5 Beauty Ingredients to Avoid

Protect yourself with our essential guide to the top five beauty ingredients to avoid.

| January/February 2015

  • You can easily avoid the potentially hazardous chemicals in many cosmetics by choosing simple skin-care ingredients such as oils, salts and botanicals.
    Photo by iStock

Stocking our beauty shelves shouldn’t be difficult—or dangerous. But as study after study links chemicals common in personal-care and cosmetic products to unwanted effects and conditions, it’s becoming evident that many of the ingredients in our showers and makeup bags may have a negative impact on our health. The FDA doesn’t have the authority to require premarket safety assessments for personal-care products like it does with drugs, making cosmetics one of the least-regulated product categories on the market. In fact, 89 percent of all ingredients in cosmetics have not been evaluated for safety by any publicly accountable institution.

Let’s take our health into our own hands. Our approach? Buy products with the fewest ingredients possible, ideally natural ingredients whose names you recognize. Yet even labels for natural cosmetics can sometimes be hard to read and understand. We’re here to make this process easier. This list includes five of the most common worst offenders in the cosmetics category. We advise you to rid your home (and body) of these toxic ingredients.


What it does: Formaldehyde (and preservatives that release formaldehyde) are used to prevent bacteria from growing in water-based personal-care products, including shampoo, liquid baby soap, nail polish, keratin hair treatment, hair dye, hair-styling products and more.

Why it’s bad: While formaldehyde may lengthen a product’s shelf life, it can be absorbed through our skin and has been linked to health problems ranging from allergic skin reactions to lung and nasal cancer, and myeloid leukemia. “Unfortunately many companies still use preservatives that release formaldehyde, even though safer alternatives are available,” says Stacy Malkan, author of Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry.

Label watch: quaternium-15; DMDM hydantoin; imidazolidinyl urea; diazolidinyl urea; sodium hydroxymethylglycinate; methenamine; bronopol

Safer alternatives: Look for products made with natural preservatives such as vitamin E, tea tree oil, neem oil, glycerin, ascorbic acid and potassium sorbate.

3/22/2015 10:27:34 AM

Unfortunately, none of the things listed above as natural preservatives are capable of providing broad spectrum preservation in skin care products. Potassium sorbate is great for yeast and mold, which is the nasties you can see in a certain amount of time but not for microbial contamination, which cannot be seen with the naked eye. Vitamin E is only an antioxidant meant to retard rancidity in oils/fats. For those wanting to use products made with those ingredients listed as preservatives, you will need to make them yourself and keep them in the refrigerator and use them within 3 days. This wont prevent or ensure microbial free products, as contamination can be detected within 24 hours but it's really the only alternative to using products with proven broad spectrum preservation capabilities. For the best information regarding skin care ingredients, trust the scientific experts at www.chemistscorner.com or www.thebeautybrains.com



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