Top Harmful Ingredients in Cosmetics and Beauty Products
If you’ve shifted towards consuming a nutrient-dense diet, it’s only second nature to always double-check the ingredients of the food you purchase. The same logic should be applied when it comes to purchasing the beauty products and cosmetics that are constantly flying off the shelves and into your home. If what we put into our bodies matter, then what we put on our bodies matters as well.
The truth of the matter is, the cosmetic industry is not as regulated as most are led to believe. The approval process that exists to regulate beauty products before they hit the shelves is minuscule at best. While it may be illegal to put poisonous or deleterious ingredients into our products, the FDA does not require a cosmetic to be approved before it is sold and released to consumers. FDA.org states that:
“Neither the law nor FDA regulations require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients. The law also does not require cosmetic companies to share their safety information with FDA.”
As a result, a large list of harmful chemicals makes their way into the products that we use on our bodies every day. The harmful effects of chemicals in cosmetics range from hormonal imbalances and infertility to cancer and more. Doing our due diligence to check ingredients in cosmetics and carry out some research before purchasing a product is strongly advised. The best way to stay safe while purchasing skincare products is by opting for organic and/or natural alternatives, as well as non-toxic makeup.
As consumers, it’s imperative to educate yourself on the things you are buying. You have no control over the ingredient’s companies put in your products, and the law does very little to enforce safe recipes for both our food and our personal care products. The only way to make a change is to selectively buy the companies that genuinely have our best interest at heart.
To help you when it comes to navigating the cosmetic industry and its harmful ingredients, we’ve compiled a list of toxic ingredients in beauty products. Below are the top harmful ingredients in cosmetics and beauty products that you should always keep a lookout for.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
- Butylated Hydroxyanisole
- Triclosan and Triclocarban
- Petroleum Distillates
- Synthetic Colors
- Carbon Black
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
According to Nutrition and Wellness Expert, Vanessa Cunningham, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate can be found in nearly 90% of cosmetic and cleaning products. The alarming fact about this surfactant is that it can combine with other chemicals to create nitrosamines. Nitrosamine is a carcinogen, which means that it has the potential to cause cancer and organ damage.
This ingredient can be found in products such as shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash, face and body wash. Other than causing cancer and organ damage, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate has been known to irritate the skin’s natural oil balance. Hence, people that use products loaded with the Sodium Lauryl Sulfate tend to suffer from acne, skin irritations and canker sores.
Just like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Butylated Hydroxyanisole is believed to be carcinogenic. Due to that reason alone, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the European Union marks Butylated Hydroxyanisole as an unsafe ingredient. Studies show that, despite it being a major ingredient in most exfoliants, the ingredient tends to cause skin depigmentation. Butylated Hydroxyanisole is found in perfumes.
Triclosan and Triclocarban
In 2013, the FDA ruled that cosmetic manufacturers have no proof that Triclosan and Triclocarban have no long-term health effects. It wasn’t until 2017 that the FDA passed a law stating manufacturers can no longer use these ingredients in their beauty products. At this time, most companies had removed it from their products nut not all. Regardless, it is advisable that you check ingredients in cosmetics to avoid their harmful effects.
Typically found in products such as toothpaste, soaps and deodorant, Triclosan and Triclocarban are known to cause adverse health problems. From hormonal disruptions, increased allergies and poor immune system to poor muscle function, it’s best to avoid them.
Polyethene is a plastic most commonly made into bags for food storage. However, these are also the tiny beads found in the body and/or facial scrubs that you use every day. Polythene is harmful to your skin and the environment.
Scrubs or cosmetic products often tout the use of these tiny plastic beads as safer than natural exfoliants, like pure baking soda for example. This couldn’t be any further from the truth, as these beads are often 1,4-dioxane that have been found to be carcinogenic. Additionally, they tend to cause skin irritation, damaging the skin further.
Such beads are also found in body washes, toothpaste and even certain makeup products.
Who knows what’s in fragrance, the term fragrance simply means nothing more than a list of secret ingredients the company doesn’t want you to know about. The findings of a study conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Cosmetic Database will have your hair standing on end. According to their findings, the term fragrance can hold up to 14 harmful chemicals. These fragrance mixes have been found to cause dermatitis, allergies, damage the reproductive system and lead to hormonal disturbances.
It is common to find the term, Fragrance listed in products such as moisturizers, shampoo, conditioners, lotions and deodorants.
This chemical is refined from gasoline, kerosene or paraffin wax. Petroleum Distillates are labeled by the EWG as “persistent or bioaccumulative and moderate to high toxicity concern in humans”. Often found in Mascara, Petroleum Distillates tend to lead to the development of contact dermatitis. Additionally, products that contain Petroleum Distillates are often loaded with other carcinogens.
Paraben is an ingredient that cosmetic and beauty companies love to use. Parabens are the most popular preservative used in cosmetics and personal care products. These help prevent the growth of bacteria and yeast in products. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC) states that “Parabens mimic estrogen by binding to estrogen receptors on cells.” This means that parabens affect our hormones and this hormonal effect has been found to increase the risk of developing certain types of cancers such as breast cancer.
To be safe, always check ingredients in cosmetics such as the makeup you use every day, facial cleansers, shampoos and deodorants. Even unsuspecting products such as shaving gels, tanning products and personal lubricants are known to contain parabens.
Synthetic colors may sound harmless, but one look at their sources and you’ll have a good reason to be alarmed. Such ingredients are often derived from coal tars and petroleum. Not only are they highly carcinogenic, but studies have also found that they cause ADHD in children. Most synthetic colors have been banned by the FDA but not all. This harmful ingredient is often found in our personal care products and our food and doesn’t belong in either.
We hardly second guess ourselves when we use sunscreen on our skin. After all, isn’t it supposed to protect our skin rather than harm it? However, most sunscreens available in the market today are high in Oxybenzone.
Oxybenzone is an extremely harmful ingredient which tends to disturb the hormonal system. Research has found that it mimics estrogen and tends to cause endometriosis in women. Be sure to always check the ingredients in your sunscreen that are instead loaded with ingredients such as titanium oxide. For a safe sunscreen, with no harmful ingredients try Beauty by Earth, this brand has many great sun lotions, from sunscreen for your face to a sunless tanner.
Toluene is the ingredient found in nail polish, nail polish remover, paint thinners, paintbrush cleaners, glues, and inks. It’s used to dissolve organic compounds and is extracted from crude oils. Toluene is bad for you and your pets. Animals who have a slight exposure to it may experience harm to their liver, kidneys, and lungs. In humans, toluene can cause damage to our nervous system by damaging the white matter in our brains. It’s the chemical used for substance abuse.
OSHA classified carbon black as a hazardous substance/chemical in 2012. Carbon Black is used in eyeliner, mascara, lip products like balms and lipstick to make these darker or black. It’s heavily tied to cancer and combustible.
Regardless of the laxity in the regulation of the cosmetic industry, we should be active consumers. The harmful effects of chemicals in cosmetics are often detrimental and irreversible, causing increased skin aging and damage. To help protect your skin, always opt for non-toxic makeup alternatives and organic skincare products.
For a list of the hundreds of unsafe ingredients used in our non-organic and organic body care products visit wholefoods.com