The cosmetics, shampoos, lotions, and other products we put on our bodies can be just as harmful as anything we put in our bodies. Ingredients found in products like face washes and sunscreens have been linked to everything from hormonal disruptions to cancer. What’s worse is that these products go directly into your bloodstream when applied to the skin or hair. Although there are certainly lots of studies with different perspectives on this topic, using more natural products is a safe bet for you and the environment.
Here are six ingredients to avoid in makeup and skincare products:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Found in: shampoo, body wash, foundation, face wash, mouthwash and toothpaste.
Sodium lauryl sulfate has been shown to cause or contribute to skin irritation, canker sores, disruptions of skin’s natural oil balance, and eye damage. It is also widely believed to be a major contributor to acne (especially cystic acne) around the mouth and chin.
- Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
Found in: exfoliants and perfume.
The National Toxicology Program classifies butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” It can cause skin depigmentation. In animal studies, BHA produces liver damage and causes stomach cancers such as papillomas and carcinomas and interferes with normal reproductive system development and thyroid hormone levels.
- Triclosan and Triclocarban
Found in: toothpaste, deodorant, and antibacterial soap.
The FDA stated that there is no health benefit to using triclosan and in 2013 ruled that manufacturers using it had to demonstrate that there were no long-term detrimental effects. Triclosan (in liquid products) and triclocarban (in bar soaps) have been linked to hormonal disruptions, bacterial resistance, impaired muscle function, impaired immune function, and increased allergies.
Found in: makeup, moisturizer, shaving gel, shampoo, personal lubricant, and spray tan products.
The FDA acknowledges several studies linking parabens, which mimic estrogen, to breast cancer, skin cancer, and decreased sperm count but has not ruled that it is harmful. According to the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Products, longer chain parabens like propyl and butyl paraben and their branched counterparts, isopropyl and isobutylparabens, may disrupt the endocrine system and cause reproductive and developmental disorders.
Found in: scrubs, body wash, makeup, and toothpaste.
Those tiny plastic beads in face or lip scrubs and exfoliating washes are made from polyethylene. These synthetic chemicals are frequently contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which the U.S. government considers a probable human carcinogen and which readily penetrates the skin. Polyethylene beads in scrubs and body washes also are not filtered by our sewage systems, meaning they can collect pollutants and travel into waterways, where fish and marine animals consume them.
- Dibutyl Phthalate, Toluene and Formaldehyde
Found in: nail polish and other nail products.
These chemicals, known as the “toxic trio,” have been linked to birth defects, endocrine disruption, headaches, and respiratory problems—especially concerning for nail salon workers and those who frequently get manicures or pedicures. Brands like OPI and Zoya have pledged to remove these chemicals from their products.
It’s impossible to avoid every single synthetic chemical, but you can do your part in limiting the amount of toxins to which your body is exposed. Educate yourself and do your research before you buy. You should look at the ingredients in beauty products the same way you look at food labels.
Be sure to check out the EWG’s Skin Deep Database to research toxic chemicals that could be in your cosmetic and personal care products.