Top 9 Toxic Skin Care Ingredients You Must Avoid

Top 9 Toxic Skin Care Ingredients You Must Avoid

Did you know that many skin care companies use ingredients that are known to be toxic and harmful? Most people don’t!  People tend to be much more careful these days what they put “in” their bodies but  are often careless with what they put “on” their bodies. They are equally as important.

There are many ingredients commonly used in skin care that you would want to avoid if you knew what they were doing to you. This article will help you to read product ingredient labels and determine what to avoid. Interestingly, all the ingredients on our “naughty list” have been approved for use in the USA even though they have been proven to be toxic and banned in some countries.

One would like to think that if we are applying skin care products they would be good for us. Unfortunately this is often not the case. Which is why some women have skin problems and try so many different products that never seem to work and even make their skin worse.

If you want to protect yourself from toxins in skin care products, you have to become a label sleuth. Even some products touted as "all-natural" or "plant-based" contain harmful ingredients.

In this article, we look at the skin care hall of shame. These substances are used in all types of beauty and personal care products including high-profile domestic and international brands. And they can also be found in other consumer goods—even some completely unrelated to health and beauty. For this reason, we have listed additional manufactured products that may contain them.

1. Phthalates. When it comes to ingredients, here is a good rule of thumb: if you can't pronounce it, it's probably toxic. (The "ph" is silent, by the way.) According to the National Toxicology Program, esters of phthalic acid are "Reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." The Environmental Protection Agency affirms that determination. Children are especially susceptible to the biological effects of phthalates. This class of chemicals have been linked to pre-term births, birth defects, lung conditions, and developmental disorders.

Phthalates are known as "plasticizers". The function of a plasticizer is to increase flexibility while retaining strength. They help liquids, lotions, and creams adhere to skin and hair. They are used in industrial polymers (to increase flexibility, softness, and plasticity) deodorants, moisturizers, skin creams, soaps, perfumes, nail polish, hair products, air fresheners, adhesives, plastic automotive parts, vinyl flooring, plastic tubing, food packaging, and wall coverings.

Phthalates are used extensively in fragrances. Manufacturers aren't required by law to detail the chemical agents used to scent their products. Artificial fragrances may contain up to two hundred chemicals, many of them rated as toxic to humans. That doesn't mean you can't enjoy products that smell good. Just make sure their fragrance comes from natural botanicals like essential oils and fruit extracts.

Phthalates are so ubiquitous that it is very difficult to avoid them altogether. But you can minimize your contact with them by scrutinizing personal care product labels. It is nice to know that there are at least a few brands out there where they are not used.

Unfortunately, you probably ingest phthalates in food every day. Companies are not required to list chemicals used in product packaging materials. Foods packaged with phthalate-loaded plastic can leach the deadly toxin.

What are the safe alternatives?  Essential oils and fruit extracts!

2. Parabens. The American Chemical Society has found that approximately 85% of beauty and personal care products contain some type of paraben. Why Are They Bad? Parabens interfere with your hormones, specifically, estrogen. Hormone disruption may increase the risk of breast cancer and reproductive issues. Due to scientific findings regarding their health risks, the European Union banned five types of parabens in 2014.

Parabens are used as preservatives in pharmaceuticals, foods, and personal care products. Widely used in lipstick and other makeup products, shaving creams, lotions, toothpastes, deodorants, and shampoos. In foods, they can be found in sauces, soft drinks, dairy products, and beer. Carefully hidden in ingredient lists the paraben family includes: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, heptylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, and benzylparaben. Alkyl parahydroxy benzoates is another sneaky alias.  Recently, while in a supermarket, I picked up a very well known brand of “dermatologist recommended” skin cream and read the ingredients list. I was appalled that almost every ingredient was some form of paraben.

Preservatives are important and some form is required by law in skin care products. They prevent bacteria, fungi, and mold and allow us to use products manufactured and processed around the world. Fortunately, there are many safe, natural alternatives to parabens that can be used in products we put on or in our bodies. Vitamin E, almond oil, rosemary oil, vegetable glycerin, benzyl alcohol, potassium sorbate, phenoxyethanol, and antioxidant oils such as avocado, and hemp seed oil.

3. BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) and BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene). These bad boys are linked to liver, thyroid, and kidney toxicity, hormone disruption, respiratory problems, reproductive conditions, and skin allergies. They are used as preservatives to prevent product degradation. They keep oils and fats from becoming rancid. Big companies like to use these as they are cheap and extend the shelf life of products, thus making more profit.

Perfumes, exfoliants, lipsticks, eye makeup, foundations, skin cleansers, and a host of foods, pharmaceuticals, and plastics often contain BHA and BHT.

What is safer? You guessed it....natural botanical based ingredients such as vitamin E (tocopherol) vitamin C, many essential oils (particularly the Australian native botanicals) and rosemary oil extract.

