Raise your hand if you are one of those who read the labels, to be more specific—the ingredients. Yeah, I thought so… Ain’t nobody got time for that!
I was never getting into the ingredients rabbit hole, because one—I was bad at chemistry, and two—the letters are so small that I need a magnifying glass to decipher it. Until one day I started to notice what was written on the products with big letters “paraben-free”, “aluminum-free”, “SLS free”. Clearly, this stuff is bad, but why? So I started to do my own research, to enlighten my knowledge about harmful ingredients in the beauty industry, and this is what I have found out.
Found in: Skincare products, makeup, shampoos, conditioners
Why is it harmful? Parabens are a group of chemicals used as preservatives for skincare products to prolong their shelf lives. You will find parabens under the name of butyl-, propyl-,methyl-, isobutyl-, ethyl-paraben.
Parabens are dangerous since they have been found in samples of cancerous breast tissue. Moreover, parabens are estrogenic, and they can interfere with hormone production by mimicking estrogen. As a result, your body produces less estrogen that could affect the reproductive function in men and women.
Found in: Shampoos and hair care products especially hair straightening treatments, liquid soaps, nail polish, eyelash glue.
Why is it harmful? Formaldehyde is a carcinogen and a chemical used in cosmetic products to prevent bacteria growth. You may find it listed as methylene glycol, but you also have to be wary about other substances that release formaldehyde such as Bronopol, DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, and quaternium-15.
Exposure to this chemical through the skin or inhalation may put you at risk of developing cancer.
Some straightening formulas that contain formaldehyde have been banned in E.U., Canada, Australia, and even in Brazil, but not in the U.S. In fact, in the US many other harmful ingredients that are prohibited in other countries can still be found in the skincare and cosmetic industry, which is very alarming.
Found in: Almost everything
Why is it harmful? Fragrance, also called perfume, can be found in the majority of beauty products.
Fragrance is particularly dangerous because is made up of a mix of chemicals (almost up to 4 000 different chemicals) that can irritate your skin, have toxic hormonal effects, cause eczema, psoriasis, and even cancer.
The worst part is that companies can hide so many nasty chemicals behind the “fragrance” term, classifying it as a trade secret. Unfortunately, perfumed products appeal to consumers. Most of us even base our buying decisions on how nice a lotion smells. It’s better to stay away from the tempting perfumes and look for less scented products or natural fragrances.
Found in: Plastic, nail polish, air fresheners, perfumes, skincare, and hair care.
Why is it harmful? Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to soften plastic. Plastic! Just think about it. Basically, you can find phthalates in your shower curtain, as well as in your body lotion.
These chemicals are often included in many fragrances in skincare products to make the scents stay longer. The most common type of phthalate used in skincare products is diethyl phthalate (DEP). Similarly to parabens, phthalates may interfere with hormones’ activity and can cause reproductive issues, and even cancer. Luckily, these chemicals have been restricted in the EU, but not in all the countries. So again, read that label.
This is not an exhaustive list of all that bad stuff out there. There are dozens of other harmful ingredients such as sulfates, nitrosamines, talc, lead, etc., which is why it’s advisable to do your homework and be informed about what you are putting on your skin.
Don’t be lazy to read that label!