Looks aren’t everything, but they can make a huge difference to how we feel. When we look good, we feel good. In fact, 93% of us say that when we feel confident in our appearance it boosts our self-esteem.
Cosmetics can help us to feel confident in our appearance, whether it is products that make us smell nice, like deodorants or perfumes, or those that help us to look good, like make-up, moisturisers and shampoo. So, having confidence in the safety of the cosmetics we use and avoiding toxic beauty ingredients is very important.
What you put on your body is just as important as what you put in it. Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and it absorbs everything including toxins. If you are concerned about not eating unhealthy foods like trans fat, then you'll definitely want to know which synthetic ingredients you should watch out for in the products you use.The same way you have learnt to look at food labels to find out if the food is all it suggests it is, you should do the same for your beauty products.
Parabens are without a doubt the most commonly used preservatives in the cosmetics industry. You'll find them in just about any cream you might choose to use. They are used as a preservative to inhibit microbial growth and extend shelf life - which basically means that they prevent mould, fungus and other parasites from sprouting and growing in your products.
There are several types of parabens, so look out for anything that ending with ‘parben’ like butylparaben, ethylparaben and methylparaben.
Why should you ditch it? Parabens mimic the hormone oestrogen and have been linked with skin irritation. More seriously, though, this toxic chemical has been associated with cancer, reproductive issues, immunotoxicity and neurotoxicity.
Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are disruptive to the endocrine system, which is responsible for hormone production. Such interference can lead to developmental, reproductive, and neurological damage. Specifically, phthalates are shown to worsen a woman’s egg quality and quantity.
The effects of phthalates may be related to their ability to mimic human hormones. A study by the University of Maryland reported that exposure to phthalates could cause reproductive abnormalities and decreased production of testosterone in males, as well as decreased male fertility. Other studies show a link between phthalates and premature delivery and endometriosis in women.
Where would you find phthalates? They’re used to plasticise products, which basically makes them more flexible or better able to hold in colour and scent. They are found in everything from deodorant to nail polish to scented lip balm. They aren't always easy to spot either as these chemicals can be grouped under and listed as “fragrance.” Companies claim their fragrance formulas as “trade secret,” and thus don’t have to specify on the label which ingredients are included.
Luckily for us, there are so many things that smell good, naturally. When you look at a product label, avoid products that list “fragrance” and instead opt for those that use essential oils to make the product smell lovely.
3. Sodium Lauryl Sulfates (SLS)
In an average household, you will probably find five or more products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate. Think of the products you have that create bubbles (lather) when you use them. I would typically expect your shampoo, body wash, and facial cleanser are most likely to contain it.
The main problem with this ingredient is that it’s corrosive. This means that over time it wears away at the protective lining of your skin. SLS have actually been used in clinical studies to irritate skin so researchers can test healing solutions. This confuses me a bit. This is where I get a bit confused - a chemical used to purposefully irritate skin for research is being used in many of our skincare products that are considered safe for you ??? It doesn’t really make sense.
Of course, when this research is done, they’re using a lot more of it than what you’ll find in your shampoo. But washing every day, or even every other day adds up.
Another unpleasant effect of SLS is skin aging. In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Toxicology, scientists reported that SLS “had a degenerative effect on the cell membranes because of its protein denaturing properties.” Protein denaturing means that the protein structure is disrupted and possibly destroyed. Skin aging as a result of sun exposure is believed to occur because of protein denaturation.
Sodium lauryl sulfate and its slightly more gentle alternative, sodium laureth sulfate make skin care products foamy, which we’re taught as consumers to believe is what a cleanser should do. A lather is really not necessary to get your face clean. So I suggest you save your skin and opt for cleansers and hair care products that don’t have sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate on the label.
4. Mineral Oil
This one sounds confusing because both minerals and oils are things that we have been taught that are good for us. However, mineral oil is a different thing altogether.
Mineral oil is a byproduct of the production of crude oil. It’s very costly to dispose of, so oil companies are highly incentivised to find a use for it. Thus, it’s very inexpensive for skin care companies to obtain mineral oil to use as a humectant (something that helps bind moisture to the skin).
It never spoils, which is something that’s good if shelf life is your top concern, but not so much if you’re looking for something that promotes healthy skin.
Our skin doesn’t absorb mineral oil well and it can clog your pores. Beyond cosmetic problems, mineral oil is often tainted with other chemicals during the refining process. Think of all the chemicals that are used to produce crude oil. You really don’t want any of those on your skin.
The natural alternatives are endless. Coconut oil has gotten a lot of press lately as being a highly moisturising oil, and it deserves every word. And there are tons of other oils you can use. Depending on your skin type, you can moisturise with avocado, grapeseed, jojoba hazelnut, and sunflower seed oils. Look for jojoba in anti-aging formulas, because it’s similar to human oil. Consider grapeseed oil if you tend to have breakouts because it moisturises while preventing acne.
5. Benzoyl Peroxide
Over the last decade, the popularity of acne-fighting products has skyrocketed. benzoyl peroxide is the ingredient responsible for this, but I think that you should be wary about using it. That’s because it’s been linked with the promotion of tumor growth.
