April 17, 2018


Four Skin Care Ingredients You Should Avoid Like the Plague

Before buying a new skin care product, do you normally check its label to see what ingredients it contains? Do you pay attention to those long polysyllabic names and find out what they actually are? Do you do a little research and investigate whether they have potentially negative side effects?

It’s probably time that you should.

Skin care products – whether they are cleansers, toners, moisturizers, serums, sunscreens, and so on – are made up of natural and synthetic chemicals. Most of these synthetic chemicals are not harmful, but some of them are very hazardous. Adverse effects range from contact dermatitis or skin irritation and disruption of normal functioning of the endocrine system, to reproductive and developmental effects and, worse, certain kinds of cancer.

In this article, we are going to take a look at some of the most toxic of these chemical ingredients. Familiarity with them will help us in choosing which products are the safest for us to use.

1. Dioxins

dioxin

Let us start with dioxins. Dioxins are without a doubt one of the most toxic of these chemical ingredients. According to research done by Danjou and Fervers (2015), dioxins may lead to certain forms of cancer, such as breast cancer. Studies done by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer also suggest that dioxins may increase the risk for cancer. Dioxins are easily absorbed by the skin and are retained by the body for a long period of time. They damage a person’s DNA and thereby cause the cells to mutate, leading to malignant growths (i.e., tumors).

They can also disrupt a person’s endocrine glands, thus interfering in the production of certain hormones.

Given these alarming adverse effects, it’s a wonder why they’re still found in some skin care products. However, they are not easy to spot in product labels since they are often contained in antibacterial ingredients. Sodium laureth sulfate and triclosan are antibacterial substances that may contain dioxins, so be aware of these ingredients.

2. Formaldehyde

formaldehyde

Another extremely dangerous ingredient that is still found in some skin care products is formaldehyde. Like dioxins, it is also known to be carcinogenic. This is supported by studies like the one done by de Groot and Veenstra (2010). They are also easily absorbed by the skin and stay inside the body for a long period of time. They affect the function of the cells and irreparably damage the nucleus, causing it to behave abnormally (thus leading to cancer).

Just as with dioxins, formaldehydes are also not explicitly written on a skin care product’s label. So how do you spot them? Take note of these names: Bronopol, 5-Bromo-5-nitro-1, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, and others. If you see any of those in a product, then put it down immediately.

3. Triethanolamine

Triethanolamine

Another carcinogenic chemical is triethanolamine. You also probably won’t see this ingredient spelled out in your products’ labels. That’s because they are usually part of the fragrance component of lotions and sunscreens. One way to spot them is to look for acronyms like MEA (which stands for monoethanolamine) or DEA (for diethanolamine) in the labels. If they’re there, triethanolamine is probably present as well.

The effect of triethanolamine to the body works the same way: They seep into the skin and get into the bloodstream. They penetrate the cells and affect the DNA inside the nucleus. Once that happens, the cell will begin to act abnormally, producing malignant growths that can spread rapidly.

4. Aluminum

Aluminum may also lead to particular types of cancer. But in addition to that, it is also neurotoxic – meaning, it’s poisonous to the nervous system, especially the brain. A study done by Joshi (1990) showed that exposure to certain amounts of aluminum could lead to neurological disorders. That usually means brain damage.

5. Parabens

Lastly, parabens. There is a lot of controversy surrounding parabens. What are they? Parabens are basically preservatives. They are designed to make skin care products have longer expiration dates. Parabens are probably the most widely-used ingredients among all the other skin care ingredients out there. Most, if not all, skin care products contain preservatives, so it’s likely that we’ve been exposed to parabens in the past. Examples of parabens are ethylparaben, propylparaben, methylparaben, and many others.

The controversy started with a 2004 study where they were linked to breast cancer. However, further research showed that parabens are actually broken down, metabolized and excreted harmlessly by the body. Another study also demonstrated that parabens were 10,000 times weaker than naturally occurring phytoestrogens.

Growing research from The American Cancer Society, FDA, and others indicate that parabens are safe to use. Also note that parabens are naturally-occuring. So why we included them in our list? While we believe it is not dangerous, there are numerous blogs and media claims regarding parabens and their link to estrogenic activity.


Above chemicals (except parabens) are not the only toxic ingredients found in many skin care products. They are just the tip of the iceberg, but they are representative of the most noxious substances out there. There are dozens more that are just as harmful to the human body, and they all have the following similarities:

  • They are carcinogenic or capable of causing all kinds of cancer;
  • They are neurotoxic or capable of damaging the brain and the nervous system;
  • They can disrupt the functions of glands;
  • They can negatively affect the reproductive system; and
  • They can cause contact dermatitis or skin irritation.

It’s very easy to overlook any of these harmful ingredients given that there’s so many of them we should watch out for. If we are extremely careful about the products we apply to our skin, then we should be all right.

References

https://breast-cancer-research.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13058-015-0536-9

http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol69/index.php

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20236159

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2198876