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The Hidden Dangers of Harmful Skincare Ingredients

Regulators across the globe are constantly assessing the safety of various skincare ingredients to determine whether they are harmful. The sad truth is that, while some countries move ahead with the assertive elimination of such ingredients, the United States trails behind with many harmful ingredients commonly found in products that are applied and ingested daily. These ingredients, which rank among inflammatory allergens, cancer-causing carcinogens, and even hormonal disruptors, are found on every drugstore shelf and in many cosmetic products that claim to be “clean,” “green,” and “natural.” We created this list so that when you’re shopping for a new deodorant, bug spray, or foundation, you can easily identify problem ingredients and prioritize products that are formulated with your health and wellness in mind.

(Psst: keep scrolling to get to our list of “goodies,” ingredients that you should look for in your products!)

The Baddies

1. Parabens: Often used as preservatives, parabens can disrupt hormonal balance and potentially contribute to breast cancer.

2. Phthalates: These plasticizers can interfere with hormone function and have been linked to reproductive and developmental issues.

3. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES): These harsh detergents can strip the skin of natural oils and cause irritation.

4. Formaldehyde: A known carcinogen, formaldehyde is used in some skincare products as a preservative.

5. Triclosan: An antibacterial agent, triclosan may disrupt hormones and contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

6. Oxybenzone: Found in sunscreens, oxybenzone can penetrate the skin, disrupt hormones, and potentially cause allergic reactions.

7. Artificial Fragrances: Synthetic fragrances can contain hidden allergens and sensitizers that may cause skin irritation.

8. Mineral Oil: Derived from petroleum, mineral oil can clog pores and interfere with the skin's natural functions.

9. PEG Compounds: These chemicals can be contaminated with harmful impurities and may cause skin irritation.

10. Petrolatum: Similar to mineral oil, petrolatum can create a barrier on the skin that hinders its ability to breathe.

11. Ethanolamines (MEA, DEA, TEA): These compounds can cause allergic reactions and are linked to hormone disruption.

12. Synthetic Colors: Artificial colors may be derived from coal tar and have been associated with skin sensitivity and irritation.

13. Retinyl Palmitate: A form of vitamin A, retinyl palmitate may increase skin sensitivity to sunlight and potentially cause skin damage.

14. Hydroquinone: Used in skin-lightening products, hydroquinone can cause skin irritation and has been associated with cancer risks.

15. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT): These antioxidants are potential endocrine disruptors and may have carcinogenic properties.

16. Coal Tar: Often used in dandruff and psoriasis treatments, coal tar is a known carcinogen.

17. Silicones: These occlusive agents can create a barrier on the skin, potentially causing clogged pores and breakouts.

18. Polyethylene Glycols (PEGs): PEGs can be contaminated with harmful substances and may cause skin irritation.

19. Quaternium-15: A preservative that releases formaldehyde, quaternium-15 can lead to skin sensitization.

20. DEET: Found in insect repellents, DEET can cause skin irritation and has potential health risks.

21. Synthetic Sunscreen Agents: Chemical sunscreen agents like avobenzone and octisalate can cause skin irritation and may be linked to hormonal disruption.

22. Talc: Talc may be contaminated with asbestos, a known carcinogen, and can potentially cause respiratory issues when inhaled.

23. Aluminum Compounds* Found in antiperspirants, aluminum compounds can block sweat glands and may be linked to breast cancer.

24. Glycolic Acid: A strong exfoliating acid, glycolic acid can cause skin sensitivity and increase sun sensitivity.

25. DEA-Related Ingredients: Diethanolamine (DEA) and related compounds can form harmful nitrosamines, which are potential carcinogens.

26. Methylisothiazolinone (MI): This preservative can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation.

27. PEG-100 Stearate and Polysorbate-60: These emulsifying agents can be contaminated with harmful substances and may cause skin irritation.

28. Phenoxyethanol: While a milder preservative, phenoxyethanol can cause skin irritation and has been linked to allergies.

29. Formaldehyde Releasing Agents: These preservatives release formaldehyde over time, which can be harmful to the skin.

30. Benzoyl Peroxide: Often used to treat acne, benzoyl peroxide can cause dryness, redness, and skin irritation.

When choosing skincare products, it's essential to read ingredient labels carefully and opt for products that prioritize natural, safe, and non-toxic ingredients. If you're uncertain about a specific ingredient, consult with a holistic esthetician. We recommend DMK Skincare and Osmosis Beauty, both lines carried in our beautiful Newport Beach studio, for their quality ingredients and commitment to holistic health. When it comes to other products, however, check out this list of ingredients that we recommend!

The Goodies

1. Aloe Vera: Known for its soothing properties, aloe vera calms inflammation and hydrates the skin.

2. Chamomile: This gentle herb has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, making it ideal for sensitive skin. Also, drink it as a tea to support your skin!

3. Coconut Oil: Rich in fatty acids, coconut oil moisturizes and supports the skin's natural barrier. May be too occlusive for sensitive skin.

4. Hyaluronic Acid: A hydration powerhouse, hyaluronic acid locks in moisture for plump, supple skin.

5. Green Tea: Packed with antioxidants, green tea helps protect the skin from environmental damage. Again, drink it as a tea for further benefits!

6. Rosehip Seed Oil: This oil is high in vitamins and fatty acids, promoting skin repair and radiance.

7. Shea Butter: A natural emollient, shea butter nourishes and softens the skin. Particularly well suited to darker skin tones.

8. Jojoba Oil: Mimicking the skin's natural oils, jojoba oil balances oil production and moisturizes.

9. Calendula: With anti-inflammatory properties, calendula soothes irritated skin and promotes healing.

10. Turmeric: This spice has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, enhancing skin's glow. Add it to soups, salad dressings, and stews, too!

11. Vitamin C: A potent antioxidant, vitamin C brightens the complexion and supports collagen production.

12. Oats: Soothing and gentle, oats calm sensitive skin and provide gentle exfoliation. An oatmeal bath can help lessen irritation during breakouts of eczema/psoriasis flare-ups.

13. Argan Oil: Rich in essential fatty acids, argan oil hydrates and restores skin elasticity.

14. Manuka Honey: Antibacterial and moisturizing, manuka honey promotes healing and radiance. Add it to your tea for internal benefits.

15. Sea Buckthorn: Packed with vitamins and omega fatty acids, sea buckthorn supports skin health.

16. Lavender: Known for its calming aroma, lavender oil has anti-inflammatory properties for the skin.

17. Glycolic Acid (from natural sources*): Unlike its synthetic counterpart, naturally-derived glycolic acid comes from fruits. It exfoliates and brightens the skin.

18. Evening Primrose Oil: High in gamma-linolenic acid, evening primrose oil supports hormonal balance.

19. Niacinamide (Vitamin B3): This versatile ingredient regulates oil production, minimizes pores, and improves skin texture.

20. Cucumber: Hydrating and cooling, cucumber soothes irritation and refreshes the skin.


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