Natural Beauty: 5 Toxic Beauty Ingredients To Avoid
Women, on average, use 12 beauty products a day with a staggering 150 ingredients exposed to the body, according to the Environmental Working Group.
Unfortunately not all of those ingredients are regulated, or indeed safe, to be placed on or near the skin – our largest and most readily absorbent organ. Many of these toxic beauty ingredients can have detrimental effects on not only the various complex systems of our bodies, but also the environment.
As this knowledge becomes more widely discussed, the natural and organic beauty sector is simultaneously growing – which while amazing for us in terms of choice and variety, also leads to marketers who are rapidly throwing on the latest “buzz-words” or “Greenwashing” their products. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the products are actually doing what they say on the label! Often, a little deeper research into the ingredients will reveal an entirely different story.
To help you become more educated and well, able to finally decode the back of your favourite beauty product bottle! we created a simple guide of five toxic beauty ingredients to avoid.
5 Toxic beauty Ingredients to avoid
Parabens (ethyl, butyl, methyl, propyl)
You’ve likely heard about parabens before, they are preservatives that increase the shelf life of products by stopping bacterial growth. Unfortunately, parabens are believed to disrupt our endocrine systems and our hormones by mimicking estrogen, which has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive disorders (such as PCOS).
2. Phthalates (dibutyl, diethyl, dimethyl)
Phtalates are a group of plasticising chemicals that are commonly found in nail polish, hairspray, perfume and lotions. Their original purpose was to soften plastic, making it less rigid, more flexible and reduce fragility. Unfortunately, when ingested, inhaled or exposed via the skin, they can cause disruption to the endocrine system. Shockingly, you will often not see them even listed on products as they commonly fall under the “fragrance” category which does not have to be disclosed for proprietary reasons.
3. Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)/Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES)
More than 90% of your traditional beauty and personal care products will likely contain SLS or SLES. It’s a versatile ingredient, which can be used as a skin conditioner, emulsifier or solvent. Basically it’s what makes bubbles and a foamy lather from your gels! They are also responsible for trapping the oils in the skin to wash them away – leaving you with that squeaky clean feeling. Unfortunately, there have been links to SLS being a carcinogen when combined with other chemicals found in personal care products. Additionally, SLS often requires the use of Palm Oil for its production – an industry that is majorly contributing to deforestation and the displacement of indigenous people and animals.
Formaldehyde is best known for its preservation qualities – it’s what they use to preserve cadavers, or that frog from your high school human biology class you were made to dissect. While the preservative has been classed as a carcinogen by the IARC, low levels of Formaldehyde are legally allowed – however they have also been linked to allergies and skin irritations.
5. Chemical Sunscreen: Oxybenzone + octinoxate
Oxybenzone and octinoxate are two popular chemical ingredients readily used within chemical sunscreen products, that block the damaging effects of the sun by filtering the UV rays. Studies have shown disruption to hormonal system, raising concerns for the safe inclusion of these chemicals in the popular beauty and personal care product – especially as use of sunscreen products requires multiple reapplications, compounding the effects of absorption rates. These chemicals are also linked to increasing devastating effects on our marine environment – with scientists indicating damage and bleaching of coral reefs is likely the result of the widespread use of these harmful ingredients within swimmers sunscreens.
However – this is not to say to avoid sunscreen! It is highly important to continue to use sun protection products to mitigate the risk of skin cancer. Just opt to look for the ever increasing number of natural products that use Zinc Oxide, an effective yet safe alternative, as their active ingredient.