4.Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulftate (SLES). Many of us like soaps and shampoos to produce a fluffy, bubbly lather. This requires a surfactant, or foaming agent, like sodium lauryl sulfate. The problem is that these agents upset the protective layer of oils and make your skin more permeable allowing both welcome and unwelcome ingredients into your body. SLS and SLES have been associated with outbreaks of eczema. Those of us with dry skin should avoid these chemicals like the plague. Studies have shown SLS in toothpaste can cause canker sores and other mouth ulcers. In shampoo and body washes it can cause contact dermatitis, dandruff, and eye irritation. Long-term accumulation is linked to cataracts. Not something we want.

If accidentally swallowed it can cause vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. (It's not surprising that your body wants to expel it as quickly as possible!)  In addition, some experts believe it compromises cells and inhibits their ability to repel other harmful chemicals. 

Consumers are catching on to SLS and SLES. Some companies are now dropping these ingredients. Unfortunately they are still used in many shampoos, bubble baths, body washes, hand soaps, toothpastes, moisturizers, shaving creams, mascara, mouthwash, sunscreen, laundry detergents, pesticides, engine degreasers, and carpet cleaner.

SLS goes by over 150 other names and cleverly disguised on labels. Some of these are: sodium dodecyl sulfate, sodium salt, sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, sodium dodecyl sulfate, aquarex me or aquarex methyl.  The good news is that many natural, pure botanicals, such as essential oils and fruit extracts can achieve the same effect. The downside is they are a little more expensive, which is why big brands don’t like to use them, opting for cheap and more profitable chemicals.

5. Triclosan and Triclocarban. Manufacturers had worthy intentions when they started adding these antibacterial agents to personal care products. Bacteria is bad, right? We all know that killing bacteria protects us from getting infections. Actually, it's not that simple. Research strongly suggests that triclosan and triclocarban (along with most of the previous chemicals discussed) are endocrine system disruptors. Endocrine disruptors can affect immune system, reproductive, and neurological function. They are especially dangerous for unborn babies and nursing infants.

These chemicals also play a part in an ongoing public health threat.  The prevalence of antibacterials triclosan and triclocarban is linked to the growth of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. According to the American Council on Science and Health, there are 700,000 annual deaths from antimicrobial resistant infections.

Triclosan and Triclocarban  are used extensively in antibacterial liquid and bar soaps, hand sanitizers, shaving creams, cosmetics, dental products, deodorants, skin antiseptics, acne creams, tissues, toys, children's clothing, trash bags, kitchen tools, school supplies, and ear plugs.

What out for the term "anti-microbial." Alternative names include cloflucarban, fluorosalan, hexachlorophene, hexylresorcinol, Irgasan DP-300, Lexol 300, Ster-Zac, cloxifenolum, poloxamer-iodine complex, povidone-iodine 5 to 10 percent, Microban, Biofresh.

Safer Alternatives are ordinary (non-antibacterial) soap and natural botanical cleansing agents like those found in Australian essential oils, such as Fragonia™, Kunzea, Lemon Myrtle, Cyprus and Eucalyptus varieties, Lemon Aspen, and Quandong. These can be powerful antibacterial agents that can kill many types of bacteria. Usually a little more costly than cheap chemicals but safer and smell better without any of the risks.

6. Methyllisothiazolinone (MI) and Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI). Synthetic preservatives that were considered the trigger for a massive skin allergy outbreak in Great Britain in 2013 causing dermatitis and skin rashes.

7. Propylene Glycol (PG) and Polyethylene Glycol (PEG). Another synthetic petrochemical used as a humectant and emulsifier. A penetration enhancer it has been known to cause hives and eczema.

8.Formaldehyde. This may not intentionally be added to your skincare products but some synthetic preservatives can release formaldehyde when combined. Formaldehyde is a powerful preservative used in funeral homes to embalm bodies. It slows the decomposition process down dramatically. There are a number of synthetic skincare ingredients that will release formaldehyde when combined together. I won’t list them here but all of them have long unpronounceable names.

9. Ethanolamines. Commonly known as cocamide DEA it can be found in soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners, and dyes, lotions, shaving creams household products and cosmetics. They can cause formation of nitrosamines which are known carcinogens. The International Agency for Research on Cancer list cocamide DEA as a possible carcinogen so one that we should avoid.

With so many un-natural and harmful chemicals being used in skincare where do we turn? Australiana Botanicals offers a complete range of skin care products that contain no harmful ingredients. Pure, natural and safe while smelling divine by way of the natural essential oils and Australian Outback super fruits. Highly effective at producing healthy, vibrant skin without risks or side effects. 

There is a terrific web site called which rates all the known chemicals found in cosmetics and skin care and gives a toxicity rating. You will be shocked to find some commonly used ingredients with high toxicity ratings in your bathroom and home. Do your own research. Learn to recognize what you would not want on your skin (or your babies and children) and read labels very carefully.  A good rule of thumb is that if you can’t pronounce it you probably don’t want it in your skin routine.

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