Have you ever turned your 100% natural, organic skin care over and thought:
What the hell do all these mean..?!
You’re not alone. Most people have no idea what 90% of the ingredients in their skin, hair or body care are, let alone how damaging or harmful they could be. You would hope that with this product being on the shelf, available for anyone to purchase, that the ingredients are safe to use, and have been tested either on humans or animals before production.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
As a result, educating yourself on the ingredients used in the cosmetic industry, and the effects they can have on your skin, hair, and body is essential, especially if you’re wanting to reduce outbreaks, increase moisture and get that young dewey look everyone is after.
You wouldn’t eat something without knowing whats in it, would you?
Your skin absorbs 60% of whatever you put on it. Yep, that’s right. Think about all those late nights you forgot to take off your makeup or wash your face after a particularly muggy day. It also means that whatever is in your skincare, is going in your body whether you like it or not.
From face creams to eye creams, serums to toners, there are literally thousands of skin care products available, so let’s look at the ten most common chemicals you need to watch out for, and what they mean for your skin.
Parabens have garnered a lot of attention in the past few years. However, they’re not new. Pharmaceutical companies have been using parabens to preserve products since the 1920s.
Why would a hormone-mimicking ingredient be used in skin care? Parabens are used to suppress microbial growth in everything from shampoo, conditioner, perfume, toothpaste, soaps, and other hygiene products. When buying skin care, look for methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben on the label, and avoid these products.
2. Sodium Lauryl Sulfates (SLS)
In a typical household, you’ll find five or more products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate. Think of the products you have that create suds (lather) when you use them. Your shampoo, your body wash, and your facial cleanser are most likely to contain it.
The main problem with this ingredient is that it’s corrosive — it wears away at the protective lining of your skin. SLS have actually been used in clinical studies to irritate skin so researchers can test healing solutions. Right, a chemical used to purposefully irritate skin for research is being used in tons of products that are considered safe for you. It doesn’t really make sense.
Of course, when this research is done, they’re using a lot more of it than what you’ll find in your shampoo. But washing every day, or even every other day adds up.
Sodium lauryl sulfate and its slightly more gentle alternative, sodium laureth sulfate make skin care products foamy, which we’re taught as consumers to believe is what a cleanser should do. A lather is really not necessary to get your face clean, though. So save your skin and opt for cleansers and hair care products that don’t have sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate on the label.
3. Mineral oil
Mineral oil is a byproduct of the production of crude oil. It’s very costly to dispose of, so oil companies are highly incentivized to find a use for it. Thus, it’s very inexpensive for skin care companies to obtain mineral oil to use as a humectant (something that helps bind moisture to the skin).
It never spoils, which is something that’s good if shelf life is your top concern, but not so much if you’re looking for something that promotes healthy skin.
Our skin doesn’t absorb mineral oil well and it can thus clog your pores. Beyond cosmetic problems, mineral oil is often tainted with other chemicals during the refining process. Think of all the chemicals that are used to produce crude oil. You don’t want any of those on your skin.
Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are disruptive to the endocrine system, which is responsible for hormone production. Such interference can lead to developmental, reproductive, and neurological damage. Specifically, phthalates are shown to worsen a woman’s egg quality and quantity.
The effects of phthalates may be related to their ability to mimic human hormones. A study by the University of Maryland reported that exposure to phthalates could cause reproductive abnormalities and decreased production of testosterone in males, as well as decreased male fertility. Other studies show a link between phthalates and premature delivery and endometriosis in women.
Where would you find phthalates? They’re used to plasticize products, making them more flexible or better able to hold in color and scent. In everything from deodorant to nail polish to scented lip balm, these chemicals can be grouped under and listed as “fragrance.” Companies claim their fragrance formulas as “trade secret,” and thus don’t have to specify on the label which ingredients are included.
Conveniently for us, there are so many things that smell good, naturally. When you look at a product label, avoid products that list “fragrance” and instead opt for those that use essential oils to make the product smell lovely.
We’re told to protect our skin from skin cancer, that daily sun exposure increases our risk and that we should lather up accordingly. But most sunscreens on the shelves contain a harmful chemical called oxybenzone, which has been shown in some studies to be carcinogenic and hormone-mimicking. One might wonder if it’s better to brave the sun alone than to wear a sunscreen that’s toxic.
In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that nearly all Americans were contaminated with oxybenzone. Not only that, but some studies have shown that it penetrates the skin and then increases the production of free radicals when exposed to light. You definitely don’t want a sunscreen ingredient that reacts to the sun by increasing free radical production. This is one way in which oxybenzone is considered a carcinogen. 
Using natural sunscreen is a no-brainer. Zinc oxide has long been one of the safest and most trusted sun protection ingredients. It’s a physical sunscreen, which means it blocks the rays from getting to your skin, rather than just neutralizing them.
You probably know that lead is bad. That’s why we stopped putting it in our paint. It’s a proven neurotoxin linked to miscarriage, reduced fertility, and delayed onset of puberty for females. Lead turns weak stress hormones into stronger stress hormones.
The best way to avoid lead is to buy makeup from companies that make products in small batches and avoid contamination, or to buy products colored naturally, like with fruit pigments or alkanet root.
Aluminum is most famously used in antiperspirant deodorants, which are a daily must-apply for a lot of people out there.
Classified as a neurotoxin, some studies have linked aluminum to Alzheimer’s disease, though recent research calls that into question. Other studies suggest a link between aluminum and breast cancer and other brain disorders.
So we don’t exactly what the consequences are of ingesting aluminum (both through our mouths and through our skin). The average person will internalize three pounds of aluminum in their lifetime. So if it’s as bad as we think it is for our health, we are wading in dangerous waters.
Triclosan is included in antibacterial formulations to do just that — remove bacteria from our skin.
But do we want to constantly be removing bacteria from our skin? As we’ve learned in the nutrition world, bacteria is beneficial to our health — necessary actually. Constantly removing bacteria from our bodies using antibiotics, hand sanitizers, etc. is not a health-promoting habit.
Of course, this is harder for those in the health industry, who constantly have to worry about spreading their germs to those they work with. But for everyday purposes, soap and water works just great for keeping our high-five machines clean.
9. PEG Compounds
Polyethylene glycols, or PEGs, are petroleum-based compounds that are used to thicken, soften, and gelatinize cosmetics, making them a common ingredient in cream-based products. The main issue with PEGs is that they are often contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane.
Ethylene oxide is a known human carcinogen, potentially harmful to the nervous system and human development. 1,4-dioxane is a possible human carcinogen that can remain in the environment for long periods of time without degrading.
If you see PEG on the skin care label, put it back on the shelf.
This ingredient is most commonly used to lighten skin. Those with age spots, sun damage, or acne scars may use it to lighten marks and make skin tone more even.
There are several reasons not to use hydroquinone.
Studies on animals produced evidence that it could be carcinogenic when taken orally. Since hydroquinone is an ingredient that has the ability to penetrate deep into the skin, topical use is concerning as well. 
Plus, using hydroquinone long term can decrease your skin elasticity. This isn’t what you want.
There are several natural ingredients that can lighten and brighten your skin. A few are licorice root, vitamin C, and turmeric. Look for these ingredients, or those that help heal the skin, such as avocado oil or aloe vera. Your skin tone will become more even over time without the harmful side effects.