We are all pretty well trained to read the labels on foods and beverages, super conscious about what we put in our bodies. Here’s a thought: have you ever considered the ingredients in beauty products? Reading labels for the products you put ON your body?
If not, you might be surprised to know that some of the ingredients are harmful to your health. With the rise of the “clean beauty” movement, more of us than ever are swapping chemically laden toiletries for more natural alternatives that won’t harm our health. From general skin irritation to hormone disruption and even serious health conditions, there is a lot of cause for concern with chemicals and other ingredients in your beauty products. Here’s why your products might be more harmful than you think and which ingredients in your beauty products are worth avoiding.
Beauty isn’t just skin deep! Be aware of hidden harmful ingredients in beauty products that may be harmful to your health, inside and out!
1 // Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a common ingredient in beauty products, especially ones that have a foaming action. It’s a major irritant, not just for the skin but also for the lungs. That’s not all though: it can react with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, which are potentially cancerous, and can also cause problems for the kidneys and lungs. Swapping to beauty products that are free from SLS.
2 // Parabens
Many beauty products now promote themselves as being “parabens free.” Why is this a big deal and why don’t we want this ingredient in our beauty products? Parabens can mimic estrogen in the body and carry strong concerns that this can increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Parabens can be absorbed via your skin and have even shown up in the biopsy results of women with breast cancer. They may also affect fertility and unborn babies. You’ll find them in a wide range of products, from shampoos to deodorants to makeup products.
3 // Methylisothiazolinone (MIT)
Another ingredient that is often found in makeup is MIT. It’s intended to stop bacteria build-up in beauty products, but it can cause allergic reactions and has been linked to health problems in unborn babies. Water based toiletries will often contain MIT, including shampoo, conditioner, body wash and skin care products. Best to choose a product without this ingredient.
4 // Phthalates
Phthalates can be found in hairsprays, nail polish and various other toiletries. They’re endocrine disruptors, meaning they too can disrupt your hormones. It’s believed that they can increase the risk of breast cancer and for teenage girls, they may bring on early puberty.
Historically, the primary phthalates used in beauty products have been dibutylphthalate (DBP), used as a plasticizer in products such as nail polishes (to reduce cracking by making them less brittle); dimethylphthalate (DMP), used in hair sprays (to help avoid stiffness by allowing them to form a flexible film on the hair); and diethylphthalate (DEP), used as a solvent and fixative in fragrances. According to FDA’s latest survey of cosmetics, conducted in 2010, however, DBP and DMP are now used rarely. DEP is the only phthalate still commonly used in cosmetics.
5 // Triclosan
Triclosan is another endocrine disruptor. Ongoing studies have shown that thyroid and reproductive hormones can be affected by it. Triclosan is an ingredient added to many consumer products intended to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination. It is added to some antibacterial soaps and body washes, toothpastes, and some cosmetics.
6 // Synthetic and Artificial Colors
On the surface, synthetic colors may seem fairly harmless ingredients in your beauty products, but they’re linked to skin irritation, ADHD in children and even cancer. They have been banned in the European Union because of the cancer risk. Go for products with natural coloring, or labelled as “dye-free.”
7 // Propylene glycol
Often used as a moisturizing agent, propylene glycol is a known irritant and is also absorbed through the skin. It can cause hives and dermatitis to develop, especially in people who have sensitive skin. There doesn’t need to be a huge amount of propylene glycol for this to happen – even just 2% can be enough to cause an issue. Propylene glygol is found in moisturizers, make up, shampoo, conditioner, hairspray and sunscreens.
8 // DEA, MEA and TEA
The trio of ammonia compounds known as diethanolamine (DEA), monoethanolamine (MEA), and triethanolamine (TEA) are used as foaming agents and emulsifiers, especially in makeup, shampoo, hair dye and sunscreen. Research has shown a connection between them and skin irritation, inflammation, toxicity and cancer.
9 // Heavy metals
Some of the heavy metals that may be used in products to add color, whiten, lighten and block sweat include lead, aluminium, zinc, chromium, iron and arsenic. They’re thought to cause hormone disruption, especially because they can build up in the body and aren’t quickly flushed out. If levels get high enough, it can raise your risk of developing allergic reactions, immune issues, problems affecting the reproductive system and cancer. Some of the products that can contain them include whitening toothpaste, eyeliner, foundation, eye shadow, blush, concealer, nail polish, moisturizer, sunscreen and eye drops.
10 // Petroleum Jelly
You’ll often find petroleum jelly in products for emollient and lubricant purposes. Research has linked this to impurities that can cause cancer. At the very least, there’s a reasonable chance that skin irritation and acne can occur.
Want to know if your products are safe? I love accessing the database at EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. It’s a great place to begin your research to a healthier cosmetics drawer!