Top 5 Not-So-Known Ingredients That Could Be Harming You

Posted by Mindy Cheng on

Confused about skincare ingredients?

If you feel the FDA doesn’t do a good job of regulating our food supply, you’ll be equally disappointed to find that they do an even worse job regulating cosmetics and personal-use raw ingredients. I mean, the last time the US passed a major federal law to regulate safe ingredients in personal care was in 1938!

I’m sure by now, it’s pretty well know to avoid ingredients like formaldehyde, phthalates, and parabens.  But there are a few less common ingredients that we wanted to talk about today.


1. Fragrance

You’ll find this single word ingredient in many skincare products. It may not sound scary but the problem with it is that it is considered a company’s trade secret, which therefore means they do not need to disclose what ingredients are inside.  There is no limit, so it could be over 100 different synthetic chemicals within the word “fragrance”. Many of these chemicals can cause allergies and hormone disruption.

What to look out for: Well, the word fragrance

What to look for instead: Essential Oils or hydrosols, which means something was infused in water. For example, rose water hydrosol, cucumber hydrosol or lavender hydrosol will all create a wonderful aroma simply by taking a plant or flower and steeping it in order to infuse the scent with water.

Harmful sunscreen chemicals

2. Sunscreen Chemicals

These chemicals have passed as sunscreen agents because they absorb ultraviolet light, however, they are endocrine disruptors and can be easily absorbed into the body.

What to look out for: Any active sunscreen ingredient that begins with octi, octo, homo, avo. The most common ones to avoid are benzophenone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalate, ethoxycinnmate, octinoxate, oxybenzone, octyl-methoxycinnamate.
 
What to look for instead: zinc oxide, titatium dioxide.  Look for something that explicitly says it is a mineral or physical blocker of sun rays.


3. Propylene Glycol, PEG, DEG and DG's

These are all petroleum byproducts.  First discovered in the mid-1800’s at the bottom of oil rigs, it is a byproduct of the oil industry. When refined and filtered out, you get petroleum jelly. The problem though is the components that are removed during this process are carcinogenic.  The filtration process cannot 100% remove these carcinogenic components, so best that you simply avoid these petroleum-based ingredients.

What to look out for: Propylene Glycol, any ingredient that shows the letters PEG followed by a number, for example PEG-100.

What to look for instead: Cetearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, Caprylyl Glycol, or similar ingredients that help with emulsifying and act as emollients.

Cosmetic ingredients that could be harming you

4. Siloxanes

These are silicone-based ingredients that are often used in cosmetics to make your skin look and feel soft and smooth. They often end in the word -methicone, like dimethicone, cyclomethicone. Several types of silicone-based products, specifically ones called D4 and D5, are already banned in both Cananda and the EU due to it’s toxicity to the environment and ability to disrupt our endocrine system.

What to look out for: Methicone, Phenyl Trimethicone, dimethicone, cyclomethicone, dimethiconol, dimethicone copolyol.

What to look for instead: Just remember that you don’t need synthetic silicone-based products to make your skin appear smooth, soft and healthy. Try nourishing your skin, both inside and out, and feeding it natural ingredients to actually get smooth, soft and healthy skin rather than the illusion of it. Purchase skincare products from conscientious manufacturers who truly care about your skin as well as the environment.


5. Phenoxyethanol

This synthetic preservative has been the go-to alternative to paraben-based preservatives and has gained popularity in recent years. It functions well in preserving water-based products, and prevents your products from mold, yeast and bacteria such as e. coli. Sounds awesome, right? Well, let’s hope that manufacturers limit the amount to 1% or less because the FDA has no regulation on the amount that manufacturers can use. Both Japan and the EU have passed laws and regulation to limit the use to 1% in order to keep consumers safe. Furthermore, it is known to cause toxicity in human cells. Best to stick to a more natural preservative.
 
What to look out for: Phenoxyethanol, 2-phenoxy, ethanol, 2-hydroxyethyl phenyl ether

What to look for instead: Sodium hyaluronate with sodium phytate, caprylhydroxamic acid, dehydroacetic acid, benzyl alcohol, caprylyl glycol with sorbic acid, gluconolactone with sodium benzoate, benzyl alcohol with salicylic acid, sorbic acid, or glyceryl caprylate


While we want you to be an informed consumer, we also don’t want to scare you away, feeling as though you can’t buy anything these days. Have faith. There are so many wonderful products out there who truly care about you, the environment, and the world. Next week, we’ll take a look at some really awesome apps that help you shop smarter.

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