When I started my mission to detox my body and home, I was astonished to learn that according to the Environmental Working Group, women use an average of 12 beauty products a day, containing 168 different chemicals. Men use fewer products, but still put 85 chemicals on their bodies. Teens on average use 17 personal care products a day, according to the group, which tested 20 teens’ blood and urine in 2008 to find out which chemicals from these products were ending up in their bodies. They said they found 16 hormone-altering chemicals, including parabens and phthalates.1
I’ve asked Rachel Mead, Celebrity Make Up Artist and Owner of Olie Pure Skincare to tell us the top 10 nasties we should be looking out for in our beauty products.
Top 10 ingredients to avoid in beauty products.
Ever wondered what is actually in your beauty and personal care products? And why there aren’t any laws governing ingredients? I certainly do.
It’s baffling to me and prompted me to really look into the main ingredients that saturate the beauty industries’ products. These products line our shelves in department stores and retail outlets, they fill our bathroom cabinets, they are in thousands of online stores but do we really know what’s in them and what they are doing to our health?
In my background spanning 22 years in the beauty industry, I have worked with the best of the best, and used supposedly, the ‘top of the range’ products for years. It wasn’t until about 3 years ago, I had an awakening. (Well I had really always guessed there were some things that weren’t good for us in these products) I had heard of things that made it into the mainstream, like Aluminium in our deodorants and Sodium Lauryl Sulphate in our shampoos but that was about it. I had thought up until then, it can’t be that bad, surely, they wouldn’t be allowed to sell it, right?
Well how wrong was I….
I have since done a fair bit of research into the ingredients and discovered a few shocking facts. For example,
Did you know that a ‘shelf life’ in a product is often determined by the marketing department of a company? They will look into how long will the product will remain current in the marketplace and be the most financially viable to the company. So therefore, an array of chemicals and stabilisers are added to ensure a shelf life of sometimes 7 or more years. Quite frightening really.
Another interesting fact is the apparent lack of global standards, France might ban a certain colour or chemical, but it’s still sold in the US and Australia. If some countries deem it bad for our health, then why don’t more people take notice?
In my research, I have complied a list of what I think are the top 10 ingredients that I believe everyone should AVOID – there are certainly more than 10, but these are probably the most harmful.
1 – Parabens (ethyl, butyl, methyl, propyl)
These are a preservative that stop the growth of bacteria in products. But they produce estrogen mimicking properties that are associated with an increased risk of cancers such as breast cancer. A study was done in the UK where breast cancer tumors were biopsied and they were found to have traces of parabens in them. Be careful, as they are not only found in personal care products but also food and pharmaceutical products. Here’s a post about how to avoid parabens.
2 – Fragrance/Parfum
A really shady one here, because you will only see it listed as Fragrance or Parfum on the label, because legally a company does not need to divulge their ‘secret formula’. Synthetic fragrances have been known to interfere with the bodies hormone responses, cause dermatitis and lung disease.
3 – Phthalates (dibutyl, diethyl, dimethyl)
These are a group of chemicals found in the majority of nail polishes, perfumes, lotions, and hairsprays. They are what’s known as Endocrine Disruptors, and are linked to breast cancer and reproductive birth defects. And most often you won’t even see it on the label because they can fall under the ‘fragrance/parfum’ hidden list. I’m shocked that this is legal. Here’s a post about how to avoid Phthalates.
4 – Triclosan
This is widely used as an antimicrobial chemical, and again, is an Endocrine Disruptor. Especially to the thyroid and reproductive hormones. It is also a skin irritant. Not only that, Triclosan has been known to contribute to making bacteria antibiotic resistant. Think hand sanitisers, antibacterial soaps, toothpastes, and deodorants.
5 – Toluene (benzene, phenylmethane, methylbenzene)
These are petrochemicals derived from petroleum or coal/tar sources. Avoid in pregnancy (although, you’ll never see this on a label)– the vapours can cause developmental damage in the feotus. It also wreaks havoc with the immune system.
6 – Formaldehyde
Another preservative deemed carcinogenic by the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer). It can affect the Immune system, and give skin reactions. Found in most nail polishes, body washes, conditioners, shampoos, cleansers and eyeshadows.
7 – Artificial /Synthetic Colours
Look out for the letters D & C preceding a colour. They are considered a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. When you take into account makeup products like lipsticks, which have an enormous array of colours, and once applied it can easily be ingested in to our stomachs. A common lipstick colour – Red for example, might look like this Red 33 Lake (C1 17200)
8 – Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)/Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES)
Yes, I know I mentioned before, I always kind of knew it wasn’t a good ingredient but what’s shocking is its found in more than 90% of personal care and cleaning products, like shampoos, mascara, acne treatment, body wash and household cleaning products. When SLS/SLES interacts with other chemicals (like many listed above) it forms nitrosamines – a carcinogen. It can affect the skin, eyes, kidneys and the lungs.
9 – Propylene Glycol
Found in moisturisers, sunscreen, makeup products, conditioners, shampoos and hairspray. It’s a small organic alcohol compound which is used as a skin conditioning agent. It is actually classified as a skin irritant and penetrator. Can cause hives and dermatitis.
10 – Chemical Sunscreens (benzophenone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalte, exthoxycinnmate)
They work by absorbing UV light. Another Endocrine Disruptor which is easily absorbed into the body. It can cause cellular damage and cancer.
In my own skincare brand Olie Pure, I formulate all my products with a ‘wholefoods’ attitude. The less chemicals and artificial ‘processes’ an ingredient has been through from nature to the bottle the better. None of my products contain water/aqua, therefore there is NO need for a preservative. I formulate with organic cold pressed oils because they have been used for thousands of years and for good reason, they are potent and nutrient dense and they actually work!
Imagine a world where all of these harmful ingredients had to have the possible side effects and health warnings printed on the label – would you still actually buy it? I’d say not likely.
But I look forward to a day that it might happen. Until, then shop wisely and read the ingredient labels with caution.
About the author
Rachel Mead is an accomplished Hair Stylist and Makeup Artist, and has spent the last 20 years immersed in the beauty industry. Her career has taken her to international cities and more recently the Television and Entertainment industries as a leading Hair and Makeup Artist, and it was this extensive experience that has shaped her into the pioneer and creative artist she is today.
Now Rachel is the creator of Olie Pure Skincare, a natural and toxic free luxury skincare line that centres around the use of oils.
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