“No No” Skin Care Ingredients

Mar 23, 2011 by

There are thousands of beneficial skincare ingredients, and an equal amount that are not so great. In the United States the FDA is responsible for classifying all cosmetic products, which includes skincare and make-up. You’ll notice that I said classify, not regulate. Here in the U.S. there is not a government agency that regulates the ingredients in these said products. Say what? To avoid seeming completely worthless the FDA has banned a whopping 10 ingredients, which is really pathetic considering that in Europe 1.100 ingredients have been banned.

“Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act, cosmetics and their ingredients are not required to undergo approval before they are sold to the public. … This means that manufacturers may use any ingredient or raw material, except for color additives and a few prohibited substances, to market a product without a government review or approval.”

Basically this means that as a consumer you need to educate yourself on what is going to be harmful for the skin, I cannot stress enough how important it is to read the labels on products. When you see any of the following ingredients listed remember what you learned in D.A.R.E., and just say no.

1. Parabens

The innumerable forms of parabens including: methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, and  butylparaben, have been linked to breast cancer. The FDA claims they’re not dangerous in low doses, but considering the amount of products we use daily that do contain them, the combined dose is anything but low.

2. Formaldehyde

Lets leave this at the morgue, where it belongs. This preservative is frighteningly common in everything from toothpaste to baby products. Besides being an irritant, it’s a known carcinogen. Manufacturers often use synonyms such as Formalin, Methanal, Urea, 1,3-Dioxetane, Oxymethyline, Quaternium 15,  Methylaldehyde,  Methylene Oxide, Formic Aldehyde, Oxomethane Formalin, and Phenol Formaldehyde to confuse you.

3. Triethanolamine

Though used in many “gentle” products to balance PH levels, TEA has been known to cause allergic reactions, irritations and drying out of the hair and skin. TEA is absorbed into the body with each use and becomes toxic after periodic accumulation.When in doubt about tea, just stick to the greek kinds, they’re full of antioxidants and they don’t harm the skin.

4. Triclosan

Use of this antibacterial agent has been limited in Japan as well as Canada, which has to tell you something about the quality of the ingredient. It’s generally found in hand sanitizers, bacterial soaps and even in toothpaste. Most recently it has even popped up in breast milk due to its ability to stay inside the body. It’s also linked to lowering the immune system and altering hormone regulation.

5. Propylene Glycol

What do antifreeze and moisturizers have in common? Propylene Glycol of course! Here’s another riddle for you. What is one skin condition they can both cause? Contact Dermatitis. Doesn’t that sound pleasant? This ingredient also alters the structure of the skin, which is why it is so common in skincare products. Altering the structure of the skin allows the good ingredients and the P.G. to penetrate into deeper layers of the skin, rendering the product useless.


6. Petrochemicals

Petroleum should be used for oil, not skincare products. Propylene Glycol is one of the most common petrochemicals used in skincare products for its moisturizing properties, however is is a skin irritant and can exacerbate eczema symptoms. 

7. Alcohol

This is often used as a preservative in natural skin care creams. This type of ethyl alcohol (usually listed as ‘alcohol denat.‘ on the label) can dry out the skin, cause irritation, trigger Rosacea flare-ups and prevent the absorption of Vitamin A – the lack of which promotes premature ageing. That certainly explains why 70% of skincare products on the market use it.

8. Diethanolamine

Also called DEA, it’s widely used because it works as a binder for lotions and creams to aid in consistency. DEA by itself is not harmful but it can react with other ingredients in the product to form an extremely potent carcinogen called nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA). NDEA is readily absorbed through the skin and has been linked to stomach, esophagus, liver and bladder cancers.

9. Sodium Laurel Sulfate

These foaming agents started as industrial degreasers and garage floor cleaners, whoever decided to add it to skincare products was apparently huffing it. Now its found most commonly in soaps; this skin irritants strips the skin of necessary oils and erodes it before entering the heart, brain and liver, where it accumulates in your organs. As a college student I know that my liver certainly doesn’t need anything else screwing with it.

10. Synthetic Fragrances

Fragrance is undoubtedly the most common of the harmful ingredients, and the hardest to avoid. Due to an FDA loophole, cosmetic companies are able to call tons of toxic chemicals “fragrance.” Many of these “fragrances” are actually phthalates (an ester of phthalic acid) which causes liver and kidney damage. Lovely.

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