13 Shocking Chemicals in Skincare You Don't Want Anywhere Near You
You would hope by this point in time we shouldn’t have to worry about any product that is produced in mass quantities. When we go to the store we want to assume that everything available is a good product. If we favor certain items over others, it should be because we like something about it. However, when this comes to skincare products we still need to be cautious about what qualities make something appealing. Chemicals in skincare are nothing new, but not all chemicals are necessarily good for you.
For example, any product with “fragrance” listed in its ingredients is possibly hiding harmful chemicals behind a vague, meaningless word. Consider this a starting point in learning more about questionable ingredients and clean beauty in general. We suggest doing your own research on all of your product's ingredients before deciding what is best for you. This list contains ingredients with awful side effects as a result of very little regulation outside or within the industry. We as consumers must demand and support having zero harmful chemicals in skincare products.
This way of thinking not only encourages marketers to create quality products but also enhances transparency by removing the need for customers to spend time researching ingredients to ensure their safety. However, since this way of thinking is relatively new, there are chemicals in skincare products that we should look out for, and here are 13 big ones:
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5. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) / Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
- Research the chemicals in your skincare products to make sure they aren't harmful
- Additives can affect your skin externally (like dryness or irritation) or affect you internally (like disrupt your endocrine system)
Hormone disturbance has been attributed to butyl, propyl, and ethyl parabens. Some preservatives can be used in a wide range of cosmetics, which is why many cleaner companies have labeled their products as "paraben-free." Because of a 2004 research paper linking parabens to breast cancer, they are perhaps the most well-known ingredient to avoid. Parabens are officially considered safe to use in their current form, according to EU and FDA regulations, since cosmetic products only use a very limited concentration of these ingredients in their formulations (up to around 0.4 percent). However, we believe that it is easier to be safe than sorry.
Here are just one of the sly compounds lurking under the umbrella term “fragrance.” Phthalates, which are often used to help perfume adhere to the skin, as well as eyelash adhesive, nail polish, and deodorants. That's bad news since phthalates have been shown to be major endocrine disruptors, like parabens, phthalates can mimic estrogen. A synthetic form of estrogen can cause issues for even babies that haven’t been born yet. They also promote early puberty in both girls and boys and lower sperm count in men in some cases. Phthalates are also widely linked to breast cancer.
Many skincare items contain alcohol for a variety of reasons. It can be used as a preservative or to aid in the drying of products on your skin. It's used in toners and cleansers to help tighten skin and minimize the presence of pores. Alcohol comes in a variety of forms that are used in skincare products. Ethanol, isopropanol, and propanol are examples of denatured alcohols which are the most harmful. Toners, soaps, and cleansers commonly contain this form of alcohol. They are also rough and excessively drying to the skin. These alcohols can weaken your skin's natural barrier, making it difficult for your skin to retain moisture if used frequently.
- Fatty alcohols like stearyl, cetearyl, and cetyl, on the other hand, have been shown to be healthy for the skin in studies. These alcohols are less irritating to the skin and can even be helpful. They're emulsifiers, which means they keep liquid and oil in goods together. As a result, they're often used in moisturizers and sunscreens.
- Additionally, for oily skin low levels of alcohol may help to even complexion and not cause excessive drying experienced by others.
This antimicrobial ingredient is commonly used in hand sanitizers and antibacterial soap. But it has been related to severe health effects on thyroid and reproductive hormones that it has been banned in many countries. While it has been banned from antiseptic soap in the United States, the EWG (Environmental Working Group) warns that it can still be used in deodorant, mouthwash, shaving cream, and toothpaste.
5. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) / Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
Unfortunately, since this ingredient is used in so many items, particularly those that foam, such as skin cleansers, it is difficult to avoid. It is, however, a potent skin, eye, and lung irritant. It's not something you'd like to put on your skin every day.
This chemical (also known as Butylated Hydroxytoluene, or BHT) is a no because it has been related to brain toxicity and can be particularly harmful during pregnancy. Although it is prohibited in the EU and Southeast Asia (as well as by a few retailers in the United States), nail polish, nail treatments, and hair dye are still available.
Despite decades of studies identifying formaldehyde as a suspected carcinogen, it's still used in hair straightening products, nail polish, eyelash glue, and a variety of other cosmetics. Thankfully, retailers such as Whole Foods, CVS, and Target are beginning to remove formaldehyde-containing items from their shelves.
A main ingredient in many skin lightening and brightening creams, this is one of the chemicals in skincare that is not the hero ingredient you would expect. Many users report that it irritates and bumps their skin, while others experience contact dermatitis and sun sensitivity.
9. Polyethylene Glycol (PEGS)
Propylene glycol (PG) and butylene glycol (BG) are chemical thickeners that are sometimes present in cream-based products. The creaminess is a plus but, these ingredients may be petroleum-based and cause skin irritation.
10. Synthetic Colors
Few people doubt whether “synthetic colors” are used in skincare products, however you should. Your skincare products contain synthetic colors if you see the letters F, D, or C followed by a color or number. These categories of color often come from petroleum or coal tar sources which are linked to several health issues.
Many sunscreen-containing skincare items, including lotions, lip balms, cleansers, fragrances, and even infant products, contain this well-known endocrine disruptor.
Another UV absorber typically used in sunscreens is this compound. Although laws are beginning to catch up with octinoxate and oxybenzone, homosalate is still widely used.
Resorcinol - This common hair color and bleaching ingredient has been linked to skin irritation and immune system dysfunction. Resorcinol has been shown in animal studies to interfere with normal thyroid function.
Large amounts of these compounds have been detected in humans and animals around the world as a result of decades of production-use elimination cycles. There is a lot of information on the function of these compounds in general toxicity and, more specifically, endocrine disruption. When we think about the chemicals in skincare products, one important thing to take into account is the time that your skin is interacting with them.
Skincare products that you can rinse off, such as soaps, are more tolerable, however, things like lotion that stay on your skin for long periods of time can have detrimental effects. You should feel confident about taking steps to better understand exactly what you're putting on your body because knowledge is power.
Written by Kiana St. Onge