Our skin is the largest organ in the human body. It is extremely porous, which means that what we put on it gets absorbed easily & quickly. It’s also an important detoxifier– by allowing us to sweat out heavy metals and pollutants on a regular basis. So in short, we need to make sure our skincare is working FOR us, not against us. Using pore-clogging or cancer-inducing ingredients should not be allowed in our skincare. But they are.
In fact, there are currently over 80,000 chemicals used in personal care products today. Some reports speculate that up to 1 in every 8 ingredients are actually industrial chemicals (pesticides, carcinogens & hormone disruptors). This means that ingredients used to remove paint, make plastics and soften concrete can end up on (and IN) our skin!!
Don’t be fooled by ‘natural’ or ‘green’ product labels– make sure your skincare products don’t use any of these culprits listed below:
What are they? They are antimicrobial compounds that are most commonly used as a preservative.
Where are they found? In up to 80% of all cosmetics & skin care products– they are everywhere- even in fragrances & perfumes!
Why are harmful? In short, they can mimic estrogen in the body which can increase one’s risk of certain cancers.
What are they? Used as a plasticizer or solvent for fragrances. They appear on an ingredient list usually as “DBP-#”. Keep in mind that when a company lists ‘fragrance’ on their list of ingredients they don’t have to tell you what’s in it– they often contain phthalates so don’t overlook this!
Where are they found? Nail polishes & synthetic fragrances in personal care products.
Why are harmful? It is absorbed through the skin and can cause hormonal changes in reproductive organs (not good for fertility!)
SODIUM LAURYL SULPHATE (SLS or similar)
What are they? These are foaming and sudsing ingredients that make a product ‘lather’.
Where are they found? Anything foamy like cleansers, shampoos (the most common source), and household cleansers.
Why are harmful? Not only do they harm aquatic life (by harming the water supply), they are irritating to the skin & eyes. Most notably, this group of chemical is often contaminated with ethylene oxide or 1,4-dioxane, both know carcinogens.
What are they? These are petroleum-based thickeners and moisture carriers.
Where are they found? Any face creams or moisturizers
Why are harmful? They can help to open the pores on the skin to allow other ingredients to penetrate more deeply (not a good thing with other chemicals involved!). Often contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane (similarly to SLS above), which may increase the risk of cancer-causing genetic mutations They can also lead to more breakouts and irritation.
What are they? Synthetic antioxidants used as a preservative in cosmetics.
Where are they found? Often in lipsticks & moisturizers, sometimes in food products too.
Why are harmful? They can cause allergic reactions in some people, plus long-term exposure in animals has shown toxic effects on the thyroid, kidneys and liver.
What are they? This is similar to sulphates in that they help to make a product foamy and lather. They are also used to correct the PH of a product containing other acidic ingredients.
Where are they found? Most commonly in cleansers, shampoos and body washes.
Why are harmful? They can increase the risk of liver, skin and thyroid cancers as well as moderately irritate the skin & eyes.
What are they? Is a mineral oil based jelly that can be used as a barrier on the skin and hair.
Where are they found? Less commonly found these days, but often are hiding in heavier moisturizers, body balms and deep conditioners.
Why are harmful? They are often contaminated with a carcinogen compound known as PAH. Plus, petroleum does not allow your skin to breathe, preventing the natural detoxification and pore cleaning effects of the skin.
FORMALDEHYDE-RELEASERS (DMDM, urea, hydantoin, etc.)
What are they? These products slowly release small amounts of formaldehyde and act as a preservative. (they use formaldehyde to preserve human cadavers FYI)
Where are they found? Since many products are made to withstand a larger shelf-life, you can find them in nail polish, baby bath soap (true!), and eyelash adhesive.
Why are harmful? Formaldehyde is recognized as a known human carcinogen.
What are they? They make products smell nice, but use any combination of the 3000 chemicals created for this purpose.
Where are they found? Everywhere! Usually last on the ingredient list you’ll find ‘parfume’ or ‘fragrance’. If they aren’t using natural essential oils or fragrances, they are using chemicals.
Why are harmful? Many of these synthetic molecules have not been tested in combination, plus, the term ‘fragrance’ can also mask the use of phthalates and sulphates. Many individuals are sensitive to these scents which can cause headaches, allergies & asthma.
What are they? Mainly used as an antibacterial agent.
Where are they found? Deodorants, cleansers, hand sanitizers.
Why are harmful? It is officially a pesticide & very irritating to the skin with prolonged use.
COAL TAR DYES
What are they? They are found in crude oil, gas and coal but contain Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that are a common ingredient found in these sourced raw materials.
Where are they found? Can be found in shampoos (especially for dandruff), hair dyes and some lipsticks.
Why are harmful? PAHs are known carcinogens and can negatively affect brain health (neurotoxin).
What are they? This is an organic compound (so more natural, yes). But it is used a strong drying agent for acne-prone skin.
Where are they found? Any cleanser, spot treatment or oil-free moisturizer for problem skin.
Why are harmful? Mainly an irritant and drying agent- it can cause dehydrated & dull skin that ages faster.
If you’re looking for really green, natural (but EFFECTIVE) skincare, check out the medical grade plant-based line AMG Naturally HERE. I have been loving their Miracle Elixir Oil & Papaya Splash cleanser without having to compromise on results. Plus, my acne-prone, rosacea & eczema patients love it too!