Many of the chemicals used today in various skincare and cosmetic products are gaining attention because of the negative effects they can have on our skin and health. Here is a list of the top 10 chemicals to avoid if possible.
Parabens Parabens are used as chemical preservatives in wide array of personal care products such as moisturizers, 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.
Sulfates Again, one of the ingredients that is widely disputed whether it is safe to use or not. You probably are contacting 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.
Phthalates Phthalates are used in cosmetics as lubricants (softeners). You can find these in products such as nail polish, moisturizers, shampoos, hair sprays, toys, 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" so it is hard to detect in products. Here are some ways to avoid phthalates.
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. As an alternative, try to find natural fragrances that are chemical free.
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.
Phenoxyethanol Used as an anti-bacterial in cosmetics and stabilizer 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 cumulate and possibly affect you.
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 off 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.
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.
Propylene Glycol Also called PG, is used in variety of products from lipsticks to shampoos. It actually is classified as an irritant by the National Library of Medicine. Due to its property as penetration enhancer, it aids harmful chemicals to enter into your skin faster, causing irritation. PG is derived from petroleum. PG tends to sit on the surface of skin after you rinse it, dissolving the fats and oils your skin needs to stay nourished. Your skin reacts by becoming parched and dry and requiring more applications of moisturizer, which make skin dryer, requiring more moisture. It’s a sad cycle.
Butylene Glycol But..but.. what is this?! Derived from petroleum, Butylene Glycol is used as a preservative, solvent (dissolves other ingredients), and humectant (holds moisture to skin). It is used in many products from mascaras and concealers to sunscreens and hairsprays. Some say that small exposure to butylene gylcol isn't harmful, but some say no matter what, it is harmful for you. Side effects could be depression, drowsiness, skin irritation, dermatitis and hives. It is found in so many personal care products that it is difficult to keep track of how much a person is exposed.
Final thoughts It is really on you to make a decision to use products that include these chemicals or not. While they may be helpful in keeping the products safe from bacteria and help other ingredients perform better, some chemicals can also irritate and harm your skin and health. You should look carefully at the labels and use products with right ingredients for your skin, as everyone’s skin type and sensitivity varies. Be wise, think, and know what’s best for your skin!