Our Top 5 Cosmetic Ingredients to Avoid
In the U.S., cosmetic companies can include practically any chemical in their products without review by the government- which means that it’s up to the cosmetics community to enforce their own safety regulations. As consumers are becoming just as aware of what they put on their bodies as what they eat, there has been more public concern of chemicals used in cosmetic products. We know it can be overwhelming to remember all the ingredients to avoid, so we rounded up our top five offenders in this post. These are the ingredients you should remember and make a point to avoid!
Parabens are antimicrobial preservative agents, used in makeup and haircare products, which can damage the endocrine system. The European Commission’s Scientific Committee found that propylparaben, butylparaben, isopropylparaben, and isobutylparaben are “long-chained” parabens that affect the system, which controls the emission of hormones. Damage to the endocrine system and other effects from parabens have shown to cause reproductive and developmental issues.
- Fragrances, Styrene, and Phthalates (Ok that’s three)
Many cosmetic companies use fragrances to conceal the scent of unpleasant ingredients in their products. A chemical found in fragrances is styrene; which is found in automobile exhaust, cigarette smoke, and foam containers. This chemical, reported by the Academy’s National Research Council, is a carcinogen. Another chemical used in fragrances is phthalates (found in nail polish, hair spray, deodorant, and makeup). These are known to be endocrine disruptors, which can increase risk of breast cancer and reproductive abnormalities. Phthalates to avoid are dibutyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate, and dimethyl phthalate.
Companies are not required by law to describe what chemicals are used to create fragrances. So how about we just avoid the ingredient “fragrance” all together? Deal?
Formaldehyde is a chemical with preserving capabilities. It’s harmful because it’s a carcinogen, skin sensitizer, and allergen. It can be found in hair straightening formulas, nail polishes, eyelash glues, hair gels, lotions, deodorants, and makeup.
Most companies won’t use pure formaldehyde (probably in fear of scaring away customers) in their products but will use formaldehyde releasers as a loophole to gain the pure form’s preserving ability. Formaldehyde releasers are chemicals that, when in contact with water, break down to release formaldehyde over time. Formaldehyde releasing chemicals include: DMDM hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl urea, Diazolidinyl urea, Quaternium-15, Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol), 5-Bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane, and Hydroxymethylglycinate.
- Mineral oil
Mineral oil is derived from petroleum – a crude oil. Varying products utilize petroleum, such as gasoline, foam containers, lubricating oils, and asphalt. Cosmetically, mineral oil is used to smooth out dry complexions by locking moisture in the skin. This ingredient doesn’t actually moisturize the skin because it sits on top of the epidermis, which can clog pores. It’s found in foundations, cleansers, and moisturizers. Another petroleum derived chemical to avoid is propylene glycol, which can have negative effects on the liver, kidney, and respiratory system.
- SOS from SLS
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), found in shampoo, cleansers, and mascara, is an irritant to skin, eyes, and lungs. The concern with this chemical, also known as sodium laureth sulfate, is that it becomes a carcinogen, nitrosamine, when it reacts with other chemicals. Nitrosamine can lead to kidney and respiratory issues as well.