What's in this? Cosmetic ingredients, organic, natural, non-toxic and what to look out for.
A large part of society now has a collective consciousness in regards to cosmetics. It's no longer about just the perfect color now it's about what's really safe. For the past few years more and more cosmetic companies have been advertising organic, natural, non-toxic and healthy formulations. Beyond that, as consumers we also look for cruelty free because hey we all love bunnies and rats have feelings too. Let's break down the difference between these three words and then go over a few of the ingredients that you should be on the lookout for and avoid.
This is the only one that is truly regulated. If you see the green circle that states USDA organic that means that that cosmetic has passed its certification for being 95% to 100% organic. Cosmetic lines that are able to use the USDA organic seal are few and much pricier than any of their counterparts. Cosmetics that say made with organic ingredients must be composed of no less than 70% organic ingredients. 30% of a cosmetic is a large amount to be left unaccounted for so it's important to read the labels on these to make sure that the non-organic ingredients are also safe and non-toxic.
Natural is a word I'm sure we would love to see on everything but it's actually the most concerning to me when I see it. Natural is a word that can hide some really ugly ingredients. Lead is a natural substance but we certainly wouldn't want that rubbed on our skin or in a product that we might swallow part of. It goes both ways however, some ingredients may look dangerous or sketchy because of their names but they are naturally derived and safe. Always read your labels and if you see something questionable, Google it. Here are two popular ingredients that are natural. One is good and one can be toxic depending on how it's used.
Titanium Dioxide. This is a naturally occurring mineral that is mined from the Earth and then processed and purified for consumer use. It's a major ingredient in things like sunscreen nail color and many cosmetics. In most products it is considered safe. However in powder form, when inhaled it has been shown to be possibly carcinogenic to humans. So check the labels of any powdered formula or a solid that could become a powder. Your best bet is to avoid purchasing products that could at any point have particles inhaled that include this ingredient. Examples, powder foundation, eye shadows etc.
Phenyl acetaldehyde. Well that just sounds really bad doesn't it? It's actually one of the components of Rose essential oil that is commonly used in skincare and aromatherapy.
Every time you see natural on the label make sure you flip the package over and take a look at what's there.
We look for this label on just about everything when we have children. Crayons, slime, basically anything that could be accidentally ingested by a blissfully ignorant toddler. I look for this on every single cosmetic I purchase. Not because I'm going to eat it of course but because everything that goes on your skin ends up in your system. Even organic and natural ingredients aren't always 100% safe. The other thing is that because I am so addicted to cosmetics I also understand that some of the things I really love are very difficult to make without a chemical compound. It's important to know right from the label that the chemicals being used in my favorite brow gel are non-toxic. There are some features in cosmetics that just cannot be recreated using natural ingredients. Educating ourselves is the best way to understanding what is safe and what is dangerous.
Here is a list of the biggest culprits you'll find in cosmetics that you should avoid:
1. Parabens. This ingredient is used in any formulation that includes water to help keep it from growing bacteria. Some of the words you'll find on a label are methylparaben, proplyparaben, isopropyl paraben, and isobutylparaben. these are known endocrine disruptors meaning that they will mimic estrogen in the body which can lead to hormonal imbalances and possibly even breast cancer.
2. Artificial fragrance or perfume. Manufacturers aren't required to reveal what's actually in fragrances so you can never really know if the fragrance is naturally derived or if it could be a cocktail of carcinogens, allergens, endocrine disruptors or irritants.
3. Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate. You'll find these foaming agents in anything from skin care and cosmetics to shampoo and toothpaste. These are surfactants and can cause skin irritation or trigger allergies. another way you might be seeing it on a label is a nitrosamine, 90% of nitrosamines are believed to be carcinogenic!
4. Toluene. This nasty chemical is toxic to the immune system and can cause birth defects. You'll find it in hair dyes and nail polish most likely. Avoid this chemical completely.
5. Phthalates. This ingredient is added to plastic to keep it from being brittle but it's also used in cosmetics primarily in fragrances. you could also check your hairspray and nail polish for things like DBP, DEHP or DEP. Just like parabens these are endocrine disruptors and should be avoided.
6. Polyethylene glycol. Check your lotions your shampoos and your sunscreens. This chemical is used as a thickener and is often contaminated with ethylene oxide (a known carcinogen) and 1,4-dioxane which causes respiratory problems and is banned in Canada.
7. Formaldehyde. Carcinogenic preservative. I think at this point in time most everyone knows to avoid this ingredient but we're not always sure how it will be listed on an ingredient list. The preservatives to look for are quarternium 15, DMDM hydentoin and imidazolidinyl urea.
8. Oxybenzone. We want to protect ourselves from the sun yet some of the most common ingredients found in sunscreens lip balms and makeup are just as dangerous. it's best to look at any chemical that starts with the letter o in any of your sunscreen or SPF lotions or cosmetics.
9. Diathanolamine. The EU has restricted this ingredient's use in any personal care products however in the USA it is still allowed in bubble bath body wash and shampoo and can even be found in cosmetics and labeled as DEA. It is a known carcinogen and respiratory toxin.
10. Triclosan. Do you remember that saying about how antibacterial soaps and gels create resistant bacteria, that's saying started because of triclosan. It is an endocrine disruptor and promoted tumor growth in studies. As of 2016 it's been banned from soap used in healthcare settings but it is still allowed in personal cosmetics so make sure you don't see it in anything that you buy!
This is in no way a complete list of things to avoid but there is a list out there called The Never List™ where you can find over 1,800 questionable or harmful ingredients. The easiest way to avoid accidentally purchasing and unfortunately using an item with toxic and unsafe ingredients is to purchase from companies that are forthright about being organic, natural, or non-toxic and then back it up with easy to find ingredient lists that make sense.