More and more people are talking about the skincare ingredients to avoid (YAAAAS!) but it can still feel like a war zone out there. The list of toxic ingredients allowed into our homes and onto our skins is long. So we’ve narrowed it down to the ten most common ingredients that do a lot of damage and should always be avoided. For all the other suspicious looking ingredients you can search for them on the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database or give the barcode a quick scan on the ThinkDirty app.
Skincare Ingredients To Avoid
1. Sodium LauryL/Laureth Sulfate
This is the one you will come across constantly as it is in over 90% of cosmetic and cleaning products. You will find it in pretty much anything and everything, especially if it foams up. SLS is known to be a skin, lung, and eye irritant and there are massive concerns about its potential to combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen. It gets worse with SLS as it’s corrosive properties mean that it can permeate your body’s tissues allowing bacteria to spread. Yuck.
2. Parabens (Propyl-, Isopropyl-, Butyl-, Isobutyl)
Another popular ingredient you will see a lot. These estrogen-copycat preservatives may, according to the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Products, disrupt the endocrine system and cause reproductive and developmental disorders. Parabens are also associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Companies love these parabens because they extend the shelf life of their products but we say f*ck that, protect your precious lady parts.
3. Propylene glycol
This alcohol is classified as a skin irritant and penetrator. Which makes complete sense considering it’s the primary substance in antifreeze, airplane de-icing fluid, and brake fluids. Sounds like it should stay in your garage and away from your body, doesn’t it?! It has been associated with causing dermatitis as well as hives in humans at propylene glycol concentrations as low as 2%. It’s basically a toxin which can cause skin, liver and kidney damage and can be found in anything from toothpaste to perfume.
4. Toluene (AKA benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, methylbenzene)
Let’s all lather ourselves in a potent solvent capable of dissolving paint – or maybe not. Another one to keep in the garage. This petrochemical can affect your respiratory system, cause nausea and irritate your skin. It has also been linked to immune system toxicity. Mainly found in nail polish, nail treatments and hair colouring products. Mamas-to-be should avoid exposure to toluene vapours as it may cause developmental damage in the baby. If you still want pretty nails, try out Little Ondine.
This fake-ass ‘anti-bacterial’ ingredient is classified as a chlorophenol, AKA a class of chemicals suspected of causing cancer. Alarmingly, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has identified triclosan in the urine of 75 percent people tested. Its manufacturing process may produce dioxin which poses chronic health risks by interfering with the way hormones perform decreasing fertility and sexual function. You’ll tend to find it it anything marketed as ‘germ-killing’ or ‘anti-bacterial’.
6. Petroleum (AKA petrolatum, mineral oil, liquid paraffin)
This basic bitch contains 1.4-Dioxane which has been listed by the World Health Organisation as a probable carcinogen. Fancy rubbing possible cancer all over your lips and body? Didn’t think so. FYI Baby Oil is 100% Mineral Oil.
7. Heavy metals (aluminium, lead, titanium, mercury, chromium, arsenic, nickel)
The biggest mofo here is aluminium in deodorants. The effects of these toxins is a worrying catalogue of health problems, including hormone disruption, cancer, neurological problems, mood swings, reproductive and developmental disorders, kidney problems, headaches, lung damage, eczema and hair loss. And traces of aluminium have been found in the lymph nodes of women with breast cancer as they get absorbed through your arm pit. (Gross, we know.)
8. Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)
Us girls love anything that claims to be anti-aging but beware because a lot of these creams contain this suspected carcinogen. Teflon is the trade name for PTFE so while we suggest not putting it on your skin, we also suggest not cooking with it. Once these pans get a little scratched, the teflon will end up in your food and then inside your body. Yuck.
9. Formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasing preservatives (DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quaternium-15, and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate)
These ingredients are a concern because they slowly and continuously release small amounts of formaldehyde which the International Agency of Research on Cancer classifies as a known human carcinogen.
10. Synthetic Fragrance/Parfum
Can even be found in some ‘unscented’ products – yeah that’s how honest the companies you give your hard earned cash are. Often a mixture of chemicals that can trigger allergies and asthma. Some are linked to cancer and neurotoxicity and can be harmful to fish and other wildlife.