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7 Toxic Ingredients to Avoid in Makeup and Skincare Products

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Makeup is a sword with two edges — no one denies it. But more worrying is that the same goes for personal care products too. It’s actually terrifying to know that something supposed to do good can make your life a nightmare. That’s the world we live in, where American women use an average of 12 personal care products that contain 168 different chemicals, as the EWG report suggests. Men are no exception to this, but they tend to use fewer products than women, with about 6 and 85 different chemicals. “While most cosmetic chemicals likely pose little or no risk to human health, exposure to some chemicals used in cosmetics and other personal care products has been linked to serious health problems, including cancer and reproductive harm,” states EWG. That’s something everyone, and I mean everyone, should be aware of. 

Yes, we are the ones who have to pay the price, and that is to be cautious with any ingredient. And it is not our fault. We don’t want to point fingers but think that more than 40 countries have banned 1400 chemicals in cosmetic products, while the U.S. has banned only 9. That’s happening because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has little authority to restrict or review chemicals in cosmetics. What are the consequences of these? Hundreds of makeup and skincare products containing chemicals linked to serious health issues and banned in many countries are still available on the U.S. market. 

We know you want to feed your skin with nutrients and not poison it.

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You don’t have to let your health and overall wellbeing be negatively affected for the sake of beauty and confidence. When up to 60% of what you put on your skin is deeply absorbed into it, you need to think twice before purchasing any cosmetic product. 

The dirty side & ingredients to avoid

Allergies, hormonal disruptions, cancer, reproductive issues are just a few of the problems that can develop if some ingredients are applied to the skin too often. We are exposed to pollution and chemicals in food, clothing, basically everywhere. There isn’t a lot we can do at some points, but regarding cosmetics, the right approach would be avoiding using products that contain known toxic compounds.

Triclosan

It is added to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination. It’s mostly found as an antimicrobial agent in toothpaste, body washes, detergents, and cosmetics. Triclosan can change the bacterial flora on the skin. In turn, a change in the bacterial composition of good bacteria can increase the risk of developing allergies. Even the FDA announced that “consumer antiseptic washes” containing triclosan were prohibited, in December 2017. This compound has been linked to hormonal disruptions, impaired muscle function, bacterial resistance, impaired immune function, and increased allergies. It’s OK to use naturally antibacterial & antiseptic agents such as tea tree oil, thyme, eucalyptus, or lavender.

Aluminum

It’s a toxic metal that has estrogen-like effects on our bodies and can disrupt the natural function of the endocrine system. In cosmetics, aluminum is used as a pigment and thickening agent, while aluminum compounds react as active ingredients in antiperspirants and antacids. Dermatologists affirm that it’s crucial not to use cosmetic products containing aluminum on damaged skin, especially after shaving. That’s because aluminum is absorbed through the skin, and the absorption rate is increased in these circumstances. 

The potential toxicity of aluminum in cosmetics has been a concern for several years and is still often accused of increasing the risk of breast cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. While this is still uncertain and research is ongoing, more than twenty-five aluminum compounds are among the substances present in cosmetic products. Aluminum Chlorohydrate is one of the most widely used, particularly in antiperspirants.

Parabens (methyl, ethyl, propyl, and butyl)

Parabens are meant to prevent bacterial and mold growth, but they can also contribute to hormone imbalance. The explanation is simple: parabens are synthetic estrogens that act like estrogen in our body, disrupting the hormonal system. Parabens are mostly found in shampoos, conditioners, lotions, cleansers, makeup, moisturizer, but they are actually everywhere. They are not water-soluble and can penetrate the skin, thus the repeated application of a paraben product means almost continuous exposure. Studies suggest that parabens can lead to UV-induced skin cell damage and increase cell proliferation in human breast cancer, especially if applied daily. Cosmetics typically contain different types of parabens, like methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl- and isobutylparaben. EWG found in U.S. products parabens (isobutyl and isopropyl) that are restricted in the EU and Southeast Asian nations. However, things are going in the right direction, as many cosmetic markers have switched to paraben-free formulas. 

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What does not have synthetic preservatives’ toxicity yet remain effective are essential oils, vitamins, and herbs. Even if those break down relatively fast — maximum one year — and they must be used in large concentrations, it worths it.

PEGs

Polyethylene has been observed to irritate the skin and should never be used on wounds or damaged skin. They penetrate the skin so quickly and can weaken the protein and cellular structure while reducing the skin’s natural moisture factor. PEGs found in body washes and scrubs are not filtered by our sewage systems, meaning they can travel into waterways, where marine animals and fish consume them — not friendly!

Ethylene oxide 

Ethylene oxide is classified in group 1 by The International Agency for Research on Cancer, meaning it is a proven carcinogen. In Canada, it has already been prohibited to be used in manufacturing health products and cosmetics. While it is among the top seven hidden ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products, ethylene oxide is associated with cancer, reproductive effects, neurotoxicity, and sensitization. 

Many manufacturers use harsh, raw materials. To make them less irritating, ethylene oxide is added to create a chemical reaction called ethoxylation. Since labels do not mention these contaminants, check labels for the presence of chemicals with PPG, PEG, and polysorbate in their name and ingredients that end in –eth such as laureth, steareth, ceteareth, as Safe Cosmetics suggest.

Synthetic fragrances

Even if fragrance looks like it’s one ingredient is more likely a blend of many compounds. It’s the only ingredient allowed to hide under a cloud and doesn’t have to say what it really is. The FDA allows cosmetic companies to use as many fragrance-forming ingredients as they like, and still, “fragrance” takes up just one spot on the label — so unfair for consumers. While most fragrance chemicals are not disclosed, some are linked to severe health problems such as cancer, reproductive and developmental toxicity, allergies, and sensitivities. According to AAD, the fragrance is the most common cause of cosmetic contact dermatitis.

More than that, based on a survey, 34.7% of the population reported health problems, such as migraine headaches and respiratory difficulties, when exposed to fragranced products. One solution could be to look for beauty products that plainly state what is scenting it or products that use essential oils instead of fragrance.

Siloxanes

Usually, it’s found in conventional shampoos due to its ability to reduce frizz and add shine. In cosmetics, it is added to improve performance in terms of lubricity and smoothness, even if it is a synthetic chemical, toxic and endocrine-disrupting. Also, it is known to influence neurotransmitters in the nervous system. Spotting siloxane on the ingredients list is not easy as it appears under many terms.


You can take these additional steps to protect your health and the environment:

  1. DIY — create your own products, there are many ideas you can put into practice
  2. Research labels — have a proper look at the ingredients
  3. Less is more — pick products that have fewer & simple ingredients
  4. Use smart Apps — there are many tools you can use to learn about the product’s safety
  5. Take action — you can sign this petition to demand toxic-free beauty
  6. Advise Safe Cosmetics to see all chemicals of concern
  7. Check each product hazardous score on EWG 

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