Beyond that, it produces toxic effects in the body simply through inhalation, and is a known skin, eye and respiratory irritant. As if that isn’t bad enough, it’s extremely toxic if you swallow it. Steer Clear !
We all know that lead isn't great for our health, which is why we stopped puttingit in our paint. It’s a proven neurotoxin which has been linked to miscarriage, reduced fertility, and delayed onset of puberty for females. Lead turns weak stress hormones into stronger stress hormones.
So why is it showing up in our foundation, lipsticks, and even whitening toothpaste?
About seven years ago, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found lead in over half of the 33 brands of lipstick they tested. A more recent study by the FDA tested popular brands and found 400 that contained up to 7.19 ppm of lead.
Lipstick is a product that should be cleaner than clean. How many times have you gotten lipstick on your teeth? For those who wear it regularly, this could harm your health. In fact, statistics say that the average woman eats around 10 pounds of lipstick over her lifetime ! I regularly have clients heavy metal tests coming back indicating that their body's contain high levels of lead, to which I would immediately recommend that they get rid of all of the lingering conventional lipsticks, glosses, and shimmers–and replaced them with safer alternatives.
How does lead make it into cosmetics? It isn’t added as an ingredient, but rather makes its way in through contamination. Colour additives are some of the most common sources.
The best way to avoid lead is to buy makeup from companies that make products in small batches and avoid contamination, or to buy products which are coloured naturally, like with fruit pigments or alkanet root.
7. AluminiumAluminium is most famously used in antiperspirant deodorants, which are a daily must-apply for a most people that I know.
It is classified as a neurotoxin, and some studies have linked aluminium to Alzheimer’s disease, though recent research calls that into question. Other studies suggest a link between aluminium and breast cancer and other brain disorders.
So we don’t exactly what the consequences are of ingesting aluminium (both through our mouths and through our skin). The average person will internalise three pounds of aluminum in their lifetime. So if it’s as bad as we think it is for our health, we are wading in dangerous waters.
There are tons of natural deodorants out there, and most people have tried one that didn’t work - but there are also loads out there that do!
Technically this is a pesticide – at least according to the Environmental Protection Agency – triclosan is a popular ingredient in just about any product claiming antibacterial properties. It works very well at killing bacteria, and that’s actually the problem: not all bacteria are bad for you, and furthermore, some experts speculate widespread of this chemical could give rise to “superbugs” – harmful bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
Triclosan is included in antibacterial formulations to do just that — remove bacteria from our skin. But do we want to constantly be removing bacteria from our skin? As we’ve learned in the nutrition world, bacteria is beneficial to our health — necessary actually. Constantly removing bacteria from our bodies using antibiotics, hand sanitizers, etc. is not a health-promoting habit.
Of course, this is harder for those in the health industry, who constantly have to worry about spreading their germs to those they work with. But for everyday purposes, soap and water works just great for keeping our high-five machines clean.
9. OxybenzoneOxybenzone primarily functions as a photostabilizer and sunscreen. Among the vast selection of sunscreen active ingredients, Oxybenzone is classified as a "chemical" sunscreen agent. Inadequate when used alone, Oxybenzone absorbs UVB and short UVA rays but is a relatively weak chemical UV absorber. It also helps preserve the integrity of other cosmetic ingredients, preventing their deterioration under the sun. For this reason, Oxybenzone is most often used in conjunction with other sunscreen agents. Besides sunscreen, it can be found in a variety of personal care products such as nail polish, lotions, and lipstick.
Unfortunately, this chemical has been linked to skin irritation and allergies, hormone disruption and low birth weights in baby girls.
I haven't been able to get my hand on the UK figures - but what’s scary is that a study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that oxybenzone is present in the urine of 97% of Americans. How much of it have we been exposed to, and how is it affecting us in ways that we don’t quite understand yet? With figures like these, chances are it’s already in your system, so I would suggest that you limit your future exposure to it as much as possible.
10. Artificial Dyes and Synthetic Colours
Whether you’re putting on a sexy red lipstick, a classic rouge to make those cheekbones pop, or rebellious black nail polish, if your favourite cosmetics are conventional, chances are they are just as dangerous as they are fabulous.
Many of the products you have are likely made with synthetic colours that are made from coal tar. Though pretty, these harsh artificial colours have been shown in studies to be carcinogenic and are likely to cause skin sensitivity and irritation due to the heavy metals they deposit on your skin when you use them. Obviously, you don’t want that, so if you have any products that were made with synthetic colors, toss them in the bin don’t buy anymore! Thankfully, it’s pretty simple to determine if that colour in your favourite lipstick is real or not: just check the ingredients, and if you see anything listed beginning with FD&C or D&C, you know it isn’t what you really want.
So the next time one of those perfumed lab-coats at the mall pulls you aside to offer you a sample of Company X’s new Luxuriously Lovely Lip Enhancer, tell her thanks but no thanks, and proceed either online or to your nearest organic grocery for superior alternatives. You’ll be amazed at how much is out there!
Of course, you can always give Arbonne a try too… click here!
Your guide to living whole and well. Emma Olliff is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, wellness expert, food lover, and advocate for healthy living!