Skincare Ingredients to Avoid, from Essential Skincare & Wellness
Knowing what’s in your skincare products is not only an important step to achieving great skin, but research suggests it can also lead to better health. According to a study conducted by Chemical Safe Skincare Research in 2006, the average woman absorbs more than five pounds of toxins annually from her bath, body and skin care products.
Scientists have linked many of the toxic chemicals used in skin and body care products to such problems as allergies, gene modification, reproductive hormonal disruption, endocrine disruption and even cancer.
The effect prolonged exposure of these chemicals can have on the body has never thoroughly been studied, but considering the health concerns they have been linked to, minimizing their use is certainly wise.
The list that follows provides the top five ingredients to avoid. They may not be the worst or most toxic chemicals you’ll find in your skincare products, but they have certainly made the list because of how common their use is the cosmetics industry.
Parabens – Parabens are artificial preservatives found in a wide array of personal products. They are endocrine disruptors and they disrupt the normal functions of the hormonal system. They are also not easily eliminated from the body. A study conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) on 20 teen girls found Parabens in all of them. Parabens, which are known estrogen imitators, are suspected to cause early menstruation in girls, decreased sperm counts in men and they have also been linked to breast cancer. On cosmetic labels, the word Paraben is often preceded by Methyl-, Propyl-, Butyl-, Ethyl-, Isopropyl- and Isobutyl-.
Phthalates – Like Parabens, Phthalates are hormone disruptors. They are mainly used as plasticizers (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity). Phthalates are often used in nail polish and in fragrance mixtures. Because manufacturers are not required to disclose the ingredients used to create their fragrance, phthalates can be added to personal care products without being listed. The Centers for Disease Control reported that phthalates are detectible in almost all of the Americans they have tested.
DMDM Hydantoin – Often used shampoos, conditioners, hair gels and skin care products as a preservative, DMDM Hydantoin releases formaldehyde, which is carcinogenic, or cancer causing. It is also linked to allergies. In its last update of the Skin Deep site in 2011, the EWG found that approximately 20% of cosmetics and personal care products in the US contain DMDM Hydantoin or some form of formaldehyde releaser, and the frequency of contact allergy to these ingredients is much higher among Americans compared to studies in Europe.
PEGS & ETHs – PEGs and ingredients ending in -eth, such as Sodium Laureth Sulphate, Oleth Sulphate and Ceteareth Sulphate are a cause for concern in skin care products, because they are often contaminated with the carcinogenic chemical 1,4-Dioxane. Experiments by the National Toxicology Program showed that PEGs created an increased risk of leukemia and uterine, breast and brain cancers. Exposure to high levels of 1,4-Dioxane has caused vertigo and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, lungs, and it may also be a skin irritant. Because it is a contaminant produced during manufacturing, and is not intentionally added to products, the FDA does not require 1,4-Dioxane to be listed as an ingredient on product labels. Since listing is not required, it is hard to say exactly how many products contain 1,4-Dioxane, but the EWG suggests that it may be found in 22% of the more than 74,000 products in their Skin Deep Database of cosmetic products.
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) – BHA is a common preservative in skin and body products in the US, but it is banned by the European Union. BHA has been designated as a very probably human carcinogen. Studies show it can be particularly problematic for darker skin tones since it is known to cause loss of skin pigment. BHA is also known to disrupt hormones in the body, particularly thyroid and reproductive hormones. It has also been linked to liver damage and stomach cancers.
It is likely that just about every skin care product on your vanity or in your bathroom contains one or more of the ingredients listed above. Before panicking and getting into a frenzied attempt to toss them all, it is important to note that in many cases, the amount of these chemicals used in skin care products is minimal. But knowledge of these ingredients, and how to spot them on labels is certainly very useful as it can help you to make informed choices and reduce how often you come into contact with them.