Just as you are concerned with the safety of the foods and supplements you consume, you should be careful about what you put on your skin. Your skin is the largest body organ and it will absorb about 70% of what you put on it.
Below is a list of potential harmful ingredients that are commonly found in many skin care products at the market today.
Aluminum-based compounds are the active ingredients in antiperspirants. They block the sweat glands to keep sweat from getting to the skin’s surface. Some research has suggested that these aluminum compounds may be absorbed by the skin and cause changes in estrogen receptors of breast cells.
Compounds such as triclosan and chlorphenesin, do not break down in the environment and may contribute to bacterial resistance.
Chelators such as disodium EDTA and tetrasodium EDTA, are used in personal care products to remove impurities from low-quality raw materials. They do not readily biode-grade in the environment.
Chemicals in sunscreens such as oxybenzone and octyl methoxycinnamate, have been shown to disrupt endocrine activity. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are safer alternatives.
Formaldehyde is a chemical that may be inhaled or absorbed transdermally (through the skin). It is used in nail polishes, shampoos, including baby shampoos, and liquid body soaps. Side effects include skin irritation and nausea. Formaldehyde exposure may be a contributing factor in cancer development, according to the International Agency for Research.
a chemical carcinogen, is created when ingredients are processed with petroleum-derived ethylene oxide. Common ethoxylated compounds include sodium laureth sulfate and polyethylene glycol (often listed as PEG). To avoid it, skip any product with the following ingredients: myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth (or any other -eth), PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, or oxynol.
Synthetic fragrances often contain phthalates (pronounced THAY-lates), synthetic chemicals commonly used to stabilize fragrances and make plastic more pliable. These endocrine disrupters mimic hormones and may alter genital development. Avoid products that list fragrance as an ingredient unless the label states that it’s derived from essentials oils, or look for a phthalate-free label on the packaging.
Lead is a toxic heavy metal. It is found in many products, such as whitening toothpastes and lipsticks, and in other substances such as water, either through direct or indirect contamination. The adverse affects of lead exposure are thoroughly documented and include, but are not limited to, neurotoxicity (brain damage), seizures, gastrointestinal issues, reproductive dysfunction such as reduced sperm count and motility, and kidney dysfunction.
These are “amines” (ammonia compounds) and can form harmful nitrosamines when they come in contact with nitrates. Used as foaming agents, synthetic stabilizers, and to adjust the pH of cosmetics, they can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation, and dryness of the hair and skin.
Nanos are a new technology with inconclusive but potentially hazardous study results. Research suggests that when tiny nano particles penetrate the skin, they may cause cell damage.
Parabens in their many forms (methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, or butylparaben), ubiquitous in skincare, preserve other ingredients and extend a product’s shelf life–but these antimicrobial chemicals also have known hormone-disrupting effects.
These are derived from crude oil. Petroleum-based ingredients such as petrolatum, mineral oil, and paraffin (derived from nonrenewable sources) form a barrier when applied to the skin that does not allow it to breathe and can clog pores.
a humectant which means it keeps substances from drying out, and it was originally developed as an anti-freeze, but is now included in some deodorants and antiperspirants. It is a neurotoxin known to cause contact dermatitis, kidney damage, and liver damage. In propylene glycol’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), published by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, workers are urged to avoid skin contact with the toxic chemical as it may cause eye and skin irritation, gastrointestinal irritation and discomfort, nausea, headache, vomiting, and central nervous depression.
Sulfates such as sodium lauryl and sodium laureth, are harsh detergents that give cleansers, soaps, and shampoos their latherability. Often derived from petroleum, sulfates can also come from coconut and other vegetable oils that can be contaminated with pesticides. Sulfates can cause eye irritation and skin rashes.
Synthetic Polymers, such as sodium polyacrylate and carbomer, come from petroleum and give viscosity to skincare products. They are highly processed and their manufacture creates toxic by-products.
These are made from coal tar. They contain heavy metal salts that may deposit toxins onto the skin, causing skin sensitivity and irritation. Animal studies have shown almost all of them to be carcinogenic. They will be labeled as FD&C or D&C, followed by a color and a number.
Talc, hydrous magnesium silicate, is a soft mineral used in personal care products as an absorbent and color additive. It is classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer if it contains asbestiform fibers. The quantity of asbestiform fibers in cosmetic grade talc is unregulated. If talc is listed on the label, there is no way of knowing whether or not it contains asbestiform fibers.
Triclosan is an artificial antimicrobial chemical used to kill bacteria on the skin and other surfaces. Triclosan is a skin irritant and may cause contact dermatitis. Recent studies suggest this chemical may disrupt thyroid function and other critical hormone systems.
formally known as diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, or DMDM hydantoin and sodium hydroxymethyl-glycinate, are preservatives that have the potential to release formaldehyde in very small amounts and are a primary cause of contact dermatitis.