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A Dirty Dozen Nasties To Avoid In Your Skincare Products

Landing a toxin-free skincare brand can be challenging at times, especially when the world’s best brains work around the clock to persuade you into buying their skincare products. Instead of becoming a victim of the marketing tips and tricks, you must be completely aware of all of the potentially toxic ingredients found in your daily care products.



Toxin overload can lead to several long-term side effects. Many ingredients cause the accumulation of dead skin cells, allergic reactions and even develop pimples on your sensitive facial skin. Some of the ingredients that cause significant harm over time are parabens, fragrance, phthalates, sulphates, dyes and so on.


Every product is a combination of several ingredients. listed most trivially and can easily slip your sight. Therefore,


1. Parabens


Parabens are used as chemical preservatives in an array of personal care products such as moisturisers, shampoos, foundations and many more. Over the past few years there has been a huge debate whether parabens are safe to use or not. Some say excessive amount of exposure to parabens may lead to breast cancer, but some argue that daily cosmetic exposure to parabens does not cause you any harm. Basically, everyone’s skin reacts differently depending on various chemicals and skin type. If you would like to take caution, you can definitely find many products without parabens.


2. Sulfates


Again, one of the ingredients that is widely disputed whether it is safe to use or not. You probably are connecting with sulfates on a daily basis. Sulfates are also found in variety of products from toothpaste to cleansers to also help with foaming. There are a lot of different types of sulfates, but the ones that are used most commonly are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). Sulfates are known to strip away valuable moisture and protective barriers, irritating the skin more. Some say it causes no problem in small amounts, but others say it can cause cancer when combined with other substances or is heated.


3. Phthalates


Phthalates are used in cosmetics as lubricants (softeners). You can find these in products such as nail polish, moisturisers, shampoos, hair sprays, detergents and other variety of products. They are known to be endocrine disruptors that is linked to breast cancer and reproductive birth defects in males and females. Phthalates is also known to have some possible effects on hormones. Unfortunately, this is included in many "fragrances" too, so it is hard to detect in products.



4. Fragrance


"But I like nice smelling things!" some people say. Why is fragrance (also called perfume) bad for your skin? Fragrance is basically a blend of aromatic extracts from natural and synthetic ingredients. Used in nearly 50% of beauty products, it actually has a LOT of unknown toxic chemicals that can be harmful to you. Without you knowing, fragrance can irritate skin, have toxic hormonal effects, and may even cause cancer. It may smell fabulous, but it can lead to not-so-fabulous effects on your skin and health. If sprayed on your neck regularly it can also increase wrinkles too! As an alternative, try to find natural fragrances that are chemical free.


5. Formaldehyde


Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas. Widely used as preservatives in skincare and cosmetics, it is mainly used in nail polish, makeup, lotions, and deodorants among many other products. Short term exposure can cause skin irritation, difficulty in breathing, watery eyes and burning in the nose when inhaled. Also, according to The International Agency for Research on Cancer, formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen. If your job (such as nail artist, salon stylist etc) requires you to be exposed to copious amount of formaldehyde, make sure your work environment has ventilation or windows so that you can reduce exposure to it.


6. Phenoxyethanol


Used as an anti-bacterial in cosmetics and stabiliser in perfumes, phenoxyethanol is actually very harmful. It is harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through skin, especially to nursing mothers or infants. Phenoxyethanol can have an effect on the brain and the central nervous system. It irritates skin and eyes, and can cause blistering on skin as well. Although many skin care products (even some organic products as well) use phenoxyethanol in small amounts that is “not harmful” to skin, if you use the product multiple times a day, every day, it can accumulate and possibly affect you.



7. Alcohols


There are good and bad alcohols. Bad alcohols are methanol, isopropyl alcohol, propanol, benzyl alcohol, and sd alcohol (alcohol denat.) to name a few. They can be extremely drying and irritating to skin, but also may even cause inflammation because they strip the skin of its natural protection. By breaking down the skin’s barrier, alcohols destroy the substances that protects your skin’s health over then long term. Although alcohols may feel good because they are light and make your skin not feel greasy, because it damages the skin barrier, it leads to increase of acne causing bacteria and makes inflammation worse.


8. PEG


PEG (polyethylene glycols) compounds are widely used in cosmetics as thickeners and softeners. It also functions as absorption enhancer which allows both good and bad ingredients to be absorbed faster into deeper parts of skin. If used on broken or damaged skin, it can cause irritation and system toxicity. In addition, PEGs can reduce the skin’s moisture levels and speed up skin aging.


9. Carbon Black


The EWG has flagged this pigment (which is often found in mascara and eyeliner) because of its possible link to cancer with regard to inhalation (not topical application).13 For what it’s worth, the FDA has put some limits on the amounts used—but it’s still widely found in cosmetics at retailers everywhere.



10. Teflon


Teflon is one specific PFA worth calling out—it’s the brand name for Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), and is sometimes added to cosmetics to improve the texture. But like other PFAs, it’s linked to hormone disruption and reproductive issues.


11. Resorcinol


“This common ingredient in hair colour and bleaching products has been linked to skin irritation and immune system dysfunction,” says Shrestha. “In animal studies, resorcinol can disrupt normal thyroid function.”


12. Talc


While talcum powder (often used as a smoothing agent in mineral makeup) is generally safe, it also has the potential to be contaminated with asbestos, which is a known carcinogen and instigator of lung disease.



Knowledge is power—and you can feel good about taking steps to better understand exactly what you’re putting on your body. Think of this list as a jumping-off point for anyone curious about learning more about sketchy ingredients and clean beauty as whole.


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