Some call them “the dirty dozen,” while others opt for “the toxic 12.” No matter what you call them, there are 12 specific ingredients that should not be in any of your beauty or skincare products. Despite this, many of them were once common in everyday skincare regimens and may even still appear in a wide range of personal care items.
Our skin is one of the most important and largest organs of our body, performing numerous vital functions. It only makes sense that we should be incredibly conscious of what we put on it! Did you know our skin absorbs up to 60% of what we put on it?! If you care about your skin and your health, take the time to familiarize yourself with the ingredients before you buy.
Here are the 12 ingredients you should try to avoid when shopping for skincare products:
Commonly seen in the form of MEA (Monoethanolamine), DEA (diethanolamine) and TEA (triethanolamine), ethanolamines are essentially chemical amino acids that can irritate the blood vessels and even cause genetic damage that leads to cancer. They are often found in facial cleansers and soaps, shampoos, fragrances, sunscreens, eye makeup (mascara, eyeliner, eye shadow, etc.), and more.
2. Mineral Oil
Made from processed petroleum, the mineral oil you see in a lot of cosmetics comes in both safe and unsafe forms. Mineral oil can be dangerous when not highly purified or refined (especially common in cheaper ointments and lotions) because it can clog pores and trap toxins that would otherwise be shed by the skin.
Aluminum is a metal that can have toxic effects on the endocrine system. Sadly, aluminum is still commonly found in anti-perspirant deodorants and other common personal care products. Try exploring natural deodorants and ones without the anti-perspirant label.
Parabens are a group of chemicals that have been commonly used as preservatives in cosmetics for the past 100 years. But they have come under scrutiny in recent years because of their ability to cause hormonal imbalances and contribute to certain illnesses. The tricky thing about parabens is that they’re often not labeled, but the good news is that an increasing amount of products are now being listed as “Paraben Free.”
Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives are chemicals that have historically been used in cosmetics for the same reason that morticians use them on cadavers — they preserve substances that would otherwise break down. This gives your skincare products a longer shelf life, but unfortunately it can lead to allergic reactions and even certain cancers.
Sometimes called “plasticizers”, Phthalates are used in items like fragrances and haircare products to increase flexibility while maintaining strength. However, they are also known to cause damage to internal organs. Phthalates are often not listed among ingredients, but look for products specially marked as “Phthalate Free.”
Triclosan is an antifungal and antibacterial agent that is still commonly added to a whole string of soaps and personal care products (like toothpaste and mouthwash) for its germ-killing abilities. The trouble is, it has also been linked to cancer and thyroid issues.
8. Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Also known as Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate or simply SLES, this ingredient is considered a cheap way to make personal care products foam or lather up. However, it is controversial because it can easily be contaminated with 1,4-Dioxane, a highly carcinogenic chemical.
9. Polyethylene Glycol
Polyethylene glycol or PEG is a polyether compound that has many uses, including industrial, medicinal and personal care (lotions, personal lubricants, toothpaste and more). However, it is troubling for skin use because it can reduce your skin’s natural moisture and can also cause severe allergic reactions in some people. You may sometimes see PEG written out as polyethylene oxide or polyoxyethylene.
10. Propylene Glycol & Butylene Glycol
These two chemical compounds are very similar in structure (Butylene Glycol contains 4 carbon atoms as opposed to Propylene Glycol’s 3), and they are also common ingredients in skin and hair moisturizers. While more research is needed on the health risks, both compounds are derived from petroleum and have been known to cause irritation in larger quantities.
This is a silicon-based moisturizer and softener that is used in a variety of personal care products, particularly hair conditioners. While it is largely considered safe in small quantities, a study in 2008 suggested that long-term exposure (such as washing with it regularly for years) can be toxic to humans and pose various health risks.
12. Synthetic Fragrances
The chemical makeup of synthetic fragrances (commonly found in perfumes and lotions) varies greatly, but two of the biggest common denominators are petroleum and benzene derivatives. Both of these are carcinogenic and can cause cancer and central nervous system disorders, among other health issues. Always go for natural fragrances.