My friend Danielle and I were recently talking about clean beauty products and laughed that 10+ years ago the only option was to shop at Whole Foods where there were not many options. Clean beauty beauty has come a long way and there are so many brands and products that I think are best in class. While not everyone is ready to make the clean beauty switch, it’s important to educate yourself on all of the ingredients that are in many of the products you put on your skin and face. These are the 10 toxic skincare ingredients to avoid in your skincare, beauty and haircare.
Our skin is our largest organ which is why this list is so important. My goal is NOT to freak you out about your routine or favorite products. Instead, I want this to be informative so you can make informed decisions about the products you buy and use. You don’t need to dump out your entire vanity today; instead, research products and start integrating better-for-you products as you’re looking to restock your beauty closet.
10 Toxic Skincare Ingredients to Avoid
These are the 10 toxic skincare ingredients to avoid, plus my recommendations for products to help you make the switch to cleaner ingredients and better products.
Parabens are a whole family of chemicals that help preserve shelf-life of products and is one of the most commonly found toxins in beauty products. Parabens can mimic estrogen in the body disrupting our delicate hormonal balance. They’ve been linked to breast cancer and since they act as hormone disruptor, they can lead to reproductive and fertility issues. Given my strong family history of breast cancer this is an ingredient that I immediately cleaned out of my beauty and skincare drawer.
Parabens can appear in different forms, so here’s what you want to look out for:
Found in: shampoo, body wash, face cleanser, body lotion, makeup, hair care products
Not only is this type of chemical difficult to pronounce, but it’s also harsh on our body. Phthalates are often used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastics in cosmetics essentially allowing the product to stick to your skin. They have been found to act as a hormone disruptor linked to reproductive defects, insulin resistance and developmental problems in children.
Phthalates usually aren’t listen on the label of your products, instead they are found in anything that lists “fragrance” as an ingredient. Opt for products that are unscented or scented with essentials oils instead.
Found in: deodorant, lotion, fragrance & hair spray
Fragrance doesn’t sound scary as other toxins, but it’s just as toxic. Companies don’t have to disclose what ingredients are inside their fragrance, so a lot of chemicals are hidden under “fragrance”. Fragrance as well as the ingredients hidden in it contain chemicals that can cause allergies, hormone disruption, reproductive issues and infertility.
Found in: moisturizers, hand creams and hair products
4. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and/or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
SLS and SLES can be found in more than 90% of personal care and cleaning products and are known to cause skin, eye and lung irritation and trigger different allergies. Another major concern about SLS is its potential to interact and combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen, which can lead to kidney and respiratory damage.
A major concern about SLS is its potential to interact and combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen. These combinations can lead to a host of other issues like kidney and respiratory damage. They can be found in shampoo, body wash/cleanser, mascara and acne treatment.
Found in: shampoo, body wash, face cleanser, acne treatment, mascara
Oxybenzone is an active ingredient many sunscreen products including those for kids, babies, face and body. This chemical has been linked to skin irritation and allergies, hormone disruption and low birth weights in baby girls.
Found in: face sunscreen, foundation, kid’s sunscreen
Tip: check out my guide to the best clean sunscreen.
Lead is a heavy metal and is a neurotoxin and can cause serious behavioral and learning problems, such as lowered IQ. It’s commonly found in lipstick and lip gloss which means you likely ingest it throughout the day and as you reapply it.
Found in: lipstick, lip gloss, lip balm, Vaseline
Yes, this is the stuff that is used in high school biology to preserve dead animals. What’s even more gross is that it’s found in cosmetics! It is a known carcinogen that is also linked to asthma, neurotoxicity, and developmental toxicity.
Found in: shampoo, body wash, bubble bath
This one always gets me since some high end European brands actually flaunt petroleum in their products. It contains 1,4-Dioxane, which has been listed by the World Health Organization and the Environmental Protection Agency as a probable carcinogen. It hides under many names, so get to know this list:
- Mineral oil
- Liquid paraffin
Found in: lip balm, lipstick, foundation, moisturizer
9. Artificial dyes and synthetic colors
Whether you’re donning a shocking hot pink lipstick, a classic rouge to make those cheekbones pop, or rebellious black nail polish, if your favorite cosmetics are conventional, chances are they are just as dangerous as they are fabulous.
Many beauty products are made with synthetic colors that are made from coal tar. These harsh artificial colors 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. If you see anything listed beginning with FD&C or D&C in your beauty products, then you know it’s made with artificial dyes and synthetic colors.
Found in: lipstick, blush, nail polish
Tip: Check out my guide to my favorite clean lipsticks.
Triclosan is often found in antibacterial soaps, deodorants, and toothpaste. It is known to interfere with thyroid and reproductive hormones. Plus, there is growing concern among researchers that triclosan may contribute to making bacteria antibiotic-resistant.
Found in: deodorants, toothpaste, face wash
As I mentioned earlier, the goal of this guide is not to scare you, but to educate you on the different chemicals so you can make more informed decisions when shopping for beauty and skincare products.
All of this information was researched using EWG’s Skin Deep Guide.