TOP 10 CHEMICALS TO AVOID

Following is a list of the top 10 chemicals to avoid that are contained in many cosmetic ingredients that you should stop applying to your skin from this day forward.

Urea
Examples: diazolindyl urea, imidazolindyl urea
Common preservatives that release formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, that is irritating to the mucous membranes and known to cause contact dermatitis, headaches and internal bleeding.

Parabens
Examples: butylparaben, ethylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben
Common preservatives that are linked to breast cancer.

Phthalates
Examples: di-butyl-phthalate, di-ethylhexyl-phthalate
Commonly used as a plasticizer in everything from skincare, cosmetics, nail polish, perfume to hair products and deodorants. Known to cause damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive system. Suspected of causing birth defects, lowering sperm counts and a breast cancer risk.

Petroleum By-Products
Examples: mineral oil, petrolatum, paraffin, dipropylene, glycol, butylene glycol, disodium EDTA, tetrasodium EDTA, trisodium EDTA, polybutene, triclosan, polyethylene
Petroleum by-products interfere with the skin’s natural functions, clog the pores, exacerbates acne, and are highly likely to be contaminated with carcinogens that are linked to breast cancer.

Propylene Glycol and Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)
Made from the same chemical that is used to create anti-freeze, this chemical easily penetrates the skin and is linked to damage of the liver, kidneys and brain.

Sodium Laurel/Laureth Sulfate
Commonly used foaming agent that is considered a skin irritant and carcinogen, and is known to cause skin rashes and allergic reactions. SLS is absorbed into the body via skin application and mimics the activity of estrogen. This has a variety of health implications ranging from PMS, decreased fertility in men as well as an increase in cancers such as breast cancer in women. It is often disguised in “natural” products with the term “derived from coconut”. It is particularly irritating to the eyes. SLS is often contaminated with dioxane, a known carcinogen.

Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA)
These chemicals can react with other ingredients in the cosmetic product to form potent carcinogenic chemicals called nitrosamines, that are linked with liver, stomach, bladder and esophagus cancers.

Formaldehyde
Commonly found in nail products, this chemical is a known carcinogen, allergen and irritant. Commonly used synthetic preservatives, such as diazolindyl and imidazolindyl urea, break down to release formaldehyde.

Synthetic Fragrances
eg. parfum, vanillyl butyl ether
The simple term “fragrance” on an ingredient list can refer to a combination of any of the thousand separate ingredients used to make up the “fragrance”, many of which are phthalates (ie. toxic carcinogens and hormone disruptors). Fragrances are considered to be one of the top 5 known allergens and are known to cause asthma and trigger asthma attacks.

Synthetic Colors
Examples: FD&C Yellow 5, FD&C Red 40, FD&C Blue 1
Labeled FD&C or D&C followed by a number, they are known to cause skin irritation and sensitivity. Many are also believed to be carcinogenic.

Mica
Commonly found in mineral makeup, as well as eyeshadows, lip glosses and other cosmetics. Not only is mica linked to child labour, it can also irritate the skin by causing micro tears on the skin, especially around the nose and mouth. Kind of like running sand paper over your face. Mica is also a big concern in loose mineral makeup, due to the potential of the little fine dust being inhaled, resulting in scarring of the lungs. There is no valid data on the “safe” amounts of Mica in dry-texture-cosmetics such as eye shadow, mineral makeup or powder. 

Nanoparticles
Minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, commonly used in sunscreen lotions, foundation and other liquid types of lotions are harmless in their normal size. They simply sit on the skin since they are too large to penetrate its protective barrier. However, when these ingredients are broken down into nanoparticles (i.e. very small), they are easily absorbed into the skin. The tiny size gives these particles the ability to travel throughout the body and is what enhances their toxicity. There is research showing that nanoparticles of zinc oxide and other ingredients like aluminum collect in parts of the brain and cause cell death. Furthermore, these particles are so easily absorbed that they are detectable in all areas of the body, including vital organs.

Ok, so that was more than ten top 10 chemicals to avoid :) but whilst it’s a good start, these are certainly not the only ingredients that you should avoid. Other known nasties that do not biodegrade too well include: cyclomethicone, cyclopentasiloxane, dimethicone Copolyol, dimethicone, methicone, phenyl trimethicone, polyquaternium-7, disodium EDTA, EDTA, tetrasodium EDTA, trisodium EDTA, silicones.

If you are keen to learn more about the chemicals to avoid, or check up on ingredients in your day-to-day personal care products, the Environmental Working Group’s SKIN DEEP Cosmetic Safety Database is a good and comprehensive database of ingredients used within cosmetics and personal care products. Another fabulous resource and one of my favourite sites is BeautyCalypse.

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