FD&C Red No. 6. Triethanolamine. Oxybenzone. These names are so ridiculous, my computer thinks I’m making a mistake. This week I thought I’d write a post about ingredients to avoid in cosmetics and beauty products. There’s SO many of them and their names are so long, my brain just shuts down when I look at them. My new philosophy is if I don’t know what it is and they haven’t put the common name in brackets, it’s probably not for me.
Of course, not everything is going to be easy to decipher even if it’s good for you, so I’d encourage you to do some research when buying products – even a quick Google search will do as long as you’re looking at credible websites. Sadly, I am also going to encourage you to check the ingredients even if the company has marketed themselves as being “natural”. I’ve battled with myself about brand bashing and I’ve decided that my goal is to enlighten you, not tell you what to do. So having said that, BE AWARE. Even “green” brands contain junk. More on that another week.
Here we go:
Coal tar: Used in dry skin and anti-redness products, bath soaks, dandruff & lice shampoos, hair dyes. May be listed as FD&C or D&C [colour] plus a number. Ex: FD&C Red No. 6 – Coal tar is a known carcinogen.
DEA/TEA/MEA: Used to hold oil and water molecules together so they don’t separate in the mixture as well as to create foam. Found in shampoo, face/body wash, makeup. Suspected carcinogens, VERY easily absorbed into your body.
Ethoxylated surfactants, 1,4 dioxane: Makes other chemicals less harsh. Found in many products like shampoo, children’s soaps, body washes, many baby products. Look for ingredients with “eth” in them. Ex: polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, ceteareth, oleth, PEG, etc. You will never see 1,4 dioxane listed as it’s not an ingredient, it’s a by-product. Suspected carcinogens.
Formaldehyde: Found in nail products, hair colours, fake eyelash glue, shampoo, etc. Look for formaldehyde, formalin, oxomethane, diazolidinyl urea, etc. Disrupts immune system, irritates skin.
Fragrance/Parfum: Literally listed as fragrance/parfum, these will always be a chemical cocktail unless otherwise specified that it is made with essential oils/other natural fragrances. Companies don’t have to tell you what exactly is in it as it’s considered proprietary. Contributes to headaches, allergies, asthma, and issues with the Central Nervous System.
Mineral Oil: Main ingredient in baby oil; also used in moisturizers, lip gloss, lipstick, foundation, hair gel. It’s a cheap ingredient that coats the skin and doesn’t allow it to release toxins.
Oxybenzone: Found in sunscreens to filter UV rays. It builds up in your fatty tissues and disrupts hormones, damages cells, and causes allergies. AKA: bonzophenone-3, benzoyl-5, methanone, solaquin, etc.
Parabens: A hot topic these days, parabens are cheap preservatives. They are found in tons of products including shampoo, toothpaste, shaving cream, moisturizers, etc. The laundry list of issues they cause: linked to breast cancer, mimic estrogen, mess with your reproductive system, skin irritant, neurotoxic, and the list goes on. May also be listed as benzoic acid, methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben.
PPD: Found in hair dye. Toxic to the skin and immune system, causes allergies, linked to cancer. Paraphenylene, p-diaminobenzene, p-aminoaniline, etc.
Phtalates: These enhance fragrances and will not be listed on the label but are found in products that have scent. They wreck your liver, kidneys, and lungs, and they disturb your hormones. Avoid products that list “fragrance/parfum”.
PEG: Allows products to be more easily absorbed into your skin. May be contaminated with known carcinogens. Look for PEG, PG, or PPG.
Sulfates (SLS/SLES): Creates a foam/lather in soaps, facewash, body wash, shampoo, toothpaste, and bubble bath. Absorbs easily into your body and irritates your skin. AKA: Sodium Laurel/Laureth Sulfate, sodium salt, sulfuric acid, etc.
OK so this list is really long and I actually just took the 12 that you’d find most often. Is your head exploding yet? If you’re still with me, congrats. A book that I highly recommend, written by a Canadian author, is called “There’s Lead in Your Lipstick” by Gillian Deacon. I took a lot of what I wrote above from her book. She goes into more detail and then lists quality brands that are available for purchase in Canada.
If you’re not the book type, David Suzuki has put together a “Dirty Dozen” list on his website that you could check out as well.
One more very cool resource I’m going to share with you is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. If you don’t look at anything else, check this out! Here, you can type in the name of thousands of products to look at their ratings in terms of how healthy they are. It’s done on a scale of 0-10 and it’s extremely easy to use. If you don’t want to see the full breakdown of why it’s good/bad for you, you can just look at the number, 0 being an extremely low risk and 10 being extremely high. Test it out with some of the products you use and see what grade they are given!
As stated in my previous post about how much I love nature, many of these ingredients don’t go away, they simply accumulate. Pay attention to what you’re putting on your body and down the drain! If not for your own wellbeing, for my best friend Edward. He meows his thanks.