12 Cosmetic Ingredients You Should Avoid
If you’re like most cosmetics and skincare consumers, you appreciate products crafted using naturally derived ingredients. In addition, you search for products created by companies with no animal testing policies and an overall eco-friendly narrative. However, it is sometimes tough to wade through the hype concerning what’s healthy and what isn’t. So we’ve compiled a reference list that we’re calling The Dirty Dozen. This list includes the 12 ingredients used in cosmetics most likely to produce toxic reactions. At Nabila K, we only use products that don’t contain any of these ingredients.
Top Toxic Ingredients in Skincare Products
1. BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)
Primarily used as preservatives in cosmetics such as lipsticks and moisturizing creams and lotions as well as certain types of food, BHA and BHT are both known to cause contact dermatitis. BHA has been listed as a possible carcinogen, and studies performed on lab mice and rats show that high doses cause damage to the liver, kidneys, and thyroid.
2. Coal Tar Dyes (p-phenylenediamine and colors listed as “CI” followed by a five-digit number)
Coal tar dyes provide artificial coloring for a variety of cosmetic products. Lab tests performed by the U.S. National Cancer Institute indicate that coal tar dyes may cause tumors. They also may be contaminated with heavy metals and aluminum compounds.
Top Toxic Ingredients in Bath and Body Products
3. DEA-Related Ingredients
DEA is used in cosmetics such as soaps, lotions, shampoos, and conditions to create structure and texture, such as making products sudsy or creamy. Along with causing skin and eye irritation, DEA and its compounds have been shown to cause precancerous conditions in the skin as well as cause liver cancer.
4. Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP)
Primarily used in nail color products as a solvent in dyes, DBP is also used in many fragrance products. However, consumers won’t see it listed as an ingredient on the labels of these products because fragrance ingredients are considered trade secrets, and as such, they don’t require disclosure. DBP is absorbed through the skin and has been shown to interfere with hormone function and lead to developmental defects. The European Union classifies DBPs as toxic to aquatic organisms.
5. Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives
Utilized in a wide range of cosmetic products, formaldehyde-releasing agents cause off-gassing that is then inhaled, to the possible detriment of the health of those in the vicinity. Formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Top Toxic Ingredients in Cosmetics
As the most widely used preservative in cosmetics, it’s been estimated that as much as 90% of grooming products contain parabens. Although most products only contain very low levels, parabens are also used in fragrances, and like DBPs, they aren’t listed on labels because fragrance ingredients are considered trade secrets. It is very easy for parabens to penetrate the skin, and evidence indicates that they may interfere with hormonal functioning.
7. Parfum (aka fragrance)
Fragrance or perfume is used in nearly all cosmetics and involves thousands of different chemicals. Many of the commonly found ingredients are known to cause allergic reactions such as contact dermatitis, sneezing, itchy eyes, and an itchy and/or runny nose. In some people, various fragrance ingredients can trigger migraines. In some cases, even products that are supposed to be fragrance-free may contain some scent-masking ingredients.
8. PEG Compounds
Commonly used in cosmetics as texturizers, solvents, thickeners, and softeners, PEG compounds have been found to cause irritation, especially when applied directly to broken or damaged skin. These compounds also increase the general permeability of the skin’s upper layers, making it easier for tissues to absorb harmful ingredients.
Top Toxic Ingredients in Hair Care
Otherwise known as petroleum jelly, petrolatum is typically added to products such as moisturizers and hair conditioners. Petroleum can become contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which have been known to cause cancer. Petroleum is classifieds as a carcinogen by the European Union.
Silicone-based compounds have a range of cosmetic uses. For instance, they’re used in hair care products to smooth and soften, in moisturizers to help the skin tissues retain water, and in deodorants to help the product glide onto the skin easily. However, Canadian research reveals that these compounds may be toxic to aquatic life and that they have the potential to interfere with the functioning of human hormones.
Toxic Ingredients in Bathing Products
11. Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Used to create foaming and bubbling in soaps, body washes, shampoos, and facial cleansers, these compounds contain known the human carcinogen ethylene oxide. Ethylene oxide has the potential to harm the nervous system and irritate the eyes and skin.
Used primarily in hand sanitizers, deodorants, and skin cleansers as an antibacterial agent and preservative, triclosan has been associated with hormonal dysfunction in humans and has been found to be very toxic to marine life. There is also evidence that the extensive use of triclosan in cosmetics contributes to the increase in antibiotic-resistant organisms.
So, what can you do if you want a non-toxic product? Simply do some research, read the labels, and then curate companies whose products you trust. We have always made it our goal to only produce products we’d be happy recommending to our own family and friends. You deserve the same treatment, and it is time we all demanded it from our manufacturers.