Ten skincare ingredients to avoid

KNOW THIS: Over 174 of the chemicals found in products are found in our bloodstream.

WHY? Skin is the largest organ of the body and it can absorb a lot of what we put on it.

WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT? Check that the chemicals in your products aren’t harmful.

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The top 10 skincare ingredients to avoid

I love Spongebob Squarepants. He’s awesome.

And I believe that when it comes to skincare, we need to think of ourselves as Spongebobs too. Why? Because our skin absorbs a lot of we put on it, meaning the chemicals found in most skincare products can make their way into our bloodstream – especially with the rise of nanoparticles being used in the beauty industry. Some of these chemicals are harmful, so it’s important to know exactly what’s in the products we use, especially on our face and scalp as this skin is seven times more penetrateble.

A 2008 study by the Environmental Working Group showed that chemicals associated with cancer and hormone disruption turned up in the blood and urine of every teenage girl tested, with an average of 13 hormone-altering chemicals in their bodies. Scarily, these chemicals are commonly found in makeup and body-care products. Collectively the girl’s had been using 17 personal-care products, containing more than a whopping 174 chemical ingredients. Some of these chemicals are more harmful than others, so here’s a list to avoid:

  1. Parabens.

Parabens such as ethyl-, methyl-, butyl-, or propylparaben, are used as preservatives in products such as shampoos, moisturisers, cleansers, and deodorants. This class of chemicals are endocrine disruptors – chemicals that mimic your own hormones. Parabens mimic estrogen and have been found in breast cancer tumours. Parabens have also been shown to stimulate breast cancer cells to grow.

  1. Phthalates

News stories about the toxicity of Bisphenol A, a toxic plasticiser contaminant in drinking water bottles and canned food liners, has increased consumer awareness about phthalates. Unfortunately, the cosmetic industry uses phthalates in hair spray, nail polish and numerous other products. Phthalates are hormone disruptors and have been shown to negatively affect genital development in baby boys and reduce testosterone levels in males in general. They have also been linked to developmental problems and an increased risk for asthma and allergies. They are often in products that list “fragrance” as an ingredient.

  1. Propylene Glycol

Propylene glycol is a petrochemical that is not only used in brake fluid and anti-freeze but disturbingly also in health and beauty products. It’s been acknowledged as a neurotoxin and shown to cause dermatitis, liver abnormalities and kidney damage in animal studies. It may also inhibit cell growth and be irritating to the skin.

  1. PEG (Polyethylene glycol)

Used as a cream base for some cosmetics, PEGs can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which is linked to cancer.

5. Sodium laureth sulfate / Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLES/SLS)

Found in 90 per cent of all commercial shampoos and in many other health and beauty items, SLS has been prohibited in bubble baths because it has an adverse affect on skin protection and causes rashes and infection. Transported through the bloodstream, SLS/SLES will build up in the heart, liver, lungs, brain and eyes. It’s retained in tissues for many years and can cause the following effects:

Cancer – reacting with other chemicals to form cancer-causing nitrosamines and dioxane; Endocrine (hormone) disruption – mimicking the action of hormones and disrupt the associated mechanisms that control our day-to-day bodily functions. It’s known to mimic oestrogen action and interfere with the reproductive system and sexual development; Eye damage – through absorption through the roots of hair it damages the function and development of the eyes – particularly in children; Hair loss – it’s corrosive and can attack the hair follicle; Increased skin sensitivity – damages the skin’s ability to act as a barrier against harmful substances, enhancing allergic reactions; Dry skin – protective lipids are stripped from the skin’s surface and skin becomes less able to retain moisture.

6. Triclosan

The bacteria-killing ingredient in antibacterial liquid soaps. Research suggests it can promote antibiotic resistance, which means some infections could start outsmarting our medicine. When it gets into the waste stream, triclosan can have a toxic effect on aquatic life. It’s also been linked to thyroid problems in people.

  1. Petrolatum

Used in hair products, lip balms, moisturisers, and lipsticks, this petroleum product can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which may cause cancer. It also dries the skin.

  1. Diazolidinyl Urea and Imidazolidinyl Urea

Both are found in most types of beauty products – Diazolidinyl Urea is used as an antiseptic in cosmetics, while Imidazolidinyl Urea is the second most commonly used preservative in personal care products (parabens are first). The American Academy of Dermatology recognises the latter as a cause of contact dermatitis. Both are shown to release formaldehyde, known to be highly carcinogenic.

  1. Triethanolamine (TEA), Diethanolamine (DEA), Monoethanolamine (MEA)

Commonly found in shampoos, soaps and cleansers, they cause reactions including eye problems, dryness of hair and skin. They easily absorb through the skin, accumulating in the organs and brain. Could be toxic if absorbed over a long period of time. The combination of DEA and DEA-related ingredients is associated with cancer in lab animals.

10. Sunscreen chemical: Oxybenzone (or known as Benzophenone)

Oxybenzone is easily absorbed and is detected in nearly every American and mother’s milk. Once inside your body, it mimics the hormone oestrogen, which, over the long term, can lead to reproductive issues and thyroid problems, and autism researchers suspect that the chemical is also neurotoxic.

If you care about your health, always read the labels and understand what you’re putting on your skin.

And remember, you’re just like good ol’ Spongebob!

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