Many of us go to great lengths to take care of our skin. The skin care industry makes millions every year advertising various lotions, body scrubs, body washes, and more. However, it is becoming more apparent that many of these products contain harmful chemicals that can irritate your skin, or worse. Next time you go to wash your hair or use that new scrub, check the ingredient list for the following:
- Everyone loves a nice smelling shampoo, but have you ever looked at the label? Many labels of some of our favorite products will list “fragrance” as an ingredient, but it will not define what it consists of. It is found in shampoo, soap, body wash, body lotion, sunscreen, facial cream, toner, perfume, and exfoliates. These fragrances have been linked to allergies, reduced reproductive ability, and even cancer. Stick to products that use essential oils, and check out the body products from Lush, which are generally scented using natural ingredients.
- Like many of these chemicals, parabens are found in shower cleansers, shampoos, conditioners, and lotions. Parabens can create issues in the endocrine system, disrupt reproductive potential, and cause cancer. Look for products that say “paraben-free” on the label.
- Propylene Glycol. This chemical is found in many cosmetic products. It is known to cause skin reactions such as hives or dermatitis.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. Anything that foams—be it your face wash, hand soap, body wash, or shampoo—will likely contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. This compound can cause respiratory and kidney damage, and has been linked to helping create carcinogens. You can still find products that are “sulfate-free”, so be sure to look at the labels before purchasing.
- Formaldehyde is a preservative that is a known carcinogen according to The International Agency for Research on Carcinogens. This chemical can create severe allergic skin reactions and can harm the immune system. It is found in many hair treatments and body washes.
- This is classified as a group of chemicals, and it is used in many products to create softness in plastics. Phthalates are known to disrupt the endocrine system and create hormonal issues in the development in girls, and cause an increased risk of breast cancer. Finally, this chemical has been linked to reproductive-related birth defects in males and females.
- Homosalate is a common organic chemical compound found in any product used for sun protection. You’ve likely heard that sunlight and acne don’t work well together, and those with breakouts likely lather on the sunscreen before heading out, but be sure to read the label of your favorite sunscreen for homosalate. While it may be useful for absorbing UV and UVB rays, if you have endocrine issues, such as a thyroid disease, this chemical can make it much worse. Another chemical that is controversial is used in Nerium products, as it’s oleander-based.
- PABA is another ingredient found exclusively in sunscreen. It is a chemical that has been known to create allergic reactions, stain clothing, and disrupt thyroid and other endocrine related issues. Fortunately, you can now find sunscreens without this chemical.
- This chemical is most commonly found in skin lightening creams, as well as some hair conditioners. This ingredient can aggravate skin cells, which can lead to cancer. It can also lead to high toxicity in the body.
- Lead is a highly dangerous chemical that can lead to reproductive issues, organ system toxicity, and cancer. It is found in many lipsticks, lip liners, lip glosses, and other lip related products. It is often found in whitening toothpaste, sunscreens, and many other kinds of makeup as well. Lead is banned or labeled unsafe in the European Union, Canada, and Japan, but the U.S. has not restricted lead elements in its skin care products.
- Quaternium-15. No, this isn’t a science fiction name. Quaternium-15 can cause contact dermatitis, and is found in many hair and skin products. Consistent exposure to this chemical can cause long-lasting irritation affects, which will most likely be found in hairdressers, who use hair products constantly on a daily basis.
- Coal Tar. You may have never thought you would hear the words “coal tar” describing your shampoo, but it is true. Some brands of shampoos, soaps, lotions, and hair dyes contain coal tar, as it can be used to fight dandruff and scalp psoriasis. This chemical has been linked to cancer, and excessive use could see your skin suffering more than it was originally.
If you experience any unusual skin reactions, such as hives, dryness, itching, or swelling, you should stop using products right away that contain these ingredients. If these symptoms persist, seek assistance from a dermatologist, who can prescribe a hygienic regimen. Consider using products from a business like The Honest Company, dedicated to creating household and cosmetic products that are safe and nontoxic.