If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin! 6 Ingredients to avoid

I remember a sales pitch used by one of the natural cosmetic companies. At the customer meeting, the sales person would actually eat the cosmetic to show the safety of the products they make. Although it sounds like a yucky job, it’s certainly convincing to the buyer!

As Brian Vaszily (founder of www.theartofantiaging.com ) boldly states in his report on toxic ingredients in cosmetics: “When you’re pushing your grocery cart down the cosmetics aisle, remember that you are pushing it down a food aisle…”.

There are a variety of labels on our makeup, skincare, sunscreens, and lotions that make us believe they’re healthy and good for our skin; however, many of these words—”organic,” “natural,” “vegan”—are often marketing ploys which don’t reflect the efficacy or health of the product. In other words, sure, there may be a single ingredient in the list that is vegan or organic, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ingredients in the product that can be damaging or harmful to your health.

It’s important to understand that your skin is the largest organ in your body. When you apply creams, cleansers, and oils to your face each day, your skin is absorbing those ingredients. The effects can be beneficial with less acne, more moisture, and protection from the sun. However, there may be long-term detriments to using certain products if they contain harmful ingredients that disrupt your hormones, contribute to cancer, or suppress your immune function.

It can feel overwhelming to determine which ingredients are okay and which you need to avoid. Below we’ve outlined six ingredients found in everyday skincare products—from moisturizers to toners to hair dye—that you should avoid to benefit your long-term health.

1. Fragrance

Who doesn’t love a lavender or lily scent to their deodorant or moisturizer? It seems like everything down to feminine products comes in a scented version these days. Unfortunately, the scent itself is typically labeled as “fragrance” in the list of ingredients. In other words, you aren’t given more insight into the ingredients that go into that fragrance—it could be any combination of hundreds of harmful chemicals.

Moreover, fragrance—even in its natural form—can interfere with hormone release. People with severe hormonal issues such as PCOS or endometriosis should generally avoid strong fragrances and scented products, as the fragrance can trigger a hormonal release. To best support your health, aim for unscented products, taking special care to avoid scented products which do not clarify the ingredients which go into the fragrance!

Here’s an Environmental Working Group (EWG) Verified Fragrance:


2. Sulfates

Sulfates are found in shampoos, conditioners, foundation, and more. They’re incorporated into soaps and shampoos to help them become more latherable (more bubbly!), and they’re added to foundations to increase skin absorption. You might have noticed “Sulfate Free” labels on your haircare and skincare, and that’s with good purpose.

Certain sulfates—4-dioxane, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, and ethylene in particular—have been connected to cancer risk. They may also cause irritation of the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. Keep an eye out for those “sulfate free” labels, and double-check the ingredients!

3. Retinol

Retinol, a synthetic version of vitamin A, is commonly used in anti-aging and acne products. Typical symptoms you’ll notice using retinol are dry, flaky skin. Labels will also warn you to not use it in sunlight, as it makes your skin more sensitive to UV light.

With prolonged use, some research suggests retinol may contribute to the development of skin cancer, too. Opt for less intense acne or anti-aging products to protect your skin and your health!

Here’s an EWG Verified Angi-aging Serum:


4. Formaldehyde

You may be surprised to see formaldehyde on this list. It is commonly found in soaps, facial cleansers, and other skin care products. It serves as a preservative that keeps bacteria and other harmful microbes from growing in the product as it’s packaged, shipped, and awaits usage.

Unfortunately, formaldehyde has been deemed a carcinogen by the US National Toxicology Program and other international bodies providing similar information. It is still widely used in the US, however, so be aware of it on any of your skincare labels.

You will also want to keep an eye out for DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate,  bronopol, and glyoxal (whew!) These are often used as substitutes for formaldehyde or for the release of formaldehyde, and cause similar negative effects.

5. Aluminum

Aluminum is very commonly found in deodorant. It’s a metal (yes, that roll of shiny paper in your kitchen drawer), and in deodorant, it has the effect of blocking sweat ducts. Unfortunately, this does not have positive effects on your body. Aluminum’s secondary interactions can cause cells in your body to mutate; this is the origin of malignant tumors in the body. Opt for a natural deodorant to avoid these negative effects.

Occasionally, aluminum can also be found in foundation and lipstick. Keep an eye out on the labels to avoid this heavy metal in your skincare.

Here’s an EWG Verified deodorant:


6. Oxybenzone

Oxybenzone is commonly used in sunscreens and lotions or foundations which include sun protection. It has potential hormone-disrupting effects, with particularly strong effects on estrogen release. This means, for some, it may cause decreased libido, birth defects, depression, and more. Other sunscreen ingredients to look out for are octinoxate and homosalate—they have similar effects.

Here’s an EWG Verified sunscreen:


Your skin health is important. The products you may apply to promote skin health could actually be doing the exact opposite. Start looking at the details of your product labels for these harmful ingredients to tend to your long-term health!

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