The labels on cosmetics and skin care products can be tough to understand. All of the skin care ingredients that you hear about in media and through publications can get confusing. It’s difficult not to trust the claims that manufacturers place on their products. The words “natural” and “organic” can be misleading. Unless a toxic chemical used in products is proven to cause harm to human health, it is classified as GRAS, or “generally recognized as safe.” The best thing that consumers can do is to read lists of skin care ingredients carefully because understanding the make-up of your skin care products is the most important beauty and health tip. There are tons of ingredients that may seem safe, but, in reality, may be potentially harmful. Here is a list of some of these toxic skin care ingredients:
Petrolatum is found in many hair care products, lip balms, soaps, and skin care products. Actually there’s petrolatum in one out of every 14 cosmetic products on the market, including 15 percent of lipsticks and 40 percent of baby lotions and oils. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), petrolatum gets a ‘moderate hazard’ safety rating. The EWG says that there is a risk of contamination from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are cancer-causing chemicals.
Hydroquinone is a skin lightener that helps in reducing dark spots on your skin that have been caused by many factors such as sun damage, age, trauma or scarring, and pregnancy. It is one of the most commonly used agents on the market in the United States. Any product with a concentration of 4 percent or higher must be obtained by prescription. The chemical has been identified as both a potential clastogen and mutagen. A clastogen is a toxin that has the capability to cause breaks in chromosomes, potentially leading to mutations that can be linked with various types of cancer. A mutagen is a material that causes mutations and damage in DNA. Hydroquinone has been banned in the UK and rated most toxic on the EWG’s Skin Deep database.
Also called glycerol or glycerine, glycerin is a colorless, scentless, thick liquid that is used in all kinds of ways, from the food industry to beauty and hair products. Glycerin is a humectant that can be derived either naturally or synthetically. It can also be animal based. In cosmetics, glycerin is often used as a smoothing agent and provides lubrication. As a humectant, glycerin attracts water. When it is applied to the skin, it seals in moisture that might otherwise escape. This explains why it is used in lotions or other skin care products to prevent or combat dry skin.
Glycerin works to moisturize the skin by drawing water from the air into the skin’s outer layer. Using products containing glycerin doesn’t necessarily pose any serious harm to the skin, but it is also important to avoid using products containing glycerin if it is sourced from animal fat or presented in synthetic forms.
Lanolin may sound safe, but in reality, it’s a substance that you should steer clear from. Lanolin is a product of the oil glands of sheep extracted from their wool commonly known as “wool fat” or “wool wax”. Lanolin is listed in Peta’s Caring Consumer Guide as animal sourced. It can be found in baby oil, eye care products, lotions, skin creams, medicated shampoos, makeup, and shaving creams. While lanolin itself is skin beneficial, it may contain carcinogenic pesticides such as DDT, and other trace pesticides. Sheep that are conventionally farmed in the U.S. for wool are not typically raised organic. Sheep eat a range of foods however much of their feed is made up of alfalfa, which is considered “grass” and does contain GMOs. GMOs are endocrine disrupters which can, in turn affect the lanolin sheep secrete. It’s an ingredient we say to avoid as there are many other options that are plant based and are better sources to moisturize the skin.
Benzyl Salicylate is a clear colorless liquid with a sweet floral aroma. In cosmetics and personal care products, Benzyl Salicylate is used in the formulation of bath products, bubble baths, cleansing products, hair care products, makeup, moisturizers, perfumes and colognes, shampoos, skin care products and suntan products.
Applied topically, Benzyl salicylate can cause negative reactions, even in small amounts.
This ingredient has been known to cause dermal irritation. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) has restricted its use in fragrances because of the potential sensitization and allergic reactions. In Europe, it is listed as an “allergenic” substance and the European Cosmetics Directive requires OTC leave-on products to indicate its presence, even at concentrations of .001%. The EWG rates it a HIGH hazard due to the fact that it is a known immune system toxicant.