A big shift is happening in the cosmetic and skincare world. Many consumers are demanding cleaner and better products, that will deliver results without major negative side effect. This sounds like a reasonable and attainable expectation, but that is far from the truth.
With the thousands of ingredients, and chemicals, that show up under many names, it is almost impossible for a consumer that's shopping for a skincare product to identify what's good and what isn't. Skincare companies are reacting to the demand for better ingredients; many are trying to do better, while others pretend to care and hide behind false and inflated marketing claims, such as 'non-toxic' and 'clean' whatever that means to each company.
Delivering truly clean and healthy products is especially challenging since brands themselves don't know where their ingredients come from. Manufacturers are very protective of their sources, and there is no process in place that holds them to account. The brand, most often just takes their word for it, that is if they ask about the ingredient source to begin with. At the Beauty Doctrine, we understand the complexity of this issue, and while we don't have all the answers, we are working diligently, sorting through the clutter, identifying decent products that, at the least, don't pack cancer-causing and hormonal disrupting ingredients on their INCI lists.
Let's start with the most dangerous chemicals that you can easily identify on any ingredient list:
1- Parabens: Most of you know about these by now. They show up under a variety of names that end with 'Paraben' such as Isopropylparaben or Butylparaben. These are still widely used in cosmetic products, even though they have been found in breast tumor tissue. Parabens have now been proven to disrupt estrogen; a hormone when increased, promotes cell division resulting in tumor growth. Parabens have also been linked to reproductive issues.
2- Artificial / Synthetic Fragrance: Believe it or not, just the word fragrance on your ingredient list, can pack up thousands of chemicals that cosmetic companies aren't obligated to disclose, at least in the US. These can be hormone-disrupting and may cause a multitude of health issues; a few of which are diabetes, respiratory issues, reduced sperm count, breast and liver cancers, reproductive malformation, etc. So think twice before insisting on that nice-smelling cleanser that captures the ocean breeze or the zesty, energizing citrus notes in your Vitamin-C Serum.
3- Hydroquinone (or Tocopheryl Acetate): This is generally recommended as a skin whitener and a dark spot reducer. while many chemicals are silent killers, this one can show immediate visible damage to the skin by turning blue or black when used in the sun. This is an irreversible skin disease called Ochronosis. Additionally, it has been linked to skin cancer, and can be packed with Mercury in some imported products.
4- Oxybenzone (Benzophenone), Homosalate, and Octinoxate: Found in many SPF products, these ingredients have been found stored in fatty tissue. They are known to cause allergic reactions, and disrupt hormonal levels. They have been found in abundance in urine of 97% of people tested in a 2008 study conducted by the CDC. This means that they are easily absorbed into our bodies where they get stores and set our hormones completely off balance, negatively impacting our reproductive and endocrine systems.
5- Talc (Talcum Powder): This one makes me sad as this ingredients has been present in baby products for decades. If you have been following the news, there has been a recent settlement worth Billions of dollars, awarded to 22 women that sued Johnson and Johnson over their baby powder which has been found to cause ovarian cancer.
6- Formaldehyde (and Formaldehyde releasers often hidden under different names that slowly form Formaldehyde such as Bronopol, DMDM Hydantoin, Diazolidinyl Urea, and Quanternium-15): Typically used as a preservative, nail hardener and hair straightener. It has been banned in Japan, restricted in EU, Canada and Australia. But, unfortunately, still embraced and widely used in US. This is a carcinogen, irritant and may be harmful to your eyes and respiratory system. Some retailers, such as Credo and Whole Foods, have taken it upon themselves to ban it from their product selection.
7- Phthalates: Show up under many names such as Dibutyl Phthalate, Diethylhexyl Phthalate, Potassium Biphtalate, etc. You got it! If it ends with Phthalate, it is to be avoided. These are typically used in a variety of functions such as solvents, fixatives in perfumes or eyelash adhesives, and plasticizers in nail polish. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classified them as possibly carcinogenic, they are also considered endocrine disruptors and developmental toxicants that cause early puberty in boys, among other reproductive system irregularities.
8- Triclosan and Triclocarban: generally used for their antimicrobial effect. Look for it it in your soap, hand sanitizer, mouthwash, toothpaste and shaving cream. These compounds have been known to affect the thyroid and reproductive hormones.
9- Toluene: Ready? This a paint thinner that made it's way to your nail products and hair dyes. This is an extremely volatile chemical, toxic to the brain and the nervous system, harmful to developing fetuses, and has been found, in many studies, to impair breathing and cause nausea. All that said, there are no restrictions around this dangerous chemical, except in EU and ASEAN. So if your mani pedi still feels worth the risk, at least when you're pregnant, please avoid the nail salon.
10- Glycols (Polyethylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol, Propanediol and Butylene Glycol): often found in creams, serums, cleansers, shampoos, etc. In cosmetic products, they are used as thickeners, humectants, solvents, and are key ingredients in sheet masks. They are effective penetration enhancers, designed to help your product absorb better into your skin. If you think about it though, this is can double as a penetrative agent for toxins colorants and other harmful chemical as well. Glycols are also used in anti-freeze, and get this; factory workers that handle these substances in large amounts, are required to wear heavy protection. Meanwhile, many of us wander around cosmetic departments, paying top dollar to take them home and happily slather them all over our bodies... These are classified as irritants, they can affect the cardiovascular systems, and cause fetotoxicity. If you need more convincing, let me ask you; If these substances have the ability to corrode stainless steel, how do you think they would affect your skin and other organs? I know enough for me to make an educated decision and say 'NO' to these irritants.
We will continue to expand this 'restricted ingredient' list so check back with us often and subscribe at TheBeautyDoctrine.com to stay up to date on clean skincare news and the best healthy options for your skin and body.
Be well. Be safe. Be beautiful!