It’s really important to be aware of what is in our everyday beauty products because, as the image above states, what goes on our bodies, goes in our bodies. It’s easy to think that products applied to the skin reach only through a couple layers of the skin, but on her website, C.N. Kimberly Snyder reminds us that “70% of what you put on your skin, the largest organ, is absorbed into your bloodstream and into your liver. Toxins in cosmetics and skincare products can lead to problems with the endocrine system (especially the thyroid), the reproductive organs and the brain.” Applying a product to the skin is not unlike eating something, though we probably tend to make a greater distinction between the two. When we stay conscious of the real impact that our skin and hair care products can have on our health, it’s easier to make the extra effort to find the right products and be sure that we are doing all we can to protect our bodies.
Unfortunately there are countless products on the market that contain harmful chemicals, many of these being heavily advertised big brands. So I made up a little cheat sheet of ingredients to be on the lookout for, and I added some suggestions of brands to choose and avoid.
>Also worth noting, many ingredient labels are almost hidden on cosmetic products and need to be peeled off the packaging and read like a little book. WORTH DOING- because you need to really go through the list with your own two eyes to make a decision.
1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate
These ingredients are most often found in shampoo, though I have seen them in soaps, facial cleansers and scrubs as well. They are found in most foaming cleansers and shampoos (as well as industrial cleaners), and have this more aesthetic function than a real cleansing one, as foaming is not obviously necessary for a good clean. The two are well-known to be skin irritants, but other studies suggest that they are also linked to organ toxicity, neurotoxicity, and even cancer. (source: livestrong.com) These chemicals can also become carcinogenic when combined with other ingredients and are also very drying to the skin and hair, dissolving the natural oils present.
There are tons of articles around discussing the dangers of these chemicals, and many companies have now developed products using better alternatives making it not too difficult to find a better shampoo. Often times, it is advertised right on the front label of the product that SLS is not included. A few great shampoos free of SLS and other dangerous chemicals that I have used and suggest are Avalon Organics, Alba Botanica, OGX, and a pricey but great- Young Living Essential Oils. (These companies also all offer skincare products that are reliable as well!)
2. Triethanolamine (TEA)
Another common component of shampoos and many other cosmetic products, TEA is known to have “detrimental effects on human skin, on the immune system and has been classified as a respiratory toxicant” (source: thedermreview.com). Also, when combined with other chemicals, it can become carcinogenic.
3. Propylene Glycol
I have personally, recently become aware of this chemical. Consequently, I had to toss a bunch of products that I thought were safe including the popular Cetaphil face wash, a couple Queen Helene face products, a “natural” deodorant, and a hair mask I had that was also marketed as “natural.” Further proof that we can’t trust the wording on the front label and have to really read through the ingredients list to stay informed.
Propylene Glycol shows up in a number of products including food and antifreeze. It is a skin irritant know to cause eczema, hives, and dermatitis. (source: Beauty by Lauren Conrad).
If you start reading labels, specifically of makeup products, sunscreens, and creams, you will definitely find parabens usually preceded by methyl-,ethyl-,butyl-,or propyl-. They are a cheap preservative, and can interfere with hormones, the endocrine system, and have been linked to cancer.
I mentioned in my post “My 5 Minute Everyday Fresh Face Look” that I was recently looking for a drugstore liquid foundation and was recommended to get the Maybelline Fit Me foundation. There were numerous parabens listed at the top of the ingredients list, so I ended up finding a great, safe alternative in the Revlon Photo Ready Airbrush Effect liquid foundation instead. Another popular makeup item from beauty blogs and youtube is the Maybelline Age Rewind Dark Circle Concealer and I discovered that that too contains parabens. I don’t even know about the other Maybelline products, but I have since decided to stay away from the brand altogether.
I have found that many Nars products are paraben, sulfate and phthalate free, and the Bare Minerals brand is an excellent one too to count on for safety. It really pays in more ways than one to spend a little extra on good quality makeup as they tend less to cut corners on preservatives and want to cater to the growing number of customers concerned with their health.
Speaking of phthalates, these are also hormone-disrupting chemicals, and are often found in nail polish and hair spray. They are plasticizers that work to strengthen and increase spreadability of the products they are found in.
Fragrance is a huge one- it is found is so many products across the board. “Fragrance” can be composed of any number of chemicals (that manufacturers conveniently aren’t required to include on labels. source: kimberlysnyder.com) With this uncertainty of what is actually in your product, it is better to just avoid. Studies also show that fragrances can be carcinogenic.
Frangrances are really easy to create yourself and incorporate using essential oils.
DEA is a pH stabilizer and has been linked to cancer and organ toxicity. It has actually already been banned in Canada for use in cosmetic products. (source: ewe.org)
Honestly, I didn’t even know this was actually used in cosmetic products before coming across this information in Beauty by Lauren Conrad. This known carcinogen is used quite a bit due to it’s antibacterial and preservative properties. Some ingredients in mascara break down to form formaldehyde, though it is not listed individually as an ingredient, which is why it is especially a good idea to toss mascara every three months.
Aluminum is a biggie in terms of how frequently it is found. I have seen aluminum in all anti-persperants and non-natural deodorants that I have ever read the ingredients list on. This is because aluminum’s function is to block sweat ducts. It has been known to behave like estrogen upon absorption, and interferes with the hormone system. There are now tons of natural, aluminum free deodorants on the market, so it’s not difficult to find a replacement. I have tried Lafe’s products as well as Jason and like both. Also my favorite, Kimberly Snyder, has a DIY deodorant recipe that I’m definitely going to make ASAP!
There are definitely other dangerous ingredients out there, but these are the most prevalent in my opinion. Being conscious of the potential harm we are doing to our bodies is always great information. Thankfully today customers and brands are becoming increasingly aware of this importance as well, and helping us to use great alternatives.
(This link from Sephora provides a quick little guide to some safe products they have as well.)
Thanks for reading!
photo of shampoo: avalonorganics.com
photo of paraben: wikimedia commons, Edgar181
photo of jason deodorant: jason-personalcare.com