The next time you reach for that bottle of lotion, make sure you know what’s in it before you slather it all over your body. After all, your skin is your largest organ. Hence much of what you put on it has the potential of being absorbed into your system.
Most of us are too busy to scrutinize every ingredient in every cosmetic or skincare product we use. Even if we had the time, for some, the task of learning the hundreds of potential ingredients—and their possible dangers or benefits—is just too daunting.
And you’re not necessarily “safe” buying products labeled “natural.” Many products with “natural” or “botanical” in their names or descriptions contain potentially harmful ingredients. You might be surprised to know that currently there are no regulations on what products can be called. For example, products with “natural” or “organic” in their name may not contain many, if any natural ingredients. And products labeled “made with organic ingredients” may contain many unnatural, nonorganic and synthetic ingredients.
Even products certified “organic” require a closer look. Under the current regulations, a product can be certified “organic” even if not all of its ingredients are organic. Current regulations for “organic” labeling require that only 70% of the product must be organic. The rest can be just about anything. To date, the purest products are probably those that adhere to The Natural Standard for Personal Care Products. If you do have the time or inclination, educate yourself on the FDA’s Definitions of Organic and requirements for using the USDA Seal.
In the meantime, here is my list of the top 12 ingredients to avoid.
Sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate – These harsh and potentially irritating detergents are found in most drugstore hair care products and facial and body cleansers.
Parabens (Methyl-, Propyl-, Ethyl-, Butyl-) – These are perhaps the most commonly used synthetic preservatives found in all forms of cosmetics and personal care products. The EPA recently determined parabens cause questionable estrogen activity, and numerous studies have linked parabens to breast cancer and male reproductive disorders.
Oxybenzone – This common sunscreen ingredient enhances skin absorption which has raised issues of bioaccumulation in human tissue. Studies have also suggested it may be an endocrine disruptor and potential neurotoxin.
Hydroquinone – the FDA recently issued a warning regarding this commonly used skin bleaching chemical after it was determined it can cause a serious, disfiguring skin disease called ochronosis.
Formaldehyde – commonly used in nail polishes, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, allergen and skin, eye and lung irritant.
Placenta – found in some hair care products, can give you an unwanted dose of hormones.
Lead – a potent neurotoxin banned by the government for use in gasoline and house paint, but still found in some cosmetic and hair care products.
Phthalates – These chemicals found in many plastics and products containing “fragrance” (e.g., many perfumes/colognes on the market) have been linked to infertility in men and developmental reproductive issues in baby boys.
Petroleum byproducts (petrolatum, mineral oil, paraffin) – To begin with, why would anyone want to put a product derived from the same source as gasoline on his or her face? In addition, these ingredients carry a high risk of contamination with cancer-causing toxins.
Phenoxyethanol – This is a known allergen and common irritant.
Imidazolidinyl urea – Has been linked to immune system disorders, specifically, skin sensitizing.
“PEG” and “-eth” – May contain toxic contaminants and studies have linked it to developmental and reproductive disorders.
Be well and happy shopping!