Lately, I find myself educating myself on everything that goes into my beauty products. I’ve been a victim to blindly purchasing items based on hype, popularity, and brand position. Even falling for marketing ploys, such as “anti-aging” or “conditioning” or “brightening”. Now, as a self-proclaimed beauty junkie, I know better and scrutinize the toxic skincare ingredients that are most commonly found in products today. As we head into fall and winter and update our vanities, I wanted to break down some of the most toxic skincare ingredients you need to be weary of.
Note that it can be tricky to avoid all of them entirely, but I’m a big advocate of making simple product swaps where you can for a cleaner routine.
1. Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
BHT are common preservatives in both food and personal care products. Although it can be produced naturally by things like green algae, it is a lot more cost effective to be synthetically produced which is what a lot of beauty companies do. In terms of sneaky ingredients, BHT is not the worst culprit especially in very small quantities, but it is better to avoid it. There have been hormonal disruption and cancer studies that are linked to this ingredient, so it is always better to be safe than sorry!
2. Ethanolamine Compounds (MEA, DEA, TEA)
This toxic skincare can be found in a range of products like shampoo, lotions, foundations, and many more. Ethanolamines are amino acids used as emulsifiers in the aforementioned products. When combined with other preservatives, they can form carcinogens. They can get absorbed into the skin and potentially link to health concerns like organ toxicity, bioaccumulation (product remains on upper layers of skin), and even cancer. Avoid the following ingredients to stay away from Ethanolamine Compounds:
Triethanolamine, diethanolamine, DEA, TEA, cocamide DEA, cocamide MEA, DEA-cetyl phosphate, DEA oleth-3 phosphate, lauramide DEA, linoleamide MEA, myristamide DEA, oleamide DEA, stearamide MEA, TEA-lauryl sulfate.
This is another preservative that beauty companies incorporate to increase the shelf life of their cleansers and moisturizers. Formaldehydes periodically release substances over time to keep products fresh. In the US, the FDA does not prohibit this ingredient, but in the European Union, this ingredient is banned in cosmetics because it is a carcinogen. Top beauty culprits with formaldehyde include nail polishes, polish removers and keratin hair treatments so always check the ingredients before purchasing.
4. Lead & Other Metals
Everything from lead, mercury, aluminum, iron and zinc are common heavy metals that can be found in skincare. This is an issue because your skin can absorb through the skin and into the bloodstream, also known as chronic heavy metal toxicity – or when you are exposed to low levels of metal over an extended period of time. This has clear linkage to health issues such as cancer, birth defects, kidney disease and lung damage. (Note that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are both considered safe!)
Parabens are yet another type of preservative commonly found in skincare. The most common types of this toxic ingredient are called butylparaben, methylparaben, and propylparaben so this is what you want to look for within the ingredients list. Parabens are harmful because they are known to mimic estrogen and too much can trigger breast cell division and growth of tumors, which is why this toxic ingredient is associated with causing breast cancer.
This chemical is often added to nail polishes to prevent cracking, incorporated into hairspray so the product is not too stiff and is a common solvent in fragrances. Like many of the other toxic ingredients, phthalates are believed to be an endocrine disrupting chemical, linked to reproductive defects and can even increase the risk of miscarriage. It is also good to be aware this ingredient is also found in many plastic products – including food packaging.
My Non-Toxic Skincare Picks
There are certainly a lot of scary toxic skincare ingredients out there but just having the knowledge of what to look for is going to make a difference. To make things easy, shop from the Clean Beauty list at Sephora or just do some basic research before investing in a product. Today is the last day to save up to 20% off at Sephora using the code ‘HOLIDAYFUN’.