The Most Common Toxic Ingredients in Beauty Products

Becoming a minimalist has helped me to live more intentionally. One thing I’ve been working on is cutting out toxins in my home, especially beauty products.

Things you are going to be using everyday should not have harmful ingredients.  Did you know many of the ingredients allowed in our personal care products are banned in other countries?

The lack of regulation in the U.S. with beauty and personal care products is sad. Only about 30 chemicals have officially been banned from being used in cosmetics in the U.S. In comparison, go to the EU and over 1400 chemicals have been banned there because of the harm they cause.

It’s clear that our beauty industry is more concerned with producing their products cheaply more than the health of consumers. So the responsibility fall upon the consumers to decide what’s safe and what’s not. Luckily, this information is readily available thanks to the internet. But in case you’ve somehow missed these topics, let’s go over the worst offenders.

Here are a few things you definitely want to stay clear of. Sadly they are the most common of harmful substances found in personal care items.

Parabens. A preservative found in many cosmetics and personal care products. It is an endocrine disrupter and mimics estrogen in the body, which can lead to hormonal imbalances and cause a whole number of other issues.

Phthalates. A plasticizer used to keep plastics from becoming brittle, it’s used in cosmetics, perfumes, nail polishes, and hair care products. Just like parabens, they are endocrine disrupters and are known to cause hormonal, reproductive harm, and birth defects.

Fragrance. Stay away from products that list “Fragrance” or “Parfum” in their ingredients. Manufacturers are not required to list what they use to create fragrance in their products, meaning your perfumes and skin care could actually be full of carcinogenic substances, hormone disrupters and irritants, and you’d be none the wiser.

Sulfates. A surfactant found in most soaps and shampoos as a foaming agent. They can irritate the skin and cause allergies and often create byproduct compounds called “nitrosamines”, of which 90% are known to be carcinogenic.

Toluene. This petrochemical solvent is used in hair dyes and nail polish and can be toxic to the immune system. It can also cause birth defects.

Polyethylene Glycol or (PEG). A thickening agent used primaroly in skin care and hair products. The danger of PEGs is the chance of it being contaminated by ethylene oxide(carcinogenic) and 1,4-Dioxane (causes respiratory issues).

Formaldehyde. Yes, it’s used in cosmetics. It’s often used as a preservative despite being a known carcinogen that causes neurotoxicity and developmental toxicity, and has been linked with asthma. Look out for preservatives like quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, because it’s often found in these.

Oxybenzone. Found in sunscreen, lip balm, moisturizers and makeup. It’s a chemical filter and an endocrine disruptor. It can alter thyroid function and is often linked to skin irritation and allergies

Diethanolamine or DEA. Another foaming agent used in soaps, bubble bath, shampoo, and body wash. A known carcinogen and respiratory toxin.

Triclosan. This antibacterial agent used to be used in antibacterial soaps, but was banned in the health care system in 2016. Yet, it’s still allowed in cosmetics.

Hydroquinone or tocopheryl acetate. This is found in cleansers, and moisturizers and skin lighteners. It is carcinogenic and can cause organ-system toxicity.

Coal Tar. Also called p-Phenylenediamine. Used in anti-dandruff shampoos and skin treatments. A known carcinogen and can cause hair follicle issues after prolonged use.

Titanium Dioxide. Used in sunscreen. A known carcinogen.

Triclosan and triclocarban. A bacteria-killing chemical used in toothpastes, liquid hand soaps, and body washes. Can cause hormonal disruptions, bacterial resistance, impaired muscle function, impaired immune function and increased allergies.

Petrochemicals. Basically any substance derived from Petroleum is best to avoid. Many times these ingredients are contaminated with carcinogenic impurities. Petrochemicals can be hard to identify since they make up a LOT of substances used in beauty products. Look here for a detailed list of chemicals that fall under this category.

If this list seems overwhelming, I would agree that it is. It is extremely appalling to me that companies continue to use harmful ingredients due to them being cheap and easy to formulate.

Ultimately, until things change and we get better regulation and more companies start caring and regulating themselves more strictly and testing their products thoroughly, it’s up to us as consumers to be our own advocates and research the brands we support.

You can use websites like the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to research products and ingredients or apps like Think Dirty. They rate products and ingredients on a scale of 0-10 based on how harmful the ingredients are in each product. While I wouldn’t say this is 100% reliable and some of the data is lacking, it’s still a better route than guessing blindly and falling prey to brands guilty of “greenwashing”.

Greenwashing describes brands and companies that market their products as “green” or “natural” when their products aren’t really that clean or safe. Whether intentional or not, it’s misleading for consumers trying to find healthier alternatives.

A note: terms like “green” “clean” or “natural” are unregulated in the beauty industry, so the label is pretty much meaningless and it’s better to research the ingredients on your own.

I hope this post was helpful and educational for any of you who are wanting to make the switch to safer products. I plan on sharing more of my favorite brands and products and will share how clean or safe they are.

While not all the products I currently use are 100% clean, I do make an effort to cut out the most harmful ingredients. It’s definitely a learning process.

If you have any questions about any of the information I’ve shared or have a topic you want me to cover, comment or message me and I’d be happy to answer!

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