Ingredients to avoid in your skincare products

I don’t know about you but I always read my ingredients in skincare products. It is time-consuming but I would not risk my health. Sadly, most products sold to us are full of harmful chemicals.

On the other hand, not many people are as discerning of the products they use. For most consumers, their choice of skincare products is mainly influenced by the media. Therefore, they buy the brand and not the quality of a product. Not to call out on any brand.

In this post, I am going to guide you on how to read the ingredients in your skincare product. This information will empower you to make more knowledgeable purchases next time you do your beauty shopping.

Okay, let’s get started. Here are the top 7 ingredients to avoid like the plague:

1) Parabens
Parabens are chemicals used to preserve food and cosmetics. Their antibacterial and antifungal properties ensure cosmetics do not go rancid. They are found in moisturizers, makeup, shampoo, showering gels, sunscreen and among other personal hygiene and cosmetic products.

They sound like the savior. However, these chemicals are the devil. Tests of breast cancer tumours have come positive showing the presence of parabens. Studies have also shown sunscreen with this chemicals increase the risk of skin cancer and photoaging.

While shopping, read the labels and look out for methylparaben which is mainly in lotions and creams. The other paraben to look out for is benzethonium chloride used in cleansers, showering gels and shampoos. Actually, this chemical is used as an industrial disinfectant.

To be safe, buy a products that have grapefruit seed extract as the preservative. Or that have been labeled paraben-free. Even still, read the label thoroughly to make sure it is not just a marketing gimmick.

2) Phthalates
These are chemicals added to plastics to improve their flexibility and durability. They are found in cosmetics and personal care products. Some of the products are hair spray, hair gel, deodorant, lipstick, lotion, nail polish, fragrance, perfume, nail strengtheners and eyelash glue.

These chemicals have been linked to breast cancer, birth defects in male babies, fertility issues of low sperm count in men, premature development of breasts among girls and in recent past it has been linked to ADHD.

Be on the lookout for phthalate, DBP, DEHP, DMP, DEP, and notoriously “fragrance” on the labels.

3) Formaldehyde
Formaldehyde is produced worldwide and used widely in manufacturing. It is used mainly in the production of resins which are used as adhesives for wood products, pulp, and paper. Other sources of exposure include paint, vehicle emission, and tobacco smoke.

In cosmetics, it is used as a preservative for water-based products. It can be found in shampoos, hair dyes, antiperspirant, makeup, liquid baby soap, bath lotions and keratin hair treatments. The International Agency for Research on Carcinogens (IARC) has classified it as carcinogenic.It has been linked to a rare form of cancer called nasopharyngeal cancer.

Because of its strong smell, some people may suffer irritation. It may cause sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting and even headache. It has been shown to be toxic to the immune system.

4) Sunscreen chemicals
These chemicals absorb ultraviolet rays and protect the skin from sun damage. Unfortunately, they are endocrine disruptors meaning they interfere with the hormone system. These chemicals are padimate-O, PABA, octinoxate, benzophenone, oxybenzone, octyl-methoxycinnamate, and homosalate.

PABA( Para Amino Benzoic Acid)has been linked to photoallergic reactions like acne, dark red spots, burning, itching, and blisters. It has farther been linked to DNA cell damage and skin cancer.
Read the labels carefully of any product that has SPF as an ingredient. That includes lip balm, lotion, creams and makeup.

5) 1-4 –dioxane
Commonly found as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). They are organic synthetic compounds used as surfactants (foaming compound) and thickening agent for cleaning applications.

It is used to make hair care products, personal hygiene, and dental hygiene products. Some of the products include shampoo, detergent, curl relaxers, body soaps, cleansers, mouthwash, toothpaste, shaving cream, sunless tans, body lotions even facial creams. The Environmental Working Group found that 22% of personal care products in America contain 1-4-dioxane.

SLS mimics estrogen and has been linked to premenopausal symptoms due to hormonal imbalance. It also causes skin, lungs and eye irritation. It has also been found to be carcinogenic.

It also appears as polyethylene, polyethylene glycol (PEG), polyoxyethylene, ethoxylated ingredients, sodium laureate sulfate, polysorbate, -eth – or oxynol- and oleths.

This is an aromatic hydrocarbon, the synonymous smell of paint thinners. It is a byproduct of gasoline. Its inhalation causes respiratory complications, nausea and contact irritates the skin. It has been linked to immune system toxicity. When used as a recreational inhalant it causes severe neurological damage.

On labeling,it appears as toluene, toluol, fragrance, phenylmethane, methylbenzene. It is found in nail polish, nail hardener, hair color products and bleaching products. It has been banned in the use of cosmetics in the European Union.

7) Triclosan
TCS is an antifungal and antibacterial that is used in making “anti-bacterial” products. It is used in making soap, detergent, shampoo, mouthwash toothpaste and surgical tools. It is a known endocrine disruptor particularly in thyroid and reproductive hormones

Studies by the FDA have shown there is no significant difference in using antibacterial body wash compared to normal soap. In some studies, it has been found to contribute to bacteria antibiotic-resistant.

These are just some of the toxic chemicals in skincare products. There are other chemicals such as synthetic colors, fragrance, mineral oil, talc, nanoparticles, mercury, lead, hydroquinone, coal tar, lead, propylene glycol, retinyl palmitate, siloxanes and aluminum salts. However, this list is not conclusive, there are many more.

The take away is to be conscious of the products that you use. Look out for products that are as close as possible to their natural state. The closer it is, the lesser the number of ingredients. Rule of thumb: stick to no more than 5 ingredients.

Let me illustrate. I used to use a cocoa butter lotion that had 31 ingredients listed on its label. It smelled like cocoa butter. However, the cocoa butter (Theobroma cacao) was the 10th ingredient on the label. Simply put, it had very little cocoa butter.

When I learned of this, I switched to using pure cocoa butter. It costs much more than the lotion. But I get to keep my skin from all the chemicals in the lotion.I also enjoy the full benefits of cocoa butter not just a scrapping.

The journey to purge your cabinets from toxic products takes time. Fortunately, you can start small and switch to natural products. Finally, if you cannot pronounce the ingredients do not buy it.


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