Recently a friend reached out to me after reading our 2011 Sunscreen Picks article. She wanted to know why we did not include a particular brand of sunscreen, which she had been using and had also begun to sell as an independent consultant. I took a quick look at the company’s website, and was encouraged by the company’s choice of words. ”Safe. Pure. Beneficial.” Next, I checked the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG’s) cosmetics database and was surprised to find that they didn’t list the company, let alone ratings, for their skincare products.
So I asked this friend to send me the list of ingredients for each of their sunscreens. She sent me the long lists of ingredients for two of their sunscreens. I took one look at the ingredients and knew, right away, that I would never use the products. The first ingredient that caught my eye was Oxybenzone, which rates an 8 on the EWG’s list of ingredients (on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the most dangerous ingredients/products). As a general rule of thumb, I only use products with ingredients that register a ’0′ or ’1′ on the EWG’s scale. Oxybenzone causes developmental and reproductive toxicity, as well as reproductive birth defects.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) lists the skin as the “most common path of toxic substance exposure.” It is the body’s largest organ and has outstanding absorption abilities. That’s why it’s important to know what’s in the products that you’re using on your children, and yourself, especially if you’re pregnant. As is the case with my friend’s skincare products, skincare product companies will market themselves as “natural, pure, safe.” But many of these claims are false. It’s up to all of us to do our research.
We have compiled a list of ingredients to avoid in your skincare products. This list is not all-encompassing, but we feel that these are some of the most dangerous, and/or most common, offenders.
- Dioxanes (1,3 or 1,4-Dioxane) – 1,4-dioxane is a known carcinogen that contaminates up to 46% of personal care products tested (OCA 2008, EWG 2008). In addition, it can wreak havoc on our immune systems and is a known allergen. According to the EWG’s cosmetics database, “The chemical is an unwanted byproduct of an ingredient processing method called ethoxylation used to reduce the risk of skin irritation for petroleum-based ingredients. Though 1,4-dioxane can easily be removed from products before they are sold, its widespread presence in products indicates that many manufacturers fail to take this simple step.”
- Triclosan – is used as an antibacterial agent and preservative. Studies have shown that triclosan disrupts the endocrine system.
- Parabens – are widely used as a preservative in skincare products. Parabens mimic estrogen and can act as potential hormone (endocrine) system disruptors.
- Mineral Oil – is added for fragrance and/or to protect the skin. Mineral oil is a liquid mixture made from petroleum. There is strong evidence that it is toxic to the immune and respiratory system, and may cause cancer, especially if added to products that are inhaled (more studies are needed).
- Oxybenzone – is used as a sunscreen agent, and a UV light absorber. According to the EWG, “This chemical absorbs through the skin in significant amounts. It contaminates the bodies of 97% of Americans according to Centers for Disease Control research.” Oxybenzone is a known endocrine disruptor, and can cause developmental and reproductive toxicity, and immunotoxicity.
- Fragrance – The skincare industry uses the term “fragrance” to hide 3,163 chemicals (including phthalates, octoxynols and nonoxynols, which are some of the most dangerous). Pthalates are known hormone disruptors linked to reproductive birth defects. The term “Fragrance” is also used in the candle and cleaning product industries
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself, and Your Babies, From These Harmful Chemicals?
1) Read labels!
2) Avoid products with fragrance
3) Look up your products on the Environmental W0rking Group’s Cosmetic’s Database
Want to learn more? Here’s a list of 10 additional common chemicals in skincare products to avoid.
-What ingredients do you avoid in skincare products?
-What skincare products do you use?