The Environmental Working Group (EWG) exists to educate the public about harmful chemicals that are included in products, especially skin care and makeup. They recently launched the #BeautyMadeBetter campaign to inform Americans how many unsafe ingredients are allowed to be added into makeup and beauty products. They state that the majority of people use 10 personal care products each day, and those products contain and average of 126 different ingredients. Wow!
Federal laws have not changed since 1928 surrounding this issue. Although the FDA has worked hard to have all ingredients listed on the labels, there is still work to do. Out of roughly 12,000 ingredients used in the cosmetic industry, the FDA has only banned a minuscule 8 ingredients. Compare that to Europe, who has eliminated 11,000.
Which ingredients should you stay away from in your beauty products? Here are the top 10 harmful ingredients found in skin care.
Red Flag Ingredient #1: 1,4 Dioxane
Names: 1,4 Dioxane, PEG?
What is it: 1,4 Dioxane is a chemical byproduct of ethoxylation (which increases water solubility).
Why it’s bad: The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has deems this to be a probable carcinogen (cancer-causing ingredient).
What it’s in: lotions, hair products, face creams, anti-aging products
Red Flag Ingredient #2: Polyethylene Glycol
Names: Polyethylene glycol (PEG), propylene glycol (PG)
What is it: A chemical used to trap moisture or enhance penetration
Why it’s bad: Listed as a probable carcinogen. Especially hazardous when contaminated with lead, nickel, arsenic, or 1,4 dioxane.
What it’s in: shampoo, soaps, baby wash, lotion, or cosmetics
Red Flag Ingredient #3: Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Names: Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
What is it: An ingredient to boost foam in shampoos or soaps, or to cut grease.
Why it’s bad: Known to cause skin or eye irritations, hair loss, or allergic reactions. Especially a concern if it is contaminated with 1,4 dioxane and then absorbed in the body.
What it’s in: soap, shampoo
Red Flag Ingredient #4: Parabens
Names: methyl, propyl, butyl, ethyl
What is it: Parabens are preservatives that inflate estrogen activity, and have been discovered in more that 75% of the beauty products on the market.
Why it’s bad: Estrogen stimulates breast cancer. When estrogen is absorbed through the skin, instead or orally, it is absorbed in higher concentrations.
What it’s in: makeup, shampoo, conditioner, body scrubs, lotions
Red Flag Ingredient #5: Phthalates/Fragrance
Names: Phthalates, fragrance, DHP, DEHP, DBP5, dibutyl phthalate, endocrine disruptors, development toxicants, reproductive toxicant
What is it: As listed in the name, phthalates/fragrances are fragrances that produce a pleasant smell.
Why it’s bad: Considered by the EPA to contain probably carcinogens. These chemicals may interfere with hormones, or block them all together. They may interfere with the reproductive system or normal child development, including in the womb. These can be absorbed through the skin or through breathing.
What it’s in: perfume, nail polish, deodorant, hair styling products, lotion. (Fragrances are not required to list all of their ingredients, so it is not always possible to know if phthalates are present.)
Red Flag Ingredient #6: Formaldehyde
Names: Formaldehyde, formalin, Quanternium-15, DMDM hydantoin
What is it: A preservative that is slowly released in a product to protect the product against bacteria or contamination during repeated use.
Why it’s bad: It is listed on the carcinogens list.
What it’s in: nail polish, nail hardeners, eyelash glue, hair straightening treatments, makeup, shampoo, soap, lotion, hair gel
Red Flag Ingredient #7: Coal Tar Dyes
Names: Coal tar dyes, p=phenylenediamine, CI color, FD&C color, D&C color
What is it: An ingredient made from bituminous coal, a tar-like black coal.
Why it’s bad: Listed as a known carcinogen
What it’s in: hair dyes, dandruff shampoo, anti-itch cream, cosmetics
Red Flag Ingredient #8: Petrolatum
What is it: Derived from petroleum or crude oil.
Why it’s bad: This is listed as a potential carcinogen, and is known to disrupt the endocrine system. Petrolatum also suffocates the skin.
What it’s in: lipstick, lip balm, hair products, lotions
Red Flag Ingredient #9: Triclosan
What is it: A synthetic antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal chemical.
Why it’s bad: This agent disrupts the endocrine and thyroid systems, and can also accumulate in the body.
What it’s in: antibacterial soap, toothpaste, deodorant, face cleansers, shampoo
Red Flag Ingredient #10: TEA
Names: triethanolamine (TEA), diethanolamine (DEA), monoethanolamine (MEA)
What is it: Used as an emulsifier or foaming agent that adjusts pH levels. Will also convert an acid to salt when combined with fatty acids.
Why it’s bad: A hormone-disrupting chemical often used in cleansers that forms harmful nitrates and nitrosamines. It causes various reactions such as dry skin and hair or eye problems. If absorbed long-term, it can become toxic to the body.
What it’s in: shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, bubble bath, lotion, cream, mascara, concealer
Make the change today
Can you believe that those ingredients are legal? Why are we putting known carcinogens onto our skin? Start the change today. Check the label of one beauty product. If it contains one of these harmful chemicals, throw it away and replace it with an all-natural alternative. Next week, do the same thing.
You can change your life and our world one beauty product at a time.
Find all-natural alternatives and a grading system for all skincare products here on the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website.