If there’s any means of adulting it is best to aim to master this year (OK, maybe next year… but no really, this year), it must be reading labels on the products you buy. It is annoying and boring, but important — in any case, loads of food is made with sketchy ingredients, and you’d probably be even more grossed out to know what’s up in your bathroom cabinet.
Looks and smells may be deceiving, and that goes for everything from fancy makeup to only a daily old deodorant stick. These are the bad ingredients you ought to be watching out for.
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Where you could also be using it: Moisturizers, sunscreens, and shampoos
What to search for on the label: Diethanolamine
Why it is bad for you: You just knew that silky-smooth feeling was too good to be true, didn’t you? In some products, that’s not because of natural oils, but a substance called DEA that makes the mixture creamier, sudsier, and fewer acidic. Unfortunately, lab experiments on rodents have resulted in some some pretty disturbing effects on the skin, and led to liver cancer in mice.
Where you could also be using it: Antibacterial soaps, toothpaste, deodorant
What to look for on the label: Triclosan
Why it is bad for you: Once used as a surgical scrub, triclosan now functions as a form of all-purpose antibacterial in everything from hand soap to toothpaste. Experts worry, though, that the substance is contributing to bacterial resistance and the rise of superbugs, and the FDA found that antibacterial products are no more practical than regular soap and H2O — not to mention the fact that it disrupts the endocrine system and should contribute to allergies in kids. You’re better off reaching for a regular old bar of soap.
Credit: Jeroen van den Broek/Shutterstock
Where you could also be using it: Shampoos, body wash, and hair gels
What to search for on the label: DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quaternium-15, and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
Why it’s bad for you: Formaldehyde is used to embalm dead people and dissection frogs, but it’s also still found in various beauty products to help kill bacteria. Fun! Besides being a flammable gas, it’s also known to be a human carcinogen, and banned from cosmetics in countries like Sweden and Japan. As you will notice in the “what to search for” section, nobody comes out and lists “formaldehyde” as an ingredient, because which may freak people out. Go figure!
Where you could also be using it: Skincare products and various cosmetics
What to search for on the label: Petroleum jelly, petrolatum
Why it is bad for you: Petroleum jelly is God’s answer to nasty, chapped lips, and customarily speaking, it is not all that bad for you. However, some experts fear that not all petroleum is properly refined, meaning it could include cancer-causing chemicals.
Where you may be using it: Moisturizers and lipsticks
What to look for on the label: Butylated hydroxyanisol, butylated hydroxytoluene
Why it is bad for you: As nice as it’s to have that facial moisturizer stay put for ages, you don’t need BHA or BHT in any of your cosmetics. Both substances, that are added to help extend shelf life, contain human carcinogens in line with the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Sometimes they’re also used as preservatives in snack foods and cereal, too, so keep your eyes peeled.