12 Skin Care and Cosmetic Ingredients to Avoid
When buying beauty products on the aisle, remember one thing. Just because a product is sold on a shelf does not mean it is safe. (Don't forget the long history of lead being used in the cosmetics industry. According to the Environmental Working Group's website, 'companies are allowed to use almost any ingredient they want. The U.S. government does not verify the safety of products before they are sold. This includes ingredients that have been linked to everything from allergies and hives to cancer and infertility.
It can be difficult to navigate and decipher the long list of ingredients found on most beauty product labels. Thankfully, there are sites and apps that can help make the process easier. EWG's Skin Deep Database Allows you to search for cosmetic ingredients and products to see if they meet the nonprofit's strict standards. There are also apps, like Yuca, that can scan products to see if they contain endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, allergens, or irritants. Unfortunately, they don't cover all (or even most) products, so if in doubt, I recommend using this dermatologist-assisted toxic ingredient cheat sheet before accessing your credit card.
1. Chemical sunscreens
A recent study showed that six common chemical sunscreen ingredients are absorbed into the bloodstream, well above levels considered safe. One ingredient, oxybenzone, showed 188 times the absorption of safe levels after one application, says Dennis Gross , MD, a dermatologist and dermatologist. After four applications, absorption increased to 500 times the safe level. All chemicals remained elevated in the blood for anywhere from 1 to 21 days, depending on the sunscreen component of the chemical.
Oxybenzone is an endocrine disruptor, which can have serious consequences to childbearing. Additionally, chemical sunscreens should be avoided during pregnancy. It has been associated with birth defects. The American Academy of Pediatrics also states that parents should not use sunscreens containing oxybenzone on their children. Instead, Dr. Gross recommends opting for mineral sunscreens that are on the surface of the skin and will not be absorbed. The active ingredients in these safe sunscreens are zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.
Methylisothiazolinone is a preservative most commonly found in water-based products such as shampoos and cleansers. Even when used in small amounts, it is a potent allergen and can cause burning sensations, itching, and even hives, says dermatologist and 5th Avenue Aesthetics . Those with sensitive skin should avoid this ingredient altogether, especially in leave-on products.
3. Sodium lauryl sulfate
Sodium lauryl sulfate is a very common detergent. It is found in a wide variety of personal care items, including shampoos, cleansers, and body washes, says Dr. Hayag. It often causes irritation and can also trigger allergic reactions on the skin. If SLS is not washed off properly, its residue can leave the skin dehydrated and reduce the level of ceramides in the skin. She suggests looking for products that contain fatty alcohols instead. Castile-based soaps and cleansers are good alternatives, she says.
4. Acrylates (ethyl acrylate, ethyl methacrylate, and methyl methacrylate)
Acrylates are mainly found in artificial nail products and false eyelashes used as adhesives. According to Dr. Hayag, they can cause contact allergies in a relatively large number of people. Different acrylates have also been associated with different concerns, including the possibility of carcinogenicity," she says. "Virtually all artificial nail products contain some form of acrylate, so it's best to avoid them altogether, or at least reduce their use.
5. Happy birthday
Parabens are one of the most well-known no-nonsense ingredients, but these petroleum-based preservatives are still incredibly prevalent. Not only are there links to breast cancer , they are known as endocrine disruptors , meaning they mimic estrogen in the body, which can lead to hormonal imbalances and infertility. Parabens can be listed under a variety of names, but the most common are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and ethylparaben, says dermatologist and author Dr. DebraJaliman. Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from New York's Top Dermatologists . According to Dr. Jaliman, parabens are especially common in makeup and moisturizers.
6. Coconut oil
Coconut oil has been widely touted as an effective spot treatment for acne (among many other things), but Howard Sobel, MD, founder of Sobel Skin and a attending dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital, says that by clogging the surrounding pores, it actually aggravate the breakout, he says. He advises against applying pure coconut oil, but recommends it in products that contain coconut oil, such as face masks and moisturizers. Even in those small concentrations, it can still be irritating, so better to avoid it altogether.
Many of us consider good smell to be a deciding factor when choosing skin care, but in reality, before you sniff anything, you need to make sure that there are no synthetic fragrances added. The majority of products contain purely chemically produced aromatic compositions, which have been shown to cause allergic reactions to the skin, along with headaches, allergies, dizziness, rashes, coughing, skin irritation, pigmentation, and hyperactivity. D., a pharmacology expert and founder if . Manufacturers use thousands of fragrance components in their products, but unfortunately there are no regulations that require them to list all components.
Formaldehyde is popular in hair straightening products, nail polish, and other cosmetics, but Dr. Sobel says it should definitely be avoided, especially in skin care. It is sometimes used as a chemical preservative to prevent bacterial growth, but when humans are exposed to large amounts of it, it is thought to increase the risk of developing cancer," he says.
Toluene is a chemical commonly found in nail polish and hair dye. It is a volatile petrochemical solvent that is toxic to the immune system and can cause birth defects, says Michele Green, MD , a cosmetic dermatologist.
10. Phthalate Esters
Phthalates are mainly used in cosmetics, such as fragrances, and are also found in skin care products. They are known endocrine disruptors and can also cause hormonal and reproductive problems and birth defects, says Dr. Green.
Triclosan is something that many of us have been exposed to frequently in recent months because it is found in antibacterial soaps. Triclosan should be avoided because it causes antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and it is also known to disrupt the endocrine system, says Dr. Green.
12. Mineral oil
This common ingredient in makeup, SPF, and cleansers is a byproduct of petroleum. As we learned from formaldehyde, it may contain carcinogenic chemicals that are thought to increase the risk of cancer in humans when used in large quantities, says Dr. Sobel.