We try to go au natural as often as humanly possible when it comes to our food, fashion, and beauty products. It’s easy to hear about a study or controversy over a new no-no ingredient and feel like we’re royally screwed – we thought we were being “good!” We’re also realistic, – in today’s world it’s not always easy to find things that are 100% natural all the time.
Pros like clean living guru Sophie Uliano are invaluable to us. Sophie has spent years in the green lifestyle space, researching and publishing many books essential to our safe navigation through the shopping aisles. In her brand new book, Gorgeous For Good, Sophie is taking the middle ground between natural and fake: instead of focusing on extremes, Sophie looks at what truly healthy options actually work, what we should avoid at all costs, and what beauty ingredients aren’t end-of-the-world status if they slip in here and there. Want the Cliff’s Notes? Here are the top six skincare ingredients Sophie says women should avoid at all costs…
There is quite an Internet hullabaloo about the plethora of skincare ingredients that we must avoid at all costs. The implication is that using these ingredients will probably (sooner or later) lead to cancer or some other life-threatening disease. The truth is a little less dramatic. Although I know the “deadly chemicals in our skincare” sound bite sells, I think it’s important to make sure that, especially where our health is concerned, we remain very levelheaded, and stick to the scientific facts.
In terms of chemicals that abound in our personal care products, only one is a known carcinogen, and that little guy is called formaldehyde. It is primarily found in hair-straightening “keratin” treatments, and becomes dangerous when heated (as in a flat iron) because it creates a gas that can be inhaled by you and/or your stylist. So, yes, this is one that you absolutely should avoid.
Unfortunately, there really isn’t a catchall list for other ingredients you absolutely have to avoid, since there is so much speculation involved. However, the following list names some of the ingredients I avoid or use minimally. And frankly, with so many incredible clean brands out there now (for my favorites, download my free e-book of product recommendations), there is no reason to use beauty products that contain any of the following:
Unless it’s clearly stated that a formulation is fragranced with pure essential oils, it’s likely that the fragrance cocktail, made of hundreds of chemicals, will contain a class of hormone-disrupting chemicals called phthaltes.
BHA/BHT (butylated hydroxyanisole /butylated hydroxytoluene):
These are synthetic chemicals that are used to stabilize and preserve products. They can cause allergic reactions and are a possible carcinogen – best to avoid when possible.
Coal Tar Dyes:
Coal tar dyes are synthetic and derived from petroleum. Many of them can be contaminated with heavy metals. Where possible, I try to avoid D & C Red 2, 3, 4, 8, 10, 17, 19 and 33; Green 3 and 5; Orange 17; FD & C Blue 1, 2 and 4; Red 4 and 40; and Yellow 5 and 6.
Due to the unique engineering that is used to create these uber-tiny particles, they may pose a health risk when brought into your body, either through inhalation or application to the skin. Little is known about the long-term health effects of nanoparticles, as it’s a relatively new science, so it’s best to avoid them where possible. If in doubt, ask the company if their products contain them.
Parabens (methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, butyl-, isobutyl-):
You’ve probably heard of parabens because they are now the most widely recognized endocrine disruptor. Some people also warn against these as carcinogenic; however, there is no conclusive scientific evidence to date that provides a causal link between parabens and any kind of cancer. What has been shown is that they most likely have a weak estrogenic effect on humans.
Found in hair-straightening treatments and in nail polish (unless it is “3-free” or “5-free”). Even if a “keratin” treatment says that it contains zero or negligible amounts of formaldehyde, don’t believe it: if it permanently straightens your hair, it contains the evil stuff!