Can you can you tell when a product that claims to be natural, really is? You might try reading the label, but unless you are a chemist, this will likely get a bit of confusing. Ingredients in skin care and beauty products are listed by the chemical names. An all-natural product should stand out from the remainder because it should contain more easily recognizable ingredients. But if you want to be sure, it’s best to carefully scrutinize the label and research any ingredients that you’re unsure about. Here are a couple of particularly to avoid:
1,4-dioxane: This carcinogen is found in many cosmetics as a by-product of other chemical combinations. Products that use Ethoxylated surfactants as foaming agents or emulsifiers often produce 1,4-doixane within the manufacturing process. This chemical is considered toxic whether it is inhaled, absorbed through the skin or ingested.
Alcohol, Isopropyl (SD-40): This drying agent is a common ingredient in many cosmetic products. When used directly on the skin, it strips off the outer most protective layer, exposing the body to bacteria, fungus, molds, and other toxins. It is derived from petroleum and may promote brown spots or premature aging.
Anionic Surfactants: surfactants are used in about 90% of foaming personal care products. They’re also utilized in car washes, garage floor cleaners, and as engine degreasers. Common anionic surfactants include: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS), Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (ALES), Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Sodium Cocoyl Sarcosinate, Potassium Coco Hydrolysed Collagen, TEA (Triethanolamine) Lauryl Sulfate, TEA (Triethanolamine) Laureth Sulfate, Lauryl or Cocoyl Sarcosine, Disodium Oleamide Sulfosuccinate, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, and Disodium Dioctyl Sulfosuccinate. Avoid all of those ingredients if they are on the label.
Cationic Surfactants: These surfactants are commonly used in hair conditioning products as they have anti-static properties. However, they’re synthetic, irritating to hair follicles, and toxic. Long-term use can cause hair to become dry and brittle. Common cationic surfactants include Stearalkonium chloride, Benzalkonium chloride, Cetrimonium chloride, Cetalkonium chloride, and Lauryl dimonium hydrolysed collagen.
Chloromethylisothiazolinone and Isothiazolinone: these two harmful chemicals will be corrosive to the eyes and skin. Long term exposure can cause permanent eye damage and third degree burns to skin. They are often fatal if ingested and they can cause damage to the mucous membranes of the lungs if inhaled.
DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine), & TEA (triethanolamine): These chemicals are often utilized in personal care cleansers to adjust the pH of the formula. They can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation, dryness, and toxicity if used over long periods. These known carcinogens are already restricted in Europe but they may still be found within the formulas of American and Asian cosmetics.
Diazolidinyl urea and DMDM Hydantoin: These chemicals contain formaldehyde, a toxic carcinogen, and it could cause dermatitis, burning, irritation of the mucous membranes, inflammation, and watering of the eyes.
Ethoxylated surfactants: These surfactants are commonly used in cosmetic formulas as foaming agents, emulsifiers, and humectants. They could also be listed on the ingredient label as “PEG”, “polyethylene”, “polyethylene glycol”, “polyoxyethylene”, “-eth-“, or “-oxynol.” These chemicals form 1,4-dioxane (a known carcinogen) as a byproduct in the manufacturing process.
FD&C Color Pigments: These synthetic color pigments are made from coal tar. They contain heavy metal salts that leave toxic byproducts on the skin. These chemicals have been tested on animals and found to cause cancer.
Formaldehyde: This is another cancer causing agent that is usually present in commercial make-up products. It may cause allergic reactions, headaches, and chronic fatigue.
Imidazolidinyl urea: This chemical releases another harmful chemical, formaldehyde, as a byproduct in the manufacturing process. It could also be listed under the trade name Germall 115.
Lanolin: Lanolin is used in lots of commercial cosmetic formulas, and it is often considered harmless. However, it’s obtained from the wool of sheep and is therefore contaminated with the pesticide DDT unless it is obtained from organic sources.
Mineral Oil: Also called liquid parrafinum, mineral oil is a byproduct of petroleum that coats the skin like plastic. It disrupts the skin’s natural ability to purge itself of toxins, slows down cell function and may cause premature aging. Mineral oil will also be present in paraffin wax, paraffin oil and petrolatum.
Nitrosating Agents: Chemicals that cause nitrosamine contamination have been found in laboratory tests to cause cancer. Nitrosamines will be found in the next chemical ingredients: 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, Cocoyl Sarcosine, DEA compounds, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Formaldehyde, Hydrolysed Animal Protein, Lauryl Sarcosine, MEA compounds, Quaternium-7, 15, 31, 60, etc, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, and TEA compounds.
Paraben preservatives (methyl, propyl, butyl, and ethyl): These chemicals are sometimes used in cosmetic formulas to inhibit microbial formation and extend the shelf life of the make-up products. They are commonly utilized in commercial applications though they are known to be highly toxic and to cause allergic reactions and skin rashes.
Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) compounds: This petroleum product is utilized in commercial cleaners to break up grease and in spray on oven cleaners. Over time, this chemical could cause premature aging when used in personal care products.
Propylene/Butylene Glycol: This chemical compound is taken into account so toxic by the EPA that it mandates that its workers wear protective equipment when handling it. It’s a petroleum product that penetrates the skin easily and could cause brain, liver, and kidney malfunctions. This ingredient is usually found in stick deodorants where it can cause acute and chronic health hazards.
Rancid Natural Emollients: Creams and other commercial cosmetics made from refined vegetable oils contain harmful transfatty acids. Polyunsaturated oils also can oxidize quickly, causing free-radical damage to the skin and premature aging. They’re also missing the essential nutrients, fatty acids, and vitamins that help protect and moisturize the skin.
Silicone derived emollients: Like other emollients, these products coat the skin like plastic wrap, and disrupt the skin’s ability to breathe and release toxins. They can accumulate within the liver and lymph nodes and promote the development of tumors. Common silicone derived emollients include Dimethicone, Dimethicone Copolyol, and Cyclomethicone.
Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (ALES): When combined with other ingredients, these chemicals form nitrosating agents and have a carcinogenic effect on the body. Be especially wary of semi-natural products that claim to be derived from coconut oil.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS): These chemicals can alter the immune system and cause damage to the eyes, digestive system, nervous system, lungs, and skin. They are commonly found in foaming personal care products. And may be listed as ingredients on semi-natural products that claim to return from coconut oil.
Stearalkonium Chloride: Originally developed as a fabric softener, this chemical is often present in hair conditioners and creams. They are toxic chemicals that may cause allergic reactions on contact.
Toluene: This chemical might be particularly dangerous if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Aspiration can cause chemical pneumonitis, a fatal disorder. It is very flammable in both liquid and vapor form and it could affect the liver, kidneys, nervous system, and blood. Overexposure may cause fatigue, confusion, headache, dizziness, or numbness. Severe overexposure can cause coma and death. Exposure to toulene may also affect the right development of a growing fetus.