on our face? Are you aware that there could be daily dangers hidden in the ingredients you use in your morning make-up ritual or evening face wash routine?
It is becoming more apparent that government standards offer loopholes in allowing potentially dangerous ingredients to be used in consumer products and even offer them the ability to be marketed as “healthy” or “natural.” We looked to Natural Solutions Magazine to help us break down 10 of the most potentially dangerous ingredients found in skin care. Don’t be alarmed if this list has you doing a clean sweep of your bathroom cabinet!
1. Synthetic fragrance: Manufacturers are allowed to use the term “fragrance” to protect trade secrets. This also allows them to mask a wide variety of undisclosed ingredients in perfume, lipstick, mascara, foundation, and moisturizer. They often contain phthalates (pronounced THAY-lates), synthetic chemicals commonly used to stabilize fragrances and make plastic more pliable (they’re also found in nail polish). These endocrine disrupters mimic hormones and may alter genital development. This is also true for products labeled as unscented.
- How to spot it: Look for products that say “no fragrances added,” “phthalate free,” or do not have “fragrance” listed as an ingredient.
2. Parabens: These are chemical preservatives that are estrogenic and can disrupt hormone function and increase the risk of breast cancer.
- How to spot it: You’ll find them at the ends of a long, unpronounceable words such as: methylparaben, propylparaben, isoparaben, and butylparaben. If you see it on the label, turn the other way!
3. Ureas and DMDM: These are formally known as diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, or DMDM hydantoin and sodium hydroxymethyl-glycinate, and are preservatives that have the potential to release formaldehyde in very small amounts, and are a primary cause of contact dermatitis.
- How to spot it: You’ll have to look for these ingredients on the label, because you won’t find a label that says “Urea-free.”
4. Sulfates: Both sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate are used as a sudsing or lathering agent. Corrosive and drying, both ingredients can cause skin irritation (though sodium lauryl sulfate is more problematic).
- How to spot it: Reading the labels is a must for these substances, though they can also be referred to by many names, including “dodecyl sodium sulfate,” “lauryl ether sulfate,” and even “sodium salt.”
5. Petrochemicals: These are chemicals derived from crude oil. These petroleum-based ingredients include petrolatum, mineral oil, and paraffin (derived from nonrenewable sources). When applied to the skin they can form a barrier that doesn’t allow your skin to breathe and can clog pores.
- How to spot it: Look for “petroleum- free” on the label, and search the ingredients for these nasty chemicals.
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6. MEA/DEA/TEA or “amines”: These ammonia compounds and can form harmful nitrosamines when they come in contact with nitrates. Used as foaming agents, synthetic stabilizers, and to adjust the pH of cosmetics, they can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation, and dryness of the hair and skin.
- How to spot it: When you’re reading the ingredients label, look for ingredients ending in “-amine” and for a string of capital letters.
7. Triclosan: This can be found in antibacterial soaps. It may have negative effects on the endocrine system and has been associated with allergies.
- How to spot it: Avoid unnecessary use of antibacterial products, and look for products that don’t have “triclosan” listed as an ingredient.
8. 1,4-dioxane: This is a chemical carcinogen that is created when ingredients are processed with petroleum-derived ethylene oxide. Common ethoxylated compounds include sodium laureth sulfate and polyethylene glycol, which is often listed as PEG. PEG has been found to exacerbate or induce allergies, asthma, eczema, and rhinitis.
- How to spot it: Skip any product with the following ingredients: myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth (or any other -eth), PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, or oxynol.
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9. Synthetic polymers: These come from petroleum and give viscosity to skincare products. They are highly processed and their manufacturer creates toxic by-products.
- How to spot it: Look for sodium polyacrylate and carbomer on the label.
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10. Chemical Sunscreens: These include oxybenzone and octyl methoxycinnamate and have been shown to disrupt endocrine activity.
- How to spot it: Choose a sunscreen or product with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide instead.