You Won’t Believe What’s in Your Cosmetics: Toxic Ingredients to Avoid

There is a massive change occurring in the cosmetic industry. The key driving point is creating products that are not only good for us but also do good for the planet. Have you wondered what ingredients are present in your makeup? Let’s understand which ingredients to avoid and how shifting to sustainability might help.


What to expect?

Beauty red flags: 10 harmful ingredients in cosmetics

Skin smart: how to know the product is for you

Eco-chic essentials: understanding sustainable beauty products

Healthy cart: practical tips for product quality review


10 toxic ingredients to avoid

It has been reported that 88 chemicals found in more than 73,000 products have been linked to diseases such as cancer and birth defects. Some of the most toxic chemicals that are commonly used in makeup and skincare that should be avoided include:

1. Formaldehyde and paraformaldehyde

Formaldehyde and related compounds are commonly used in most skincare products and cosmetics. They are the most common culprits known to cause allergic skin reactions.

2. Diethanolamine

Diethanolamine is used in cosmetics to give them a creamy texture. It's commonly found in soaps, moisturizers, and sunscreens. It is known to cause skin irritation in some.

3. Methylene glycol

Similar to formaldehyde’s profile in cosmetics, methylene glycol is known to cause allergic contact dermatitis. It is commonly found in hair smoothening and hair straightening products.

4. Quaternium 15

This compound is commonly used as a preservative due to its antimicrobial properties. When used over the skin, it is found to cause skin irritation and allergies as it is a strong releaser of formaldehyde. It is commonly found in soaps, shampoos, and cleansers.

5. Mercury

Mercury is found in some soaps and cosmetics. The permissible levels are very low since the side effects to the brain and other parts of the body when absorbed are not good. Long-term use of products containing mercury has been found to cause kidney damage, skin pigmentation, and damage to the brain and nervous system.

6. Dibutyl and diethyl hexyl phthalates

These compounds are known endocrine disruptors and have been found to harm the development of the male reproductive system. They are commonly found in nail polish, hair sprays, aftershave lotions, and shampoos.

7. Isobutyl and isopropyl parabens

Parabens are found very commonly in most cosmetics and have been found to disrupt hormones and affect the endocrine system. They have also been found to harm the reproductive system when products containing parabens have been used for long periods.

8. Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

These man-made chemicals are found in a range of cosmetics and products of everyday use. Though the amount of absorption through the skin varies, they are known to accumulate in the body over a long period and affect the normal functioning of various organ systems, especially the hormonal system.

9. M- and o-Phenylenediamine

These chemicals are commonly used in hair dyes. They have been found to irritate the skin, and long-term exposure to this chemical may also cause DNA damage and lead to cancer.

10. Perfumes/fragrances

This group contains several chemicals that contain various allergens and can cause skin irritation and allergies. This is true not only for those with sensitive skin but for all skin types.

There are many more ingredients that are being identified as potential damage to the body and are being reported. Choosing products not containing these ingredients is helpful and can protect you from potential harm in the long run.

Choosing the right products for your skin

Being an informed consumer is one of the first steps you can take. Choosing products that do not contain harmful ingredients is the next best step toward your health and the betterment of the environment.

Choose products that contain ingredients known to help the skin with a better safety profile. These include ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, glycerin, and niacinamide. For example, those with oily and combination skin can prefer ingredients like aloe vera and hyaluronic acid, while those with dry skin will benefit from glycerin.

Another option is to go the DIY route. However, one must remember that nature is not always safe. Many things have to be considered before opting for homemade products, such as one’s skin type and the type of ingredients being used. Ingredients like honey, milk, and oatmeal are generally safe and can be used differently. However, it is important to bear in mind that the efficacy of DIY recipes is not comparable to over-the-counter products and might not be sustainable in the long run.

Sustainable beauty products: is it the right solution?

Since we are aware of a number of toxic chemicals that can be present in cosmetics and skincare, a recent trend of sustainable beauty has emerged that seems to serve to be good for the skin and the environment.

Sustainable beauty products include those that are safe and good for the consumer as well as the planet. Hence, the most obvious option would be to opt for these products. However, one must remember that there are no strict regulations or guidelines to determine whether the claims made on the label are true.

Tips on choosing the right product

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are buying your next skincare or makeup product:

  1. Read the labels on the back of your products.
  2. Examine what ingredients are being used.
  3. Avoid products that contain the ingredients listed above.
  4. If you’re still not sure about a chemical or potentially harmful ingredient in the product, you can check out online resources that analyze thousands of brands and chemicals.

Good changes are being made in the industry, and more awareness is being created regarding the use of certain ingredients. Ultimately, choosing products and looking out for brands that claim to be better for you requires a keen and informed eye.

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