I do not know about you, but I like to do an early winter decluttering day before I decorate for the holidays. Think of it as “reverse spring cleaning.”
Let’s head to the bathroom and green our beauty & skin care routines! Now is the perfect time to take stock and see what products we need and which ones contain less than stellar ingredients.
If you’re like me and have a large assortment of beauty products, this task might seem a bit overwhelming, but it will be worth it to eliminate products from our regimens that are harmful.
There are so many nasty ingredients in personal care products--from preservatives that release formaldehyde to chemicals linked to cancer.
I have compiled a list of the top ten ingredients to avoid in our skin care products, based on information provided by the Organic Consumers Association and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
Pick a day to go through your personal care products and look at the labels. Do your products contain any of the harmful chemicals found on this list? If so, put them in a basket and do not repurchase them.
10 Ingredients to Avoid
- Phthalates-- Phthalates have been linked from everything to testicular cancer to liver cancer, but they are still in almost all synthetic fragrances, including masking agents which cause a product's other natural scents to disappear.
Phthalates are an industrial plasticizing agent. Here is what is on the Cosmetics Database page about phthalates: "More than two decades ago, scientists began building a body of work indicating that phthalates are reproductive and developmental toxicants in laboratory animals, particularly in males. Early studies focused on phthalates' ability to cause testicular atrophy. (e.g., Gray and Buttersworth 1980). New studies are confirming these findings in humans (Swan et al. 2005, Main et al. 2005)."
Committee on the Health Risks of Phthalates, National Research Council. (2008). Phthalates and Cumulative Risk Assessment: The Task Ahead. National Academies Press.
Salazar-Martinez E, Romano-Riquer P, Yanez-Marquez E, Longnecker MP, Hernandez-Avila M (2004). "Anogenital distance in human male and female newborns: a descriptive, cross-sectional study". Environ Health
Swan, S.H. 2004. Phthalates in pregnant women and children. e.hormone 2004 conference. October 27–30. New Orleans
- Parabens-- This widely used class of preservatives should be avoided. A credible study in the Journal of Applied Toxicology has also linked parabens to breast cancer as they may be hormone disruptive and lead to tumor growth. Plus, paraben esters can easily penetrate the skin, making them even more dangerous. A study in the Journal of Applied Toxicology has also linked parabens to breast cancer as they may be hormone disruptive and lead to tumor growth.
Darbre PD, Harvey PW. Paraben esters: review of recent studies of endocrine toxicity, absorption, esterase and human exposure, and discussion of potential human health risks
Crinnion WJ. Toxic effects of the easily avoidable phthalates and parabens. Altern Med Rev. 2010 Sep;15(3):190-6.
Darbre, P. D. (2003), Underarm cosmetics and breast cancer. J. Appl. Toxicol., 23: 89–95. doi: 10.1002/jat.899
- Petrochemicals-- Petrochemicals are derived from crude oil. For example, mineral oil a mix of hydrocarbons that have come from petroleum. When you use it, you’re basically applying liquid fuel to the skin and hair. It may feel good on the skin as these products often do because they are an occlusive and provide that barrier. This really, though, serves no benefit to the skin or hair.
So many people will say, "Mineral oil is good for your skin. It's just baby oil!"
There are studies out there that say otherwise. In fact, one study showed that petrochemicals applies topically and orally to lab mice caused anemia, nerve and spinal cord damage, and kidney degeneration. Even scarier--before the study concluded, several of the animals being studied died.
Source: "A Look Into the Pertochemical Industry" from American Laboratory, 2012. Mukta M. Shukla and Ashok K. Shukla
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)-- This is an irritating cleansing agent that make your body washes and shampoos have a lather. This detergent is known for causing redness and soreness to the eyes and skin. They are also very drying and are linked to skin itching.
SLS is considered a mutagen. In other words, with certain amounts, SLS is capable of changing the information in genetic material found in cells. It denatures protein, impairs proper structural formation of young, developing eyes, creating irreversable damage. SLS may also cause damage to the immune system.
Source: Journal of the American College of Toxicology, Vol. 2, No. 7, 1983
- Triethanolamine-- Typically used as a pH adjuster, this ingredient can cause irritation to the eyes, dry skin, brittle hair, and more. This is a petrochemical, meaning it is derived from crude oil. It is also proven to be harmful and should never be used in skin care products, especially those for kids. Triethanolamine is an emulsifier and pH adjuster; can be especially hazardous when combined with Diazolidinyl Urea. Studies have shown that a large number of cosmetics with TEA (short for Triethanolamine) are contaminated with Nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic. Also avoid labels which say TEA Lauryl Sulfate, as it's the same thing.
Sources: Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics, The Environmental Working Group, NTP Technical Report on the Toxicology and Carcinogenesis Studies of Triiethanolamine
- Methylisothiazolinone-- Another preservative, this ingredient has been shown in lab studies of the brain to be a neurotoxin. Additionally, this ingredient is classified as a known human immune system toxicant. Studies have shown that Methylisothiazolinone can negatively impact nerve cells, resulting in cell death or damage. Toxic effects aside, this ingredient is one of the most irritating ingredients found in skin care when it comes to dermatitis.
Sources: A. C. De Groot, A. Herxheimer: "Isothiazolinone Preservative: Cause Of A Continuing Epidemic Of Cosmetic Dermatitis", The Lancet, Volume 333, Issue 8633, Pages 314-316 (1989), National Library of Medicine HazMap,
- Triclosan-- This active ingredient is commonly found in anti-bacterial hand products. Triclosan has also been shown to linger on the skin–in other words, you believe you’re rinsing it down the drain, but it continues to sit on the skin and kill bacteria. What you end up with is a greater chance of becoming ill and resistant to treatment because your healthy bacteria isn’t there to fight the nasties.
While there haven’t yet been conclusive results and multiple studies, there is research being done with potential links between triclosan and autism because it interferes with myelination in the brain. This has prompted researchers to start studying a possible link between triclosan and Alzheimers. By the way, triclosan is a cholorphenol (a pesticide linked to cancer). Studies have shown that, like many other ingredients, triclosan gets into the skin and is passed to nursing babies.
Allmyr, M., M. Adolfsson-Erici, et al. (2006). "Triclosan in plasma and milk from Swedish nursing mothers and their exposure via personal care products." Sci Total Environ 372(1): 87-93.)
Pesticide in Soap, Toothpaste and Breast Milk - Is It Kid-Safe? (Environmental Working Group)
- BHT-- BHT stands for butylated hydroxytoluene. This synthetic antioxidant is typically used as a preservative. It is also found in many foods. It is a possible carcinogen. In fact, the state of California requires a warning label to alert people to this fact.
In animal studies, BHT has been shown to cause damage to the kidneys, thyroid, liver, and lungs. In these studies, problems with blood coagulation have been directly linked to BHT. This ingredient has also been shown to promote the growth of tumors.
Sources: Baur, A.K. et al., "The lung tumor promoter, butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), causes chronic inflammation in promotion-sensitive BALB/cByJ mice but not in promotion-resistant CXB4mice," Toxicology 169, no. 1 (December 2001): 1-15
UNEP and OECD, 2,6-di-tert-butyl-p-cresol (BHT) Screening Information Data Set: Initial Assessment Report (Paris: OECD,2002), http://www.inchem.org/documents/sids/sids/128370.pdf
- Synthetic Fragrance-- The typical artificial fragrance contains up to 200 different ingredients, many of which are known to aggravate asthma and allergies. Fragrance can also cause dizziness, headaches, and dermatitis. Toxic phthalates are also commonly found in fragrance. Back in 1986, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences officially classified fragrance as an ingredient that needed to be studied more because of their concern that it may be a neurotoxin. There are also newer concerns over the possible link between exposure to artificial fragrance and autism.
Sources: The Cancer Prevention Coalition, Bagasra O, Pace DG. Smell of autism: Synthetic fragrances and cause for allergies, asthma, cancer and autism. OA Autism 2013 Jun 19;1(2):15.
- 10. Formaldehyde & Formaldehyde Releasers-- You will find these names on the ingredients label if it contains Formaldehyde or releases it: Quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol). These ingredients are found in everything from baby lotion to nail polish.
The popular hair straightenng treatment called the Brazilian Blowout also releases an even higher amount of formaldehyde. In fact, that specific hair treatment was called out by OSHA for containing “unacceptable” levels of formaldehyde.
The National Toxicology Program has also added formaldehyde on its list of cancer causing ingredients.
Sources: Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, National Cancer Insitute at the National Institute of Health, the American Cancer Society
Now that you know what ingredients to avoid, it most likely is time to shop for some new, healthy skin care produucts! Let’s find out what the 5 skin care must haves are for winter.
- Sunscreen -- Choosing a natural, zinc oxide-based sunscreen (nanoparticle free) is essential year ‘round. The sun’s rays can be especially damaging when they reflect off the snow. Whether you burn or not, you need a good SPF to protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays, which are a leading cause of skin cell damage. This is linked not just to skin aging, but skin cancer as well.
- A solid hand care regimen -- So many people experience chapped dry skin, soreness, itching and hang nails this time of year. Whether you’re outdoors playing with your children, skiing, or or just experiencing the effects of forced air heat, your hands are bound to suffer. Protecting those hands with a natural hand cream is also key. Our Therapeutic Hand Scrub and Healthy Hand Cream are just you need!
- Skin care to help relief sore muscles-- I keep thinking about my friends down the road in Buffalo who were digging out after 7 feet of snow last week. When I shovel my driveway, I am left with achy, tired muscles. That is where (seed) Therapeutic Body Oil comes in! The natural essential oils such as peppermint, ginger, rosemary and clove to help ease muscle soreness and helps my senses feel invigorated.
- Gentle body wash-- Since most of us feel so cold this time of year, we tend to take hotter showers. This might feel warm and comforting, but it dries zaps moisture from the skin. Look for a hydrating body wash to cleanse your skin without harsh sulfates. Look for gentle body washes fortified with natural butters and oils to keep your skin clean and leave it feeling hydrated.
- Lavender products for extra soothing-- Lavender is a fabulous ingredient to use on your skin. Not only does it have the power to ease inflammation, it can speed healing of wind-burned skin. Plus, it just feels comforting after you’ve beenall day. At (seed), our Lavender body oil, lotion, cream, and hand cream all would be lovely choices for after sun skin care.
Do you have a question about ingredients? Is there something on your mind? Please feel free to ask!