Trying to decide what skincare ingredients you should avoid can feel overwhelming.
There is simply so much information out there and so many different ingredients used across a range of products. Your skin is your body’s largest organ and can absorb nearly anything that you put on it, so it is important to know what is in your skincare products. You could also consider the benefits of switching to organic skincare products that don’t use any toxic chemicals
It can be hard to know where to start, so to help you out we have put together a list of five ingredients that are the biggest offenders which you should try to avoid.
Possibly one of the toxic chemical families that most people have heard of is parabens. However, they are surprisingly still used in a wide variety of products including creams, moisturises, cleansers, make up, body wash and shampoo to name a few. There a six most commonly parabens and you will usually find them list methyl, ethyl, propyl, isopropyl, butyl and isobutyl.
Parabens are used as a preservative to increase the product shelf life and is also used as an ingredient in some fragrances. However, there is evidence that parabens are an endocrine disrupter which means it disrupts the system that controls hormone production. Parabens can act like estrogen which can affect both the female and male reproductive systems and fertility.
It is also believed that parabens are linked to hormone related cancers. Because of this, and the evidence of endocrine disruption, the European Union and ten Southeast Asian has banned several types of parabens for use in cosmetics. However, paraben use is still unregulated in many countries.
Two kinds of phthalates are commonly found in cosmetic products, Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) and Diethyl phthalate (DEP).
DBP is used in plastics them pliable and in cosmetics to make them more aesthetic and improve consistency. DBP is another ingredient that is banned in the EU, again because it is an endocrine disruptor that can interfere with hormone production.
DEP is a phthalate that is used in widely used in fragrance ingredients, which means it is not always possible to know if a product contains phthalates as it can be grouped under ‘fragrance’.
MEA, DEA and TEA
MEA (Monoethanolamine), DEA (Diethanolamine) and TEA (Triethanolamine) are used in cosmetic products as a foaming agent or emulsifier and can also be used to adjust pH levels.
They are one of the ingredients that creates a foamy, feeling for a cleanser or wash and can be an appealing attribute when cleaning yourself. Funnily enough, the foamy effect isn’t what does the cleaning, but we have been conditioned to think that more foam means a better wash. However, there are natural alternative ingredients that can also create that enjoyable foamy wash.
These ingredients are restricted in the EU because exposure to high doses of these chemicals is linked to increased odds of cancer in the liver and kidney. The Danish Environmental Protection Agency also classifies DEA as hazardous to the environment due to its toxicity.
Triclosan is an ingredient that is used as an antibacterial and is usually found in soaps and toothpaste but is also used in some cosmetics. It’s use in some products is either banned or regulated in the EU as well as U.S., therefore many major manufacturers have begun to remove it as an ingredient. However, it can still be found in many products.
The FDA advises that studies show it can alter the hormone regulation in animals, may be harmful to the immune system and may contribute to the development of antibiotic resistant germs.
This one might not sound too bad when you see it in an ingredient list. However, because the formula of a fragrance can be proprietary, manufacturers usually don’t have to list what their fragrance is made of so they can keep their unique formula a trade secret.
This makes it very hard to determine what is in a product that has fragrance or parfum listed as an ingredient. And lots of products have an unspecified fragrance. And as mentioned above in this article, even phthalates can be used in fragrance.
Fragrances can be a common source of irritation or allergic reaction, so it may be best to avoid products that don’t specify what is used to give them a pleasant scent.