The Toxic 10: Dangerous Beauty Ingredients To Toss Right Now

Keeping track of all the dangerous beauty ingredients in skincare, makeup and more can be a daunting task. How are we supposed to memorize a long list of words when we can’t even spell half of them? Take a picture — it’ll last longer.

If you’re reading this then chances are you already understand the importance of clean beauty. At the very least, you get that slathering our skin with toxic chemicals daily is about as health-inhibiting as a mono-diet of chicken nuggets. To each their own, but we think our bodies deserve better.

This list of common, yet dangerous beauty ingredients comes from True Botanicals — an impressively clean brand of luxe botanical-based skincare, and the world’s first line of luxury anti-aging products that is MADE SAFE certified. Scroll through for ten hard-no ingredients to avoid, save a screenshot to your phone for easy access when you’re shopping, and pass it along…

10 Dangerous Beauty Ingredients to Avoid

DEA/TEA/MEA: carcinogen

These are abbreviations for diethanolamine, triethanolamine and monoethanolamine, all of which are ethanolamines — ammonia-based compounds used as emulsifiers and foaming agents in cosmetics, shampoos, soaps, body washes, shaving creams, fragrances and sunscreen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer warns that DEA can react with nitrites in other products to form a carcinogenic combination; as a result, the European Commission restricts its use. TEA and MEA are also believed to pose the same danger.

Fragrance/parfum: unregulated ingredient that often includes harmful chemicals and carcinogens

These are umbrella terms for the sometimes hundreds of constituents that make up a particular fragrance, none of which are required by law to be listed. MADE SAFE, a nonprofit organization that tests and certifies nontoxic products, notes, “Companies are legally allowed to keep individual fragrance ingredients secret because they’re deemed ‘confidential business information,’ or what’s also known as a ‘trade secret.’” Many of the ingredients used to maintain the scent and color of perfume, lip balm and nail polish include phthalates, which have been banned in the EU and in children’s toys in California (phthalates are also used to plasticize products). Phthalates have been linked to reproductive disorders in both males and females, endocrine disruption, allergies and breast cancer. A study conducted by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health showed that children subject to high levels of phthalates in utero were 70 percent more likely to develop asthma between the ages of 5 and 12. Another common ingredient found in fragrance is styrene, which MADE SAFE reports has also been linked to endocrine disruption.

Sodium lauryl (ether) sulfate (SLS, SLES): irritant, capable of producing carcinogens when mixed with other chemicals

Often used as industrial cleansers, SLS and SLES are ethoxylated surfactants, which, when added to liquid, decrease molecular surface tension to enhance a product’s spreading and wetting properties. As a result, they serve to make soap foamy and shampoo lather. SLS is known to penetrate skin and act as an irritant, with the Journal of the American College of Toxicology reporting it “had a degenerative effect on the cell membranes because of its protein denaturing properties.” It is also the first ingredient included on the “Dirty Dozen Chemicals” list compiled by the Marin County Cancer Project. SLES is less of an irritant than SLS, although it cannot be metabolized by the liver and thus lasts longer in the body. Either way, the National Toxicology Program reports that both compounds can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a by-product of the manufacturing process and, according to the EPA, a probable carcinogen in humans. California’s EPA labels 1,4-dioxane a neurotoxicant and kidney and respiratory toxicant. The Environmental Working Group found 1,4-dioxane in 57 percent of baby washes in the US (although as a by-product, it never appears on any labels). To be safe, avoid any product containing the letters “eth.”

Hydroquinone: allergen, respiratory toxin, potential carcinogen

Used to lighten and even skin tone, hydroquinone is banned in the UK, Australia and Japan and has been shown to enhance carcinogenic risk by damaging DNA. Studies have shown it to be a skin allergen and respiratory toxin. In addition, it can decrease skin elasticity and cause thinning of the skin.

Mineral oil: carcinogen

A by-product of the distillation of petroleum to produce gasoline, mineral oil is used in baby oil, moisturizers and styling gels. The World Health Organization considers mineral oil a carcinogen, the EWG reports that it can be contaminated with cancer-causing hydrocarbons during the refining process and research published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology reveals that the oil causes tumors in mice exposed to UVB. Although mineral oil never spoils and does a good job of trapping moisture, it creates a film that clogs pores, thus hindering the skin’s ability to slough away debris and excrete toxins. That’s why it makes our short list of dangerous beauty ingredients to avoid.

Parabens (methylparaben, isobutylparaben and propylparaben): may play a role in breast cancer development

Parabens are preservatives used since the 1920s to prevent growth of bacteria and mold in facial cleansers, body washes, lotions, antiperspirant and foundation. A study published in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology showed that the chemicals have been linked to endocrine disruption; parabens compete with estrogen for sites to attach throughout the body, thereby potentially affecting hormonal balance. According to the Journal of Applied Toxicology, research also suggests parabens may enable development of cancer in human breast tissue.

Triclosan: Can create carcinogenic chloroform, alters hormone regulation

Triclosan is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent found in cosmetics, toothpaste and deodorants. According to the Mayo Clinic, triclosan alters hormone regulation in research animals (and likely in humans as well) and may be harmful to the immune system. The American Medical Association advises against the use of triclosan, citing studies that show its widespread use in cleansers and hand sanitizers has contributed to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs (not to mention the inclusion of triclosan appears to offer to no additional benefit in preventing illness, as compared to plain soap and water.) As noted above, it also can combine with the chlorine in tap water to create carcinogenic chloroform. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reported that the chemical poses a threat to water supplies and is having an adverse impact on fish and other wildlife.

Dive into some scary but important-to-know truths about
the FDA’s regulation of beauty ingredients here.

The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. 
All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program. 